4 Crucial Things Married Couples Do To Keep Things Healthy

It's a choice they have to make everyday.

Married couple shows the crucial things to do to stay in love and in a healthy relationship. kupicoo | Canva

Everyone wants to be in a happy, loving, and intimate romantic relationship with the love of their life. That dream seems to be loaded into our DNA, tattooed on our brains, and instinctively coded into our emotional makeup. But, to stay in love with your spouse long-term and have a thriving, healthy relationship as a married couple, is that universal longing enough? No, it’s not enough. Is it enough to be madly in love when you get married? No, it’s not enough. Then what does it take to stay in love with your spouse and create a healthy relationship that lasts?


Here are 4 crucial things married couples do to keep things healthy:

1. They dream together

It takes a dream powerful enough to see you through the rough spots combined with the willingness to grow into that dream by making hard choices. Exchange blaming the other for choosing new behaviors for yourself, let go of old patterns, and sacrifice the immature, dysfunctional, and hurtful ways in service to achieving the dream. I ask every couple I’ve coached, "Do you have family members or friends who have a marriage you’d like to emulate?" So far, I’ve only heard, “No.” When you don’t see a loving, lasting marriage in operation, how can you trust that the dream is doable and worth the effort to achieve it? When you don’t have a healthy model to follow, use books written by those who’ve achieved the dream.


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2. They develop good communication skills

Methods of speaking and listening can create a connection, rather than driving more and more distance between you. Without instruction, few of us realize how our delivery of messages may be triggering a reactive response or escalating an argument. It isn't easy to change how we speak and listen. Those patterns began in infancy by what we heard or what helped us get our own way. But exchanging distancing methods of communication is necessary if you want a lasting, loving marriage. My client Sue said to me, "When we were first married we fought viciously, yelling, and name-calling. But it didn't take long for us to realize that if we wanted our marriage to last, we had to stop doing that. We changed. We’ve now been married forty-five years and are still in love!"

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3. They show respect when managing conflict

Every close relationship has conflict. When two human beings throw themselves and the welfare of their futures together, there is a lot at stake. And, face it, we all love to be “right” and will sometimes fight for the winning position. Researchers Howard Markman and Clifford Notarius state unequivocally in their book, We Can Work it Out, Making Sense Out of Marital Conflict, "Love is needed to get a relationship off the ground, but it doesn't provide enough fuel to keep a marriage flying toward success over time nor does commitment. It’s how couples manage conflict that makes the difference. The key to marital success is to teach couples how to talk without fighting.”

John Gottman’s research validated this when he observed couples disagreeing in his lab. After years of observation, he could predict within 93.7 percent which couples would divorce within six years based on how they fought. He labels criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stone-walling the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" — the fighting methods that eventually destroy the relationship. It’s often necessary to make a date to discuss an issue that needs resolving. Set a time when you are free from other distractions and the kids are asleep or out of the house. Making a date to resolve a conflict says, "I care enough about you and our relationship to set aside time to work this out."

If it isn’t resolved in one try, set another date to pick it up again and do this until you find a resolution that suits both of you. Fighting badly was one of the habits that my late husband Jim and I had to change to save our floundering marriage. The day we committed to always treat each other with respect and then practiced doing that was the day the fighting stopped and the marriage began to heal. It took us six months of two to three conflict dates per week before we finally found a solution that worked for both of us.


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4. They have regular fun dates

Who says the courtship is over when you marry? Frequent courting needs to be included in every loving, lasting marriage plan! There are a couple of rules for your courting dates:

  • Never discuss a "hot topic" while on a fun date! Dating is meant to remind you of why you fell in love and to keep the flames of love alive. That won’t happen if every date is used as a time you’re finally away from the kids so you say, "Let’s finally talk about …"
  • Do something fun for both of you. Jim loved going to a baseball game. I didn’t, but I loved being with him. So, I took a book to read or a knitting project and just enjoyed hearing his pleasure about the plays or the players.

During a financially stressed time, we were on a strict, tight budget, but allowed $25/week for our date. I saved two-for-one coupons for a burger dinner and we’d go to a matinee movie. It wasn’t a spectacular date, but it gave us time away from the stress and a chance to just enjoy being together. How long has it been since you’ve had a fun date? Make it a weekly commitment, even if it’s just a quiet stroll around the block or an ice cream cone.

These new skills are easy. Children pick them up quickly when adults are modeling them. But by the time we are in a marriage (or a second or third), we’ve been using poor methods of handling stress and poor communication habits for many years. Changing the ways we interact with others or handle our emotions when stressed is like hacking our way through the jungle, forming a new path in the brain that is highly resistant to change.


Not everyone will do that because the dream isn’t vivid enough or believed possible. Stressful conflict combined with an ego that says, "I’ll change after you do," or "You’re the one who needs to change!" makes achieving the dream impossible. The old patterns are replayed over and over again until the relationship dies or you give up the dream and just make do with what is. Many couples see divorce as the only way out of this relationship vice. Many others just settle for the status quo and become so accustomed to a certain level of emotional distance and stress in the relationship that it feels normal … as good as it can be. The dream must have been a fantasy or unachievable, so it’s useless to try for more.

As a coach, it’s heartbreaking to see couples get amazing results from the skills I teach and then hear that they’ve gone back to the old ways that give them the same old, painful results. Do you want the dream badly enough? Are you willing to do the hard work of exchanging old patterns for the four main new ones that will produce a loving relationship for which you long? Have you known you needed to do something different, but just haven’t known what "different" looks like?

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Nancy Landrum, M.A. in Spiritual Psychology, is a relationship coach and founder of the Millionaire Marriage Club and has been teaching couples these transformational skills for twenty-five years. She has written six books on the subject.