Experts Reveal The Small Mysteries To A Healthier Marriage

What's the secret? It starts with respect.

newlyweds sitting together KlavdiyaV / Shutterstock

The "secret" to a healthier marriage really is no secret at all. Partners in healthy, happy marriages treat each other with respect, kindness, consideration and forgiveness.

Sure, but ... how? Ah. That's where it starts to get a little mysterious, a little baffling. Married people don't get into it hoping to be treated with disdain or ignored altogether. They marry for many reasons, among them (presumably) love and the joy of companionship.


Again, though, how do those who build the healthiest marriages do it? What practical, real-life actions do they take every day and night? How do they sustain the warmth, strengthen the connection, and maintain the attraction that brought them together in the first place?

We reached out to a panel of YourTango Experts — marriage and relationship experts all — and asked them to share the small secrets they've learned about how the healthiest marriages thrive. Here is their insight.

RELATED: 9 Scientifically Proven Signs Of A Happy, Healthy Marriage


Here are three experts' revelations of small mysteries that lead to a healthier marriage:

1. Set aside judgment — and create room for shared grace

The small secrets to a healthier marriage include fostering a non-judgmental space for each spouse to have the freedom to show up vulnerably without fear of attack, shame, or guilt. It means not taking each other personally when you run into conflict.

A healthy marriage can grow when partners lean into the practice of allowing communication of each other’s hard truths by listening from curiosity and compassion with a safe space for tough emotions of anger, frustration, and disappointment to surface without blame. Each of us has a primary relationship with our soul to honor our true self first and foremost.  

We are each on a soul adventure and have an opportunity in marriage to share this experience with our partner, who is growing on a journey of their own. The secret spark for a healthy marriage is the freedom we give each other to be ourselves fully — the light and the dark.

Growing together requires creating space in your togetherness that champions the best in each other while focusing on common values and the willingness to accept not necessarily agree with your differences. Healthier marriages let go of needing to be the source of your partner’s happiness and instead ensure you are bringing your own enthusiasm without criticism and judgment to the table.


- Carolyn Hidalgo, relationship coach

RELATED: 20 Healthy Marriage Habits I've Learned In My 30 Years As A Psychotherapist

2. Focus on giving attention and appreciation with communication, eye contact, surprises, and affection

As a seasoned marriage therapist, I’ve gathered some little secrets couples can use to have healthier marriages:

  • Practice good communication — Everyone locked in a negative cycle of arguing and fighting knows that communication is key. One small, but powerful, tool is to repeat back what your partner has said and ask if you’ve correctly understood before responding. Slowing down the back and forth can keep you from escalating into a painful argument where no one feels heard or understood.
  • Focus your attention — Prioritizing our relationships is important. Pull up two chairs and gaze fondly into each other’s eyes for about five minutes. In this position, you can hold hands and breathe deeply without any distractions.
  • Give surprises — Surprising one another is exciting and romantic. You can create a surprise by sending cards, offering unexpected gifts, planning outings, or doing an act of service that the other wasn’t expecting. These can be small daily acts that will help your partner feel loved and special.
  • Express appreciation and gratitude — Sharing daily appreciation builds goodwill and trains our brains to override our natural negative bias. Make it a daily habit to express at least one appreciation for your partner.
  • Engage in affection and sensual touch — Touching, caressing, massaging, kissing, and hugging are ways for us to connect and bond with one another. Small acts go a long way and can be foreplay for sex.

- Mary Kay Cocharo, licensed marriage and family therapist


RELATED: A New Model For A Healthy Marriage — And How To Practice It

3. Be willing to overlook the small mistakes — and forge a fair exchange of forgiveness

Fortunately, there are tons of easy secrets to a healthier marriage. For example: not bringing up scary or difficult subjects when your partner is hungry or tired, and being fair about honoring each person's tastes.

If your husband really wants or expects you to come to football games with him then you should be escorted to the opera or ballet or whatever by him in a fair exchange. Sometimes you let him off the hook. No, he didn't run the dishwasher as promised. You quietly start it this time.

Hopefully, when you hide the receipt for all the new makeup until it can't be hidden anymore he lets you off the hook. The real secret to a healthier marriage is letting go of the angst and disappointment one has in realizing our mate is not perfect and finding ways to be fair with each other. 


And a good laugh can always help also. After all, in a marriage, both of us are only human.

- Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, psychologist

RELATED: 9 Daily Habits Of Couples Who Stay Married (And Happy!) For Life


Carter Gaddis is the senior editor for Experts & Wellness with YourTango.