Strong Marriages Aren't Built On Being In Love — They're Built On This

A TikTok-er advised that the secret to marriage is the man being more in love than the woman. A couples therapist of 30 years says, "nonsense!"

framed photos side by side of a couple through the years StockSnap from Pixabay, Rido via Canva 

For a strong marriage, being "in love" should not be the long-term goal.

There is a TikTok post going around that insists, “There are only two dynamics that make a marriage last forever." 
1. When both people are “equally” in love
2. When the man is “more in love than the woman."  

However, as a relationship counselor, coach, and trainer of therapists for over 30 years, I can say that I think this is a dangerous idea that supports the myth that being “in love” is the primary condition for a healthy and growing relationship. It is this myth that drives many breakups: “I’m not in love anymore, so I’m going to look for a person who makes me feel that way again.”


In my experience of working with individuals, families and couples, I feel confident surmising that this type of premise (and the entire post) is not only false — in my opinion, it also contributes to the divorce rate.

I’ll tell you why, and maybe something I say will help you to fully embrace the idea that staying married for a long time requires persistent attention and work and no magic recipe built around love changes that. 

RELATED: The Difference Between Being In Love And Just Being Attached


Why being 'in love' doesn't actually build a relationship

Being in love is a condition or state, not a constant in life or in a relationship.  It comes and goes depending on the circumstances.  

Like this TikTok-er explains:



The experience “in love” usually forms the foundation of marriage but it is not the persistent way of being. Rather, the type of "loving” that evolves and matures after the elation of being in love passes with familiarity, routine, and connection is what helps a marriage last. Loving requires intentionality and remembrance.


Loving — rather than being "in love" — is what keeps a marriage strong and evolving.

It is true that fulfilling relationships require a man to be willing to do the work to support and enhance the developing and ever-changing dynamics of loving, in spite of the challenges that come with marriage and children. 

Loving is not always “hard-wired” in men as it is in some women.

Loving another person happens for women and evolves from the condition of being in love.

One can recognize this evolution from a statement like, “I’m not in love with him but I do love him.” This self-aware statement is more commonly expressed by women than men. For a marriage to persist and mature, men typically have to DO loving; whereas women experience it and therefore behave congruently to the internal experience. 


RELATED: If These 7 Characteristics Describe Your Marriage, It's Built To Last

But, for some women, loving doesn’t come only after being in love. Loving almost always happens with no intentionality with the birth of a child. It is hormonal and emotional and necessary for child-rearing. The Greek word is Storge, one of the four types of love that include Philia, Agape, and Eros, all of which translates in English to “Love”. 

The condition of being in love is, in Greek, “Eros” - passionate, romantic, intimate. In Eros, we are giddy, desirous, distracted often single-minded. Those feelings don’t coexist with familiarity, which is present in “Philia”, “Storge” and “Agape”. 

Strong, enduring marriages evolve, perhaps I might say “mature," from Eros to Philia— the love of strong friendships, characterized by affection, support, and equality. This transformation sometimes happens quickly but, like wine, benefits from experience (age). Philia is experienced within a couple while erotic love persists, but also after passion wanes. 


RELATED: What Science Says About Whether Or Not Women Are More Romantic Than Men

As the relationship continues, the couple creates a family of two and more when children arrive. Then the bond is further strengthened by familial love, Storge. Women, in particular, experience Storge almost instantly with the birth— sometimes the conception— of a child. Between two adults, Storge develops with time and experience.

With time, affection, intimacy, shared experience and dreams, mutual overcoming of obstacles and tragedies, Agape emerges. The unconditional nearly selfless bond of Agape is the most important of all the types of love in marriage. From Agape comes ready forgiveness and the intimacy of “knowing” one’s partner.

It is Agape, Storge, and Philia that make a marriage last forever, not Eros. Being in love is usually necessary to give birth to that bond, but has very little to do with longevity.


A man who does the “work” of remembering birthdays and anniversaries, who knows his mate’s preferences and wishes— and accommodates and advocates for them— who engages verbally and physically, who accepts responsibility without defensiveness, makes a good husband.

A good husband, in collaboration with a good wife, is what makes a great marriage, even after the passion of Eros has waned.

Over time, neither partner stays “in love” and for the author of the TikTok post to suggest that marriages “last forever” only when a man is “more in love than a woman” is to contribute to the cultural problem of divorce by furthering obsession with being "in love." 

RELATED: 5 Warning Signs Your Relationship Lacks Intimacy


William "Bill" Meleney is a Washington state-licensed mental health counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, psychotherapist, and life coach. He has 30 years of experience and expertise helping clients deal with relationships, parenting, and mental health.