Happy Couple on Beach

How to have a happy marriage

This blog is motivated by the belief you can significantly increase your chance of having a truly happy marriage if you do just three things.

Those three things are:

1. Maintain a shared calendar — and put your marriage on the calendar.

From my work with more than five thousand couples over the past 18+ years, I am convinced 50% of marriage misery would be eliminated if couples just had a shared calendar.

A shared calendar promotes teamwork. Chaos — the third leading cause of divorce — can easily take over a marriage when teamwork is absent.

More deadly to marriage is the failure of couples to make time for each other and for fun. The renowned marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman surveyed 60,000 couples. Their most common complaint, by far: “we’re not having enough fun in our marriage.”

The longer I am married, the more credit I give our shared calendar for keeping us on track. Thanks to our calendar, we feel like we’re a team, we make time for each other, and we make time for fun.

2. Don’t force the conversation, schedule it.

Talking at the wrong time is the single most common couple communication error. My wife & I completely transformed our communication when we learned not to spring issues on each other.

We adopted the rule: if you’d like to discuss a topic, ask the other person once: “when can we talk?” Never make the other person ask twice. Commit to talk at a specific time. Keep your promise.

The advantage of scheduling a conversation goes beyond talking at a time good for both of you. With time to calm down and think — and a deadline motivating you to get ready — you can make a commitment to always be cheerful and constructive when you talk, even about difficult issues.

My wife & I discovered we literally have thoughtful conversations when we schedule them. Our conversations are “full of thought” when we give ourselves time to prepare. We are more open to the other’s perspective and more creative in problem-solving and planning.

We have found a great conversation is worth waiting for.

3. Greet each other with joy — each and every time you reunite — whether you feel like it or not.

Professor Bill Doherty argues the single biggest threat to marriage is spouses simply getting too comfortable with each other. Love can die little by little, day by day, without couples even realizing it.

My wife & I allowed this to happen in our own marriage. After the initial flurry of romance in our courtship, we became roommates in marriage far quicker than I would like to admit.

Our marriage sprang back to life when we committed to the daily ritual of dancing with each other at the moment of reunion. Each dance is an opportunity to remind ourselves: “this is not my roommate, this is the love of my life!”

Every day has glory in it — every task has meaning — when you remember you are living with the love of your life.

The single best advice I can give couples is to commit to daily rituals that renew your love for each other every single day. A ritual for the moment of reunion is most important.

All together, I urge couples to craft three simple, two-minute daily rituals: one to begin the day on a positive note, one to reunite on a positive note, and one to end the day on a positive note.

With a strong “rhythm of connection” in place, couples can remain positive — and connected — no matter how busy or frustrating life gets.

In my experience working with couples over the years, I have found most marriage difficulties are rooted in the failure to do these three fairly simple things: maintain a shared calendar, schedule conversations, and establish daily rituals of connection.

In the pages of this blog, I will elaborate on how couples can incorporate these three “essential bits of practical marriage advice” into their married lives.

I will also take “a philosophical look at marriage” for a deeper exploration of what makes a marriage happy.

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