Modern Rules for a Happy Marriage

Most people feel that marriage should be an unconditional and healthy exchange of love, respect, and mutual encouragement. Some say your spouse should be your “best friend” – after all, you vowed to spend the rest of your life with them.

But it can be hard to be optimistic about marriage when so many marriages end. The divorce rate hovers around the 50% mark, which doesn’t exactly give anyone great odds. At Hello Divorce, we’ve heard stories from countless couples, and we’ve gathered these marriage tips based on what we’ve learned

Characteristics of a happy marriage

We have far more distractions than ever before. Marital and gender roles are no longer etched in stone. And it usually takes two careers and a lot more financial resources to buy a home and create a lifestyle comparable to our parents. 


Communication is key to a strong relationship. But as individuals, you and your spouse have different needs and may even have different ways of communicating when trying to convey your wishes or meet your partner’s needs. What do you consider essential in a relationship? What does your spouse consider essential? Share the answers to these questions with one another.

Shared values and goals

It’s almost impossible to have a good marriage without a shared set of core values and similar goals for your relationship and future. It’s important to understand your shared values and goals and to work to keep those at the forefront of your relationship.

Compassion, sensitivity, and empathy

A great marriage requires compassion, sensitivity, and empathy.  Can you step into your partner’s shoes with sensitivity and without judgment? Can your partner do the same for you? If so, you are both more likely to feel safe, understood, and cared for, even in turbulent times.

Support each other’s goals

You and your spouse have shared goals, but you also have individual goals. Be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader, staunchest support system, and most understanding sounding board. 

Affection and playfulness

Laughter can make life – and marriage –  more enjoyable. Encourage each other’s playful side, and share lots of laughter, especially when it comes to laughing at yourself.

Let it go

During your marriage, you’re going to inadvertently get frustrated and angry with each other. You’re going to say and do things you regret. Unless your spouse’s behavior (or yours) is a true deal-breaker, forgiveness is the best go-to when hurtful or insensitive things are done or said. 

Establish clear boundaries

Good marriages require excellent boundaries. Establish what those deal-breakers are for each of you, and understand what to expect if either of you steps over the line.

Allow each to be an individual

While your partnership is essential, so is your identity as an individual. You should be able to pursue your separate responsibilities, interests, and friendships in addition to your relationship. Having outside interests and friendships allows both of you to be individuals in your own right. It also takes a lot of stress off of having to be everything to each other. 

Balance of power

In a healthy relationship, you and your partner should be able to express your needs and opinions and have a say in decisions that affect both of you. If there is an imbalance of power, one partner can begin to feel insignificant, and resentment can set in. 

Establish ground rules for conflict

Conflict happens in the best of marriages. Make sure your communication style is not harming your relationship. For example, speak to your partner in a calm and respectful way that does not “hit below the belt” and cause them to feel attacked. Being mindful of your communication style (and how you are coming across) can reduce hurt feelings and unnecessary anger. 

Consider the 5:1 ratio

According to marriage researcher John Gottman, the “magic” 5:1 relationship ratio means there should be far more positives in your marriage than negatives, Hence, the 5-to-1 ratio. 

When that positive/negative ratio moves more toward the negative side of the equation, you and your partner should take notice and work to make some adjustments. If you don’t, it could create insecurities in the relationship that weren’t even there before.

Honesty and loyalty

Marriage is built on honesty, loyalty, and respect. When this breaks down, the marriage suffers. One of its most foundational components is in jeopardy, and the relationship may be headed for trouble. 

How to get this happiness for yourself

Marriage isn’t easy in our modern world, especially when you and your spouse are being bombarded with distractions from everywhere – work, family, social media, the news. Sharing your life with someone you love can be just as challenging as it is rewarding. 

How can you make sure that your marriage is loving, supportive, and nurturing through life’s day-to-day ups and downs?

Nurture your communication skills

Make sure you consistently convey love in ways the other person needs to hear it. Instead of letting grievances fester, learn respectful ways to talk about them that allow you both to come from a place of love and integrity. S

Stop each other when the conversation moves into blame or other unfair tactics, and revisit the discussion when you can do it calmly and respectfully. 

Read: Is Your Communication Style Harming Your Relationships?

Practice gratitude

No relationship is perfect, but when you can remind yourself of all the ways you are fortunate in your marriage and focus on gratitude, your relationship is better off for it.

222 rule

Good relationships require shared connection and creating memories. Studies show that the more you prioritize time spent with your spouse, the happier your marriage will be. You can do this by employing the 222 rule:

  • Every two weeks, go out for a special evening or date night. Get a babysitter on standby if you have kids.
  • Every two months, take a weekend away for a change of scenery and some time together.
  • Every two years, make it a priority to get away together for at least a week. Make this about you and your spouse sharing time, not going separate ways during this free time. The purpose is to feel connected and forge new memories that bring you closer together.  

When your marriage isn’t happy

Happiness isn’t always a constant in marriage. It will ebb and flow with life’s circumstances. This is normal, and there are ways you can turn it around. 

Don’t give up just yet

Like anything in life, marriage has its ups and downs. There’s a reason marriage vows include “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” With a realistic mindset, and assuming your safety and well-being are not in jeopardy, you can hang through the bad times if you can remember – and anticipate more of –  the good times. 

Reinvigorate your relationship

After years of marriage, there’s bound to be some disconnect occasionally. Talk about it, and focus on reestablishing your connection and what made you come together in the first place. 

Drop the blame

When things feel broken, it’s natural to want to place blame. But blame is never a healthy way to turn around marital disharmony. Drop the blame, and truly listen to each other with respect and caring. 

Create a plan – together

After you talk about a problem, work together on a solution. This requires both of you to take ownership of the situation and its outcome. Discuss how you can hold each other accountable without anger and blame and what should happen if you slip into old patterns. 

Get professional help

When two people share a life, it isn’t always going to be easy. But the well-being of your relationship is worth the effort. 

Married partners are often too close to the problem to see it objectively. This is when couples therapy can be beneficial. A professional therapist or marriage counselor can keep you focused on the good in your relationship and offer tools to make it a place of love and safety again. 

Despite your best efforts, you may decide to part ways. But even then, you can keep it respectful. At Hello Divorce, we understand that most modern divorcing couples are looking for ways to part company cooperatively; they don’t want a huge conflict.

We offer online divorce plans and other professional services that can help take the expense and animosity out of the divorce process, regardless of your situation. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call to learn more about how we can help.

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.