10 Qualities of Great Marriages Great marriages aren’t born, they’re made. Use these 10 qualities to help strengthen your marriage and add some of your own. BY LISA BROOKES KIFT, MFT
Observe these 10 qualities and make sure that you're working to make your marriage isn't just good, but great.
“ Spouses who can make each other laugh tend to be good at de-escalating conflicts when they do arise.”
In my marriage counseling practice, I’ve seen a myriad of presenting issues and relationship styles. A common thread running through many of these couples is a sincere desire for change leading to a more secure, fulfilling and loving relationship. The problems include such things as poor communication, a build-up of resentment, trust violations due to infidelity, dissatisfaction with roles, changes in expectations, relationship imbalances and more.
What I can’t help but taking note of when having conversations about what doesn’t work well in relationships, is what does work if given the opportunity. Other than my clinical training and experience, I also often observe those around me who have satisfying and fulfilling marriages. There are certain qualities that appear to be integral parts of a healthy relationship foundation for many couples—that increases the chances of weathering the storms that life inevitably dishes out.
Here are 10 qualities of great marriages:
1. Friendship: Spouses who have a strong friendship have staying power in that they not only love each other, but genuinely like each other. They enjoy spending time together and there is mutual respect.
2. Humor: Spouses who can make each other laugh tend to be good at de-escalating conflicts when they do arise. Couples who have the ability to lighten up a tense moment have a big advantage in that they are able to lighten the mood quickly and possibly derail conflict. The use of funny nicknames can be an indicator of great fondness for one another. The names often stem from a "you had to be there" moment from the beginning of their relationship.
3. Communication: As obvious as this may seem, many couples are not very good at it. Those who are able to openly express their feelings in an emotionally safe environment typically deal with situations as they come up and avoid burying frustrations which always have a way of coming out at some point.
4. Chore Sharing: Those who divvy up the household or parenting responsibilities in a way that is mutually agreed upon are less likely to hold resentments about what they perceive as "unfair." Each participates and contributes to the marriage in this way.
5. Sexual Intimacy: Couples who have their sexual needs met or at least have negotiated a reasonable compromise, if their levels of need aren’t compatible, feel taken care of by the other. Some are highly active, engaging in lovemaking multiple times a week and others are content with far less. There is no "right" or "wrong" here, but if one person is feeling their needs aren’t being met it’s important to talk about it.
6. Affection: Spouses who stay in physical contact in some way throughout the day feel connected to each other, even if it's a simple stroke of the hair, kiss on the cheek or playful tap on the rear. These moments don’t necessarily lead to sexual intimacy but are rather easy ways to say, "I love you and we’re connected" without the words. Some households are so chaotic between jobs, kids and life that these brief shows of affection can be grounding when everything else is swirling around you.
7. No "Horsemen of the Apocalypse:" This is a term coined by couple’s researcher, John Gottman, who is able to predict divorce with incredible accuracy. His "four horsemen of the apocalypse" are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. He has shown that couples who demonstrate a high level of "the horsemen" in their relationships are more likely to divorce.
8. Mutual and Separate Friends: Partners who socialize with other couples and also maintain separate friendships have greater balance in regards to honoring themselves as individuals within the marriage. This leads to more self-satisfaction, which translates to relationship satisfaction.
9. Reliability: It’s human nature to feel good when those we care about follow through behaviorally and we know they will be there. If couples do what they say and say what they do, they create an atmosphere of comfort in knowing their words mean something to the other, which increases emotional safety in the marriage.
10. Relationship Vision: Couples who have created a relationship vision for themselves know where they’re going as they’ve planned it together. They get joy out of reaching for their goals as a team and are less likely to be derailed by surprises down the line. Where do they see themselves in 10 years? What are their marriage and family goals?
Perhaps many of the above ideas resonate with you, and perhaps some do and some don’t. It’s also possible that you have many additional ideas about aspects of successful marriages. At the end of the day great marriages are created by the two people involved and are defined as such by what works for each of them together. I encourage you to sit down with your spouse and talk about your ideas of what makes a great marriage and make it so for yourselves!
Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of Love and Life Toolbox, one of the original therapist-created resources for marriage, relationship and emotional health available on the web.