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What are the essential elements of a successful marriage? What is a successful marriage anyway? Is it the same as a successful relationship? I know these questions sound silly because after all a successful marriage is a marriage that succeeds. Maybe not.
For, succeed at doing what? Keeping both parties wedded to each other? It is not enough to stay wedded together if you are to have a successful marriage.
Definition of A Successful Marriage
Here is my definition of a successful marriage: A relationship that creates the emotional environment through which each partner can be their best selves to and for each other, and for themselves.
A marriage where both or any partner is consistently being less than they can be to each other is not a successful marriage. This is so no matter how long they manage to stay together.
After all, people do not enter into intimate relationships with the intention of being less than themselves in any aspect.
So we have established, somewhat broadly, what a successful marriage is. We can now look at some of the elements necessary in that relationship in order to have a successful marriage. What do the essentials elements of a successful marriage look like?
The Essential Elements of A Successful Marriage
Apart from the usual important elements such as trust and being forgiving, I think there are some others not so obvious that are equally important. And there are steps we can take to ensure these are integral to our relationship.
However, as obvious as the well known elements are, there is one that I would like to address because I have found through personal experience and even from the experience of others shared with me, that trust while being so important, is still widely misunderstood.
That being said, let’s look at trust and its role in a healthy marriage.
1. Trust – Key Element of A Successful Marriage
Among the most essential elements of a successful marriage is trust. Trust is first and foremost about comfort. Yes, the definition may go into some other explanation but the bottom line is trust is about establishing the level of comfort in a relationship that allows each other to act without doubt or hesitation.
We often look at trust in a relationship in terms of sexual infidelity but it is way more than that.
Trust in a successful marriage frees both partner to act without doubt, to act without hesitation or trepidation.
It lends emotional fluidity to each partner in a manner that makes it easier to communicate with and to be supportive of each other.
Trust then is one of the most important elements to work on if you are going to have a successful marriage.
Too often we confuse trust with faith, or trust with belief. Trust in a marriage or intimate relationship has to be based on not just faith or belief, but on tangible evidence that demonstrate trust is deserved.
That means trust has to be built. And if you are already in a marriage then hopefully you have already built that trust. But, if you are having problems with trust in your marriage, this probably is the one area you have to work on by itself before touching any other area.
2. Practice Awareness – Be Aware of How You Come Across to Your Partner
You will be amazed to learn that what you think you are revealing in your relationship may be the complete opposite of what you are actually revealing to your partner.
As familiarity increases in the relationship we tend to get less than careful about how we act and what we say.
Practice being more deliberate in how you relate to your spouse, in how you process what is being communicated with you.
Try to be more contemplative rather than rushing to judgment because that attitude sometimes can result in all kinds of misunderstandings.
Work on developing an awareness of how your actions are being perceived by your spouse, and how your words may be interpreted.
3. Consistently Display Your Redeeming Qualities
What value do you add to your relationship by whom you are? Make sure these are consistently displayed in your relationship through regular practice.
Let me just say this: In the absence of your redeeming qualities, your faults are likely to become your identity. Therefore if you want to be treated well, practice being someone deserving of being treated well.
In fact, you could take the above as another essential element of a successful marriage all by itself. It is that important.
Each partner owes it to each other to consistently display their better qualities so that a healthy environment conducive to a healthy relationship is maintained.
4. Be Clear About Who You Are
If you are not clear about whom you are, your spouse will always be second-guessing what their own behavior towards you should be in order to maintain synchronicity in the relationship. That is not a good place to be.
You should not come across as wishy-washy on things of import. You should not come across as malleable on things that you should be firm about.
Being unsure about who you are or where you stand on key principles that affect your relationship is asking for trouble. This also means finding a way to convey who you are to your spouse so doubt does not seep in.
If you come across as a person of expediency, your marriage is going to suffer because that itself will affect how your spouse interacts with you because he or she cannot be sure of your values and even beliefs.
5. Be Appreciative – Don’t Let Familiarity Ruin Your Relationship
We all know the saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Well, I am not too sure about that, because familiarity will breed what you allow it to breed.
There is going to be a lot of familiarity in a relationship. That is a given. What should not be a given, is what it breeds.
Make sure that the familiarity in your relationship does not breed contempt, does not breed a lack of appreciation.
Always show appreciation in your relationship. Let nothing be taken for granted.
Yes, sometimes it is OK to take each other for granted because after all that’s not such a bad thing.
What is not so good is not being appreciative.
If you take it for granted that your wife will fix your dinner every day, then fine, there’s reason to take that for granted because she always does it.
But the problem is when you seem unappreciative of her, because she really don’t have to do it. So the problem is not so much the take-it for granted thing. The problem is just being an unappreciative person.
Never miss an opportunity to express and show appreciation in your relationship.
6. Relate To Each Other So That Love Will Be Made Everywhere
You cannot wait until you enter the bedroom to start making love. As I explained in “Six Principles That Will Completely Transform Your Marriage Into Extraordinary”, you should be able to make love anywhere.
No, I do not mean engage in sexual-intercourse. I mean feel and generate love between you and your partner anywhere, any time.
If you are able to do this, then your bedroom will truly have no walls – love will be made.
Every kindness between you and your partner is a deposit in the “feel good” account you maintain between you.
The more we experience kindness and connection to someone we are fond of, the more our physiology responds positively by rewarding us.
Those rewards affect all aspects of your relationship and in fact your life. From your every-day interactions, the intimate moments, even your career.
Show kindness, be considerate, never think that you know someone well enough to know what they want from you, ask, it will be appreciated in ways you won’t believe.
Practice acts of love and kindness everyday and when the not too pleasant times come, you will get over the madness quickly and get back to loving again.
7. Honor Physical Contact
Honor physical contact. As you grow older together, the physical aspects of your relationship should take on new meaning, taking on the context in which that relationship survives and thrives.
Your view of each other’s body should be guided by that context and the physical and emotional experiences you both share over the years, including the birth of children.
Even if the need for physical contact in a certain form diminishes over the years, find different ways to maintain other different forms of physical contact.
Your need for physical contact remains constant, what changes is the form of the contact.
Simply holding hands when you are out, hugging, or just a gentle touch sends particular messages to the brain that maintain a feeling of connection.
You do not want to ever feel hopelessly disconnected from your spouse.
8. Practice Sexual and Emotional Fidelity
Yes, I know you probably read that and said, What? Let me explain.
Look we are but humans. We have these things about us that sometimes are not properly developed. Such as the capacity to contain lust.
Lust can be driven by any number of things, from the physical to the emotional, but mainly the physical.
And here is where we all need to practice fidelity to what we value in our relationship and not undermine it by allowing our mind to go where it really should not.
When I say practice what I mean is conditioning your mind to see your partner as the only person that you could be desirous of.
Yes, I know for some it is enough to think, oh, I would never do that. And that’s fine. But that is just part of what is needed to be done, it’s never enough.
What is really needed to be done is to take all you know about you and your partner’s intimate interaction and convince your mind that nothing else could replace that because it is so unique.
Once your mind gets that, it will do all it can to keep those experiences unique and that means not even entertaining thinking about someone else in a sexual manner.
9. Be Selfless – A Key Essential Element of A Successful Marriage
I am not only talking about not being selfish here. That is very obvious. You are not going to be selfish in an intimate relationship and have it survive in a healthy state for long.
Being selfless means knowing when to give more consideration to your spouse more than you would give consideration to yourself. It means focusing not so much on you, and your needs, but the needs of the relationship.
Should you take care of yourself? Absolutely. But see taking care of yourself as also taking care of the relationship that sustains you. It is only common sense.
10. Be Open In How You Communicate
Look, I am sure you will find a lot of advice that tells you to communicate and, communicate, and communicate.
None of this is wrong, but whether or not you indulge in verbal communication you are communicating every day in your relationship.
What you should pay attention to is being very open and transparent in your communication.
Do not play mind games in your relationship. Be honest in what you say. Do not seek to bend the truth. Speak softly and always, always be aware that you could be wrong.
Communicate things that you would not necessarily communicate with others. That means your dreams, your wishes for each other, your feelings.
This type of communication not only fosters bonding but commitment to the cause of your relationship – to make your life extraordinarily enjoyable and fulfilling.
Being aware, and accepting that you could be wrong makes it much easier for you to change your mind about something you said.
If you start out thinking I am right and that’s the end of it, you are going to have serious communication issues in your relationship.
11. Patience, Forgiveness, And Humility
There is nowhere else you will need to practice patience, forgiveness, and humility as much as in your intimate relationship.
Intimacy’s depth is a result of how much you practice the above. Yet, it can so easily be damaged by the absence or lack of any of them.
An intimate relationship is a journey. You are not always going to be in sync with how you see, perceive, or process stuff.
Sometimes it takes time to get around to seeing something a certain way even if you think you have it down pat.
Your spouse may still be struggling to get to where you are, or may just not be ready. It’s OK. It will happen or not happen. You have something that makes you different. Celebrate the difference.
Being quick to forgive, means being quick to not let stuff take a hold of you and take you away from your relationship. After all a key trait of a successful marriage is the ability of partners to move on from the hurt.
Now, it doesn’t mean that you should just bury any feelings in the name of forgiveness.
You can forgive and still process your feelings, and of course you should. But, that should not prevent you from saying, “Ok, I forgive you, we are good”, and then just work on getting rid of any ill-feelings.
Humility just means not thinking too much of yourself, as opposed to thinking much of yourself.
We are all fallible, prone to mistakes and all kinds of dysfunction. Humility recognizes this but at the same time humility recognizes that we are still worthy. It is that worthiness that will encourage us to behave honorably and with humility.
Your relationship will do nothing but thrive if you apply these principles and practices.
These are not only essential elements of a successful marriage but characteristics of people who want to have a successful marriage.
Be that type of person and your marriage will thrive to your heart’s content. You will avoid the annoying problems faced by too many marriages.