Although every marriage is different and unique, there are some common characteristics that successful marriages have in common. Here is our list of 11 principles of a good marriage that will help you and your partner build a long-lasting, happy marriage.
In 2020 I was part of an apprentice program (Yes, I still try to learn and grow). It was lead by a genius young man named Duston.
During one session we were talking about beliefs. We discussed the role they play in how we ‘do life.’ At one point he asked:
Which is harder to get someone to believe:
- Take a course that comes with 8 video lessons and two downloadable PDFs. Each explaining details about how to accomplish a specific outcome. If they watch the videos and read the lessons, then apply those principles to their life they will receive the desired outcome.
- Take a pill to solve their problem.
There are two lessons we can learn from this:
1) The simpler you can make things, the better.
2) People gravitate to quick fixes even if they don’t work.
Unfortunately, it is far easier for people to believe they can take a pill to fix their issues rather than put in the time and do the work to get what they desire.
Because of this, the internet is filled with hype and deceit that robs people of the destiny they desire.
I see it in every field. But it is especially obvious in psychology. Most people want a quick fix – take a pill – rather than learn a skill that will help them move forward in life.
There is no magic pill that will help you have a great marriage. There are, however, basic principles that will guide you in creating a successful, happy relationship.
In This Article
- Principles vs Quick Fix
- Basic Principles For a Good Marriage
- Final Thoughts On 11 Principles of a Good Marriage
Principles vs Quick Fix
The most successful marriages follow a basic set of principles. These principles are not so much about what you do, but rather reflect how you should think about your marriage.
Good marriages are not accidental—and they don’t just happen. They are the result of a positive, proactive mindset and an intentional effort to make your marriage strong and healthy.Good marriages are not accidental—and they don't just happen. They are the result of a positive, proactive mindset and an intentional effort to make your marriage strong and healthy. Click To Tweet
When we hear the word “principles,” we often think of lofty ideals that can be hard to define, let alone live up to. But principles are simply useful guidelines that help us make better decisions. For example, the principle of consistency can help you have a more successful marriage. This principle states that people ‘
Reflecting on the story above, many people want a quick fix. Instead of investing in the relationship, they would rather seek a solution that masks the real problem. It’s like putting a band-aid on a mortal wound. It doesn’t heal the problem, and can even make you think you are doing the right thing.
In this article, we offer no quick fix. If you want a good marriage, you need to put certain principles in place that will guide you in creating a healthy relationship.
Basic Principles For a Good Marriage
Everyone wants a good marriage, not everyone understands what makes a good marriage.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of 11 principles of a good marriage, in hopes of helping you get a bit closer to finding that kind of relationship.
1. Forgive Often
We all do things inadvertently at times that hurt our spouse. It’s (almost) impossible to avoid these minor infractions in our relationship.
The key is to forgive often.
We can apply this both ways:
If you do something that wounds your spouse, admit it and ask for forgiveness.
If you have been hurt by something your spouse did, release it. Don’t hang on to an offense, it will only grow the longer you hold it.
For those living in a bad marriage:
Forgiving often doesn’t mean we become a doormat for our spouse to continually harm us. It does mean we refuse to allow their behavior and actions to determine our level of joy in life.
Forgiving is not about accepting abuse or allowing our spouse to constantly use us. It doesn’t mean we ‘forget’ what they have done (especially and specifically if they have abused us).
It simply means we refuse to let that poison destroy us.
If you need help dealing with a marriage crisis, I recommend starting here. LINK
2. Resolve Conflicts Quickly
I’m sure you’ve heard the adage: Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.
The principle is to seek to resolve conflicts before you go to bed. This doesn’t mean stay up and fight (although if you have to work through things, do it). Rather, it speaks to the goal of our relationship – live in peace.
This implies several things:
1) Resolving conflicts quickly means we focus on solutions rather than blame.
It’s easy to place blame.
- ‘You shouldn’t have done this.’
- ‘Why did you say that?’
- ‘You always act like that.’
- ‘I can’t believe you continue to do this.’
These are statements of blame. They will not bring about resolution.
Think about it. How do you feel when you sense someone is blaming you for problems? If you are like most people, it doesn’t motivate you to work on the real issues. It makes you defensive.
Yet, this is the trap many marriages fall into. They resort to blame instead of problem solving.
Let’s be honest. Problems are rarely one-sided. Most problems happen because both partners contribute to the issues. So it takes both partners to work on the solution. Placing blame only prolongs (and complicates) the reconciliation process. It only gives you more junk to have to deal with.Placing blame only prolongs (and complicates) the reconciliation process. It only gives you more junk to have to deal with. Click To Tweet
2) Relsolving conflicts quickly means facing the issues.
Often couples equate problem solving with refusal to talk about hard things. But this doesn’t mean you stick your head in the sand (ignore the problem).
On the contrary, it means you face it head on and deal with it. But you deal with it in a way that leads you to solution, not more problems.
3) Couples that learn to deal with conflict quickly know how to emphize the positive and de-emphasize the negative.
It comes down to a matter of focus. What are you focused on? Do you tend to notice the bad things and overlook the good ones?
Train your heart to see the positive.
One way to do this is by keeping a gratitude journal. Write down three things every day you like and appreciate about your spouse and your relationship.
This will help you retrain your brain to see good instead of negative.
If you are looking for a good gratitude journal, I like this one from Sophia Godkin (The 5 Minute Gratitude Journal) [Affiliate link]. I suggest answering the questions with your marriage in view.
3. Disagree, but Don’t Fight
There is a difference.
I realize we use the word ‘fight’ to indicate anything from a mild disagreement to an explosive verbal altercation, to physical abuse.
That’s why I want to distinguish between disagreeing and fighting. For the sake of this article, a fight is unfair. It’s mean and demoralizing.
It’s when you use words and actions to let your spouse know you do not like them. This is unhealthy and damaging to the relationship.
A disagreement, on the other hand, is when we do not see eye-to-eye on an issue and we need to discuss it so we can get on the same page and move in the same direction.
There is a huge difference between the two. Fighting is targeting our spouse with insults, criticism, and contempt.
The motive is rejection.
Disagreeing is working through issues so we can accomplish something and have peace in our marriage.
The motive is acceptance, validating our spouse, and harmony.
4. Respect Your Spouse
Respect is a cornerstone for a healthy marriage.
Almost every aspect of your marriage depends on respect. It’s like a hinge that door swings on.
At the heart of respect are honor and value. When you value something, you honor it.
If you fail to value it, you will not honor it. This is the doorway to disrespect.
Here is a list of 20 signs of disrespect.
Respect is one of the five steps we recommend to make your marriage a priority.
5. Be Present
This is perhaps one of the most overlooked keys to a great marriage.
We get so busy with work, sports, kids, chores…the list is endless, that we forget to slow down and tune in to our spouse.
Ever tried to listen to music from an old transistor radio when you were in a remote location?
My first pickup truck didn’t have a cassette play (this dates me I know); it only had a radio. To find a station I had to adjust the tuner manually. Today, radios automatically tune in to stations. Not back then. You had to do it manually.
It’s the same with marriage. Tuning in is not automatic. You have to adjust your settings to find what emotional channel your spouse is on. This takes time, effort, and dedication.
It boils down to paying attention to their needs.Being present with our spouse boils down to paying attention to their needs. It is the only way to be truly present. Click To Tweet
It’s the only way to be present.
6. Refuse Discontentment
Allow me to first give a disclaimer:
Many marriages come to a point where both partners feel discontent. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.
It can be a prompt to invest more in your relationship to spice things up. So it can be a good thing.
My wife (who is a writer) is part of a writing community where they share ideas, tools, and writing helps with each other.
One thing these authors discuss is how to use a writing prompt. This is a mechanism that will direct you to write about a certain topic.
Writing prompts help you come up with creative ideas to write about.
I see discontentment as a marriage prompt. It can help you realize you need to invest more in your relationship.
Discontentment becomes bad when it causes your heart to wander away from your spouse.Discontentment in marriage can be a prompt to work and make things better. It becomes negative when it causes our heart to wander away from our spouse. It's a matter of direction. Click To Tweet
It’s the ‘grass is greener on the other side of the fence’ temptation.
It’s a trap you need to avoid at all costs.
I like how Focus On The Family puts it:
The grass is greener where you water it!Focus on the Family
If you want greener grass, water what you have. Do not look on the other side of the fence.The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. It is greener where you water it. – Focus on the Family Click To Tweet
We often call it marital faithfulness, but it is more than just affair proofing our relationship. It is refusing to wander emotionally, mentally, or physically from our spouse.
7. Realize You Are The Key
If you want a better relationship, you are the one that needs to change.
Hear me out. I am NOT suggesting all your problems are your fault.
I am NOT suggesting you are to blame for the condition of your marriage.
I am NOT saying you should allow your spouse to continue to treat you in a bad way.
I AM saying that we are responsible for our own lives. Until we take responsibility, we are unable and incapable of making things better.
My wife often says, ‘We treat people how to treat us!’
In other words, our actions and reactions treat people what we will tolerate. If we allow someone to berate us, and we do not stand up for ourselves, we treat them it is okay for them to say these things to us.
If, however, we respectfully refuse their mistreatment, we let them know it is not okay to say those things to us.
This is why I say, nothing happens until you change.
All change begins with us (you). Because you can’t change someone else. You can only change yourself.All change begins with us (you). Because you can't change someone else. You can only change yourself. Click To Tweet
So, if you want things to be different (better), work on changing the things in your life that will enrich your life. Change you.
Once you change, it will affect your marriage.
Remember, you are not in control of anyone but yourself. This is why it is vital to work on you.
8. Keep Things In Perspective
One of the biggest battles we face is warfare in our own minds.
I’ve met couples who have allowed their relationship to deteriorate to the point they no longer love or respect one another.
Ironically, there was not a major issue in the marriage. Their marriage eroded because they allowed little things to become big things in their mind.
Most of their issues were fabricated in their own thought life.
When we allow our imagination to run wild and create negative scenarios of events that never happen, we run the risk of destroying our partnership.
Successful couples know how to keep things in perspective. They know the difference between a real issue and one that is only in their mind.
Refuse to allow little things to steal your happiness. Do not allow your mind to imagine the worse. Keep a positive outlook on life.Refuse to allow little things to steal your happiness. Do not allow your mind to imagine the worse. Keep a positive outlook on life. Click To Tweet
This will help you focus on the things that matter and let go of the things that do not matter.
9. Choose To Serve Your Spouse
Healthy couples are emotionally safe with one another.
They make investments in one another that create an atmosphere of respect, love, and acceptance.
Every relationship has an emotional bank account. This is where you deposit either good things or bad things.
If you are not familiar with this concept, read this next.
Serving your spouse is how you make positive deposits.
Serving is more than an action. It is a mindset. It is how you look at your marriage.
It is one thing to do something to serve your spouse. You do something that lets them know you care about them. This is an act of service.
An action is something you do ‘in time.’ It is an event that happens in a set time frame.
However, when you have a mindset of service, you constantly think of ways to serve. It’s the motive behind your actions.
Anyone can do an act of service. But those who have a motive to bless and serve their spouse continually come up with ways to benefit them.
In other words, you can do an act of service without a heart motive to bless them.
But if you have a motive to serve them, your actions will continually honor them.
I hope you see the difference.
To get a better picture of the importance of serving your spouse, watch the tale of people with no elbows.
10. Spend Time Together
This subject is over-stated and under-valued. Everyone talks about the need for quality time, yet it is often something we fail to capitalize on. We get so busy we put our marriage on the back burner.
Time together goes along with being present (see above). We need to practice the art of being present. The best way to do this is by actually being present (time) with one another.
We often underestimate the value of spending time together as a couple. When we are in the same room, it can be easy to get distracted by our devices. But for couples who are willing to disconnect, time together can be precious and meaningful.
Do you leave your cell phone behind when you are with your partner? I do! If not, why not? When we are together, the last thing that I want is to be distracted by my computer or my phone. Why should we give our attention and time to someone who is hoping for us to do so? We have chosen each other—why would we want to spend time with anyone else?
The quality of the time spent together is a reflection of the relationship.
So to have quality time, we make sure that our time together is quality. Sometimes this means that we decide to spend some time apart or by ourselves.The quality of the time spent together is a reflection of the relationship. Click To Tweet
Quality Time is a significant factor in a healthy marriage. It’s necessary for couples to sit and talk with each other face-to-face, instead of text messaging or using their mobile phones. Quality time is also important when it comes to taking care of the needs of your spouse.
1) Quality time allows you to explore your partner.
Even if you don’t know what they want from you, quality time will help them open up and let you know more about what they like and how they feel. This can lead to better communication between the two of you and ultimately, it lets your partner know that their opinion matters!
2) Quality time cultivates closeness.
Not only do quality times allow for exploration, but they also help build closeness. You get to know each other better and learn more about each other’s needs and desires. In turn, this new information will help you communicate better with your partner.
3) Quality time gives you a chance to be creative.
When you are face-to-face with your partner, you get a chance to exercise your creativity on the spot. You can also surprise each other with a new experience or gift. This is especially important because it shows your partner that you are willing to put in the effort to show them how much you care and how much they mean to you.
11. Cultivate Authentic Desire
Physical desire is only a small part of the puzzle. While it is important, it is more a result of authentic desire, and not desire itself.
Authentic desire has to do with your inner drive to maintain and cultivate emotional intimacy.
Emotional intimacy (for the sake of this article) is defined as a deep connection. It’s how you feel when you are on the same wavelength as your spouse.
According to John Gottman, this happens when we do the following:
- Turn toward each other in difficulty (instead of away from each other)
- We respond to our spouses’ bid for attention and affection in a positive way
- Nurture fondness and affection for our spouse.
- Downplay our spouses’ faults
- Listen to our spouses and allow them to influence our lives.
As you can see, this type of desire is not about physical intimacy. It is about an inner connection that seeks to love our partner well.
My wife often tells me, ‘You love me well (in a good way) and you love me well (bringing me to wholeness and healing my past hurts).’
It is one of the highest compliments I can receive as a husband.
I believe she feels this way because I truly seek her with authentic desire.
Final Thoughts On 11 Principles of a Good Marriage
There are no quick fixes or easy buttons for a great marriage. There are, however, principles that will guide you in creating a strong, healthy relationship.
In this article, we discussed 11 principles of a good marriage, and how you can put these tested truths into practice in your own relationship.
Here is a brief recap of what we covered:
- Basic Principles For a Good Marriage
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If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.