No couple sets out to have a mediocre marriage filled with conflict, frustration, and resentment. But somewhere along the line, a lot of couples find their marriage heading this way when issues arise or challenges are faced.
This can be, in part, because some couples overlook the need to create a solid foundation in order to build a strong marriage.
Think of it like this – how did you learn to ‘be married’?
We don’t instinctively know how to be married, it’s not in our DNA (in fact, we are the only species with marriage as a construct. And we fall into the less than 10% of mammals that are monogamous.
Marriage isn’t like walking, breathing, or eating – it’s not something we instinctively know how to do.
This means we need to learn HOW to be married.
We need to put time into understanding what is actually required of a solid marriage, what a strong marriage looks like, as well as asking ourselves what kind of marriage we want to have.
I have spent the better part of the last decade researching marriage, speaking with couples about what makes their marriages successful and unsuccessful, finding out what makes couples happy and unhappy, what their goals are, their communication styles, how they go from being unique individuals to creating a life together…
During that time, I’ve found there are common themes, essential requirements as such, to building a strong marriage.
Keep in mind, every couple (and every person) is unique and has their own needs and requirements to create what THEY deem to be a strong marriage. It’s is also up to the married couple to decide what they see as a successful marriage and what they will allow and require as part of a healthy marriage. No one can tell you what your marriage should look like.
However, these are some of the common requirements that are present in a strong and happy marriage.
1 – Communication
You knew this was going to be #1 right? That’s because it seriously is the most important part of creating a strong marriage.
Couples need to be able to talk to each other about both the big things and the small things. They need to be able to express their thoughts and feelings, and they need to be willing to listen to their partner’s thoughts and feelings.
Furthermore, they need to be able to resolve disagreements in a constructive manner.
This doesn’t mean that every conversation will be easy, but it does mean that couples need to be able to communicate effectively in order to build a strong foundation for their marriage.
Effective communication isn’t something we just know how to do. Take time to learn HOW each other communicates, how each other listens (because we all convey and absorb information differently), and work out your own communication style.
2 – Trust
Trust is one of the most important requirements for a strong marriage.
It may seem like a given, but unfortunately, trust is often lacking in marriages.
Trust is essential for a healthy relationship because it helps to build emotional intimacy and creates a sense of safety.
When we trust our partner, we are more likely to open up to them and share our innermost thoughts and feelings. We are also more likely to forgive them when they make mistakes.
However, trust does not come easily.
It takes time to build, and it can be easily broken. If you want to build a strong marriage, you need to be patient and work on developing trust with your partner.
I have heard countless women talk of not trusting their partners, checking their phones, interrogating them when they are home late from work… it’s a lot. There’s a lot of hurt and mistrust that can fester in a relationship and it is not conducive to a strong marriage.
Without trust, everything else falls apart.
3 – Conversation
Conversation is different from communication, conversations are a form of communication (but we communicate with so much more than just our words).
Sadly, when life gets busy, when we are tired, overwhelmed, exhausted, focused, driven, chasing our goals, meeting deadlines… one of the first things to go is conversation.
“We just don’t talk anymore…” or “We used to be up talking on the phone all night when we were dating, now we barely give each other a grunt in the hallway as we pass” are common concerns married couples share.
Without conversation, couples can quickly grow apart, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Conversation helps to build trust and foster open communication. When couples are able to openly share their thoughts and feelings, it can help to prevent misunderstandings and conflict.
And, what is often overlooked is that conversation helps to keep the spark alive in a relationship. By sharing new ideas and experiences, couples can keep their relationship fresh and exciting.
It’s also really important to be a good listener, an active listener, and give your partner your full attention. In a world where there are so many distractions in front of us all the time, one of the nicest things we can do is give someone our complete, undivided attention, and listen.
Conversation is a key ingredient for a strong and lasting marriage, but it doesn’t have to be big deep, and meaningful conversations.
Simply making time each day to TALK to each other, and LISTEN to each other can be so beneficial, and sometimes it’s even better if it’s fun, joking, and lighthearted conversation.
4 – Shared Dreams and Goals
Another often overloved requirement for a strong marriage is having shared dreams and goals.
This means making important decisions together, talking about your goals and what you want to achieve in life (as an individual and together) on a regular basis, and supporting each other in different ways.
While women often describe their partners as their ‘best friend’ it can be easy to forget that our best friend is our LIFE partner, and while yes, our individual goals and dreams are incredibly important, it’s also important to be working towards our future, together.
Financial stability and open communication around finances is another important factor in a stable marriage, with many couples citing money as the number 1 topic they argue about as a couple.
Being open about your financial situation, creating financial goals and financial aspirations, working together, and respecting each other in the process can help you to avoid this conflict.
By working together towards common goals, you can build a strong foundation for a lifetime of happiness.
5 – Purpose
A good marriage doesn’t just happen – it takes effort, patience, and importantly, a shared purpose.
When two people come together with the intention of building a strong relationship, they are more likely to weather the storms of married life and emerge even stronger.
Purpose gives direction to big decisions and helps to guide couples through the ups and downs of daily life.
It is the foundation upon which a strong marriage is built, and it is essential for any couple who wants to create a lasting bond.
With purpose, anything is possible – so if you’re looking to build a strong marriage, make sure that you and your partner are on the same page about what you want to achieve.
6 – Respect & Kindness
I can say with absolute confidence, after speaking with over 1000 women about marriage, one of the most important factors in whether they were happy and felt like they had a strong marriage, was that they felt respected by their spouse.
You and your partner are two complete individuals who have come together to create a marriage and life together. You’re not half of a whole (or even worse, a 30/70 split or a 10/90 split). You’re complete as you are, on your own, and understanding this can help create a better marriage.
Respect and kindness from your spouse isn’t something you need to earn or be rewarded with. It’s the bare minimum, a very basic requirement.
This can be challenging for some people who have unresolved emotional connections with old experiences of relationships or lack of their own self-confidence and self-esteem, but it is incredibly important to always show respect and kindness in your interactions with each other.
That doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything – in fact, healthy debate can be good for a relationship – but it does mean listening to each other and trying to see things from your partner’s perspective.
Ask yourself if the way you interact with your spouse is from a place of respect and kindness? If your expressions of love are received with respect and kindness also?
7 – Fun & Adventure
Do you remember how fun your relationship was in the beginning? You’d go on adventures, laugh until your sides hurt, and even when you’d spent every waking moment together, it wasn’t enough.
It was fun and exciting… can you say the same about your marriage now?
When you’ve been together for a while the ‘fun’ can be a little harder to find. It’s often replaced with life admin, bills that need to be paid, a home that needs to be cleaned, and oh so much laundry…
But don’t underestimate the importance of fun and adventure when it comes to creating a strong and enjoyable marriage.
While I’m a staunch advocate of not needing ‘date nights’ in order to have a happy marriage, what you do need to do is make time for each other.
This doesn’t mean sitting on the lounge, with your feet touching while you scroll through your phone and binge-watch the latest season of whatever show you’re watching right now.
This means taking quality time to focus on each other.
If this means you need to as a family member to watch the kids for a few hours so you can have an uninterrupted conversation, then do it!
Even little things, like taking a dance class or going on a picnic, can help to bring some excitement into a relationship.
The key is to spend quality time together and to regularly try new things.
You don’t have to do this alone, you can head out on family adventures, explore new places, take the long way home and find a new playground to kick a ball around in… have fun.
By making an effort to have fun and adventure, couples can ensure that their marriage stays strong for years to come. Plus, who doesn’t want a little heart flutter like we felt in those early days?
8 – Confidence & Vulnerability
In order to have a strong marriage, need to be confident enough in yourself and feel secure enough that you can be vulnerable and open with each other. This isn’t something that happens quickly and, in some ways, it’s like layers of confidence and vulnerability that you move through in your relationship.
Simply talking about this can make some people feel uncomfortable, and that’s okay. Vulnerability comes from a place outside of our comfort zone, so it’s going to feel scary and uncertain.
I need to reiterate though, vulnerability does not mean weakness, it does not mean being submissive, it does not mean you are less than, and it’s a requirement of both people in the marriage to be vulnerable.
Being vulnerable, with the right person, can help you see your marriage in a different light, can help bring you closer, and brings a new sense of stability and strength in your marriage.
Keep in mind, vulnerability comes at your own pace, and no one can force it upon you. You might find talking to a marriage therapist or going to counseling can help you feel more confident in this.
Journaling is also a great place to start if you’re wanting to explore how you feel about vulnerability and can help you identify thoughts and feelings that may be blocking you.
You can use these journal prompts as some ideas to get you started:
- What does ‘true love’ look like to you?
- When I feel loved, I…
- I’m afraid of what will happen if…
- It didn’t feel right when…
- I feel safest when…
- I feel most seen when…
- Are you proud of who you are?
If you’d like to learn more about vulnerability, the book Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is absolutely fantastic (This was actually the first book I ever listened to on Audible because I panic chose it with my free trial – best panic decision ever).
9 – Desire
It’s apparent some marriages are able to weather any storm, while others seem to crumble at the first sign of trouble. While we have been looking at the requirements for a strong marriage, one requirement that either is overlooked, dismissed, or misunderstood is desire.
It’s important to understand what desire is…
Desire doesn’t necessarily mean physical intimacy (although that can certainly be part of it), but rather a deep-seated hunger for connection.
Couples who prioritize their relationship and make it a high priority, even in the midst of busy lives, are more likely to weather the storms that all marriages face.
This is because they have a shared commitment to each other that goes beyond just physical attraction (although that can be important too).
In addition, these couples are more likely to have the desire to repair and rebuild their relationship when things go wrong.
Desire is what makes us want to fight for our relationship and our spouse, even when it’s hard.
It’s what makes us want to invest in them, and it’s what helps keep the flame of passion burning.
It’s what makes us show up during the hard times, and helps us keep hope during the bad times.
The desire to be with someone is one of the most powerful things in the world.
If you feel like your desire for your spouse has faded, it’s not too late to reignite that passion. You can do this by simply taking time out for each other, setting aside time each week to focus on your relationship, and being intentional about your time together and making your marriage and each other a priority.
10 – Individuality & Maintaining A Sense Of Self
When talking about being a strong individual, taking time for yourself, and spending time on your own, some couples become a little uneasy. It honestly surprised me when I realized how many people believe that when you are married, you should do everything together.
We’ve mentioned before that you are your own person, a strong individual. You came into this relationship as an independent person, and while you now have someone else to consider, and a life together to navigate, it is so important to have elements of your own life, your own friends, and hobbies outside of your relationship.
It gives you a sense of self and keeps you from losing your identity as an individual person (do you remember when people stopped referring to you as just you on your own and they started to refer to you by you and your partner’s name together?)
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t spend time with your partner. In fact, it’s essential to have couple time where you can focus on each other and grow together.
But it’s just as important to have time apart so you can remember who you are as an individual.
Having time to yourself, maintaining your own identity and sense of self all lead to increased self-esteem and self-confidence, which are foundational blocks for good mental health, strong connections, and healthy relationships.
The level of individuality and independence you need will vary from person to person, and it’s important that this need is respected and communicated in your relationship.
Again, if this is something you have trouble with or difficulty communicating in your marriage, a specialized marriage therapist can help.
11 – Physical Connection
Physical intimacy is an important part of a marriage, and connecting on a physical level makes a marriage much stronger. However, there will be times when this kind of intimacy is simply not on the cards. Will your relationship survive without it?
Physical touch and physical connection goes much further than simply getting your nighttime boogie on (if I type the correct word in, Google gets mad at me.. so you’ll have to read between the lines and use your imagination).
Cuddling into each other in bed at night, holding hands when you’re out together and wrapping your arms around each other, taking time to hug in the hallway as you pass can all help keep that physical connection viable.
Everyone will have different a understanding of what a healthy dose of affection looks like, and this is where good communication really needs to come into play.
One of the best ways to find out what levels of physical connection your spouse would like is to simply ask. Talk about it. What kind of physical connection? When? Where? What do you need in order to give each other physical connection?
This isn’t about one person simply giving the other what they want – this is a two-way street.
Ask any Mama out there, a spouse that helps put the kids to bed, does the dishes, and vacuums the floor, while we have a long hot shower, is far more likely to have some level of physical intimacy than a spouse that brings home flowers and then sits on the lounge (I’m speaking generally, but you know what I mean).
And sometimes, the simplest connection of all like a gentle touch, or a long hug, can be exactly what we need.
It takes effort and commitment from both partners to build a strong marriage.
Understanding your own requirements for a strong marriage, and communicating them to each other, will be the surest way for you to take steps to create your own marriage that will weather any storm, and bring you the utmost joy.
By putting in the time and effort to understand this, and making a commitment to yourself, each other, and your marriage, you’ll be on your way to building a strong marriage.