Ingredients of a Happy Marriage

A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to make dinner. I had run to the store earlier that day and thought I had everything I needed.

Several minutes into pulling all of the ingredients, I quickly realized I was missing two things I needed.

I grabbed my wallet, headed out the door, and made another trek to the store (for the second time that day).

The drive back, I was asking myself:

  • “Why didn’t I write all of this down?”
  • “I’ve made this same meal 10 times before… how could I forget something?”
  • “Ugh, I hate having to make two trips to the store.”
  • “While I’m here, are there any other ingredients I’m missing?”

It actually reminded me of marriage and engagement. Engagement is a lot like that first trip to the store. It’s when you figure out all the “ingredients” it takes to make a happy marriage. Now, once you get married and you realize you’re missing one of those ingredients, frustration can quickly set in.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, we want to share eight ingredients to a happy marriage as laid out in Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott. They are:

  1. Healthy expectations of marriage
  2. A realistic concept of love
  3. A positive attitude and outlook toward life
  4. The ability to communicate feelings
  5. An understanding an acceptance of gender differences
  6. The ability to make decisions and settle arguments
  7. A common spiritual foundation and goal
  8. And a deep and abiding commitment and covenant together

Let’s quickly break those down a bit more.

1. Healthy expectations of marriage

Unmet, unspoken, and unconscious expectations are the quickest ways to frustration in marriage. You see, we all come into marriage with an expectation of what our marriage will look like… who will do which chores, how many kids we’ll have, how and when we’ll spend our money, how often we’ll have sex, and much more. In order to have a happy marriage it’s important to have healthy expectations of marriage.

BONUS: Download our free guide 50 Questions Every Couple Needs to Answer Before They Get Married to get a head start on these expectations.

2. A realistic concept of love

What is love? How do we define love? How is love expressed? Couples who have a happy marriage understand that love is more than just the passion and excitement. While those are a part of it, love requires intimacy and commitment as well. A longing desire to serve and love your spouse even when the honeymoon ends.

3. A positive attitude and outlook toward life

This one is pretty simple: if you’re a “glass half empty” kind of person, your marriage is going to suffer. It’s up to you to choose to have a positive attitude.

4. The ability to communicate feelings

“I just don’t know what you want from me!” If that statement sounds familiar, it’s likely due to a struggle in communicating your feelings. As adults and spouses, we have a responsibility to understand how we’re feeling and communicate those feelings in a healthy way. No more pulling pig tails on the play ground!

5. An understanding an acceptance of gender differences

God has uniquely wired us to be equal, yet different. Men are called to love their wives unconditionally as Christ loves the Church, while women are called to love their partner through submission (I know, I know… this is a tricky topic). When we understand our unique differences and the way God has purposely designed us to be unique, we can have a happy marriage.

6. The ability to make decisions and settle arguments

Do you know how to fight? That might sound like a weird question, but the answer can determine whether or not you allow conflict to win, or if you and your spouse will view conflict as an enemy to your marriage. And believe it or not, there’s a right way (and a wrong way) to fight.

7. A common spiritual foundation and goal

God calls us to be “equally yoked” with our spouse (2 Corinthians 6:14). In basic terms, this means we must have the same spiritual beliefs and spiritual maturity as the person we date, engage, and then marry. (Sorry friends, missionary dating isn’t a great idea here). When you have this common foundation, you’ll find more joy, fulfillment, and agreement in your marriage.

8. A deep and abiding commitment and covenant together

“Til death do us part” is more than a poetic statement in your vows. It’s a promise you make to your partner. You’re saying “No matter what happens, no matter how upset at you I feel, no matter how rough it gets, no matter how not in love I “feel”… we are in this for a lifetime.” We made a commitment before marriage that we would never let the d word (divorce) enter our home or our marriage. When you remove the exit, you find peace in commitment and loyalty. Commitment = a long, happy marriage.

Are you up for it? We sure hope so (especially if you’re reading this now!). Marriage is hard work, but when you stick to these ingredients, you won’t have to run back to the “store” when you forget something.