Are you wondering how to have a healthy relationship that’ll last for years to come? Here are our top 10 tips for a healthy relationship, whether you’re married or not, based on our 10 years of marriage full of career changes, three kids including twins, and all the other craziness of the world.
In this blog post, I’ll be talking about my husband and myself just because that’s our family dynamic. However, these tips will work for any partnership or marriage.
Why the Need for Healthy Relationship Tips?
We’ve all seen the news for decades now that the divorce rate is between 40-50% which is so disheartening for any couple, especially anyone thinking about getting married or already married.
The divorce rate has declined in the past several years, though so has the rate of marriages.
Below I’ve combined the knowledge attained during my years of studying psychology, plus anecdotally observing happy relationships, and more importantly, unhappy ones, to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
In addition, my husband and I have taken what we’ve learned through books, a couple of pre-martial counseling sessions with a pastor 10 years ago, and our personal experience of a happy marriage to help you in yours.
I’m surely not saying our marriage is perfect or that we are perfect, we’re flawed humans just like everyone else, but I can assure you that 10 years into our marriage, we’re happy as ever.
Let’s start out simple and then we’ll get more complex. I’ll also have a task after each one for you to think through with your spouse.
Table of Contents
1. Manners Matter
Do you thank your spouse for things throughout the day or have you come to just expect things to be a certain way and only mention it if they don’t go that way?
Early in our marriage we started thanking each other for basic things such as doing the dishes, taking out the trash, changing the poopy diaper, cleaning the cat litter box, emptying the dishwasher, making dinner, etc. After 12 years of being together and 10 years of marriage, we still thank each other every day.
It may seem excessive but it ends up being routine after a while, in a good way. Personally, I feel appreciated when my husband thanks me for making dinner even though I volunteered to do so that night. I know he feels appreciated when I thank him for taking out the trash and helping the kids with their bath. No matter what it is, big or small, we thank each other.
This also shows our kids how to be thankful of the little things, how to appreciate things and people, and that there should be a partnership within a marriage, not just expecting things out of each other.
Other basic manners such as saying please when we are asking each other to do something, you’re welcome when the other person says thank you, sorry when we’ve done something we shouldn’t have, and excuse me when we need to get by each other in close quarters.
Again, not huge things here but a little goes a long way.
Action Step: Think of one thing to thank your spouse for today and see if it catches on. Talk with them about this manners idea and try to implement it, one thing at a time.
2. It’s the Little Things that Count
Building off of the first one of manners, little things you do around the house for each other can make a big difference.
For example, I’m a coffee drinker and my husband is a tea drinker. Every morning he gets up and gets ready for work then gets our twins and himself breakfast. He also is sweet enough to get my coffee grounds and water in the coffee maker so when I come down from getting ready I just have to press the start button.
In the same vein, I warm up the water for his tea and will pour it into his travel mug along with putting the tea bag into his mug right before he goes to work.
Do we have to do this for each other? No. Could we just do it ourselves? Sure, but it’s nicer to do it this way. It wasn’t something that we did on purpose to make things equal, he actually started the coffee thing before he started drinking tea but once he started warming water for tea before work, I took it over so we did something for each other right away in the morning.
It doesn’t have to be coffee and tea, it could even be just pouring your spouse a glass of water when you pour yourself one, prepping their breakfast when you’re prepping yours, or whatever routine tasks there are that you could do for each other.
Even though this is something that we do for each other every day, we still thank each other most of the time for doing it because it’s not like either one of us had to, and we appreciate being appreciated.
Action Step: Think of one daily thing you could do for your spouse and they could do for you. Even better, do this activity together.
3. Share Household Responsibilities
Just because I am female and he’s male, doesn’t mean that all that household duties are up to me. Further, just because I’m now a stay-at-home mom and he works a full time job doesn’t mean that I am expected to do all the housework.
We believe firmly in that, especially him. Earlier in our marriage, when we both worked full time and didn’t have kids, we started doing things as equally as possible. Back then I was just starting to deal with some extreme health issues so it was hard for me to stand for long and I really hated cooking. He didn’t mind cooking so he would cook and I’d do the dishes afterward. Now we do both almost equally, with me doing much more cooking and dishes than before because it means that after a day of me being with the kids, he gets some time with the kids when I make dinner and I get some time away from them.
As our lives progressed and we had our first child and I was still working full-time outside the home, we continued to do things as equally as possible. I’ve always done more of the indoor things like vacuuming, dusting, cleaning and he does the outdoor mowing, shoveling snow, taking the trash to the street type things. Not always though, we do switch things up, especially now that I like to garden I often will be the one out pulling weeds throughout the yard.
As life changed again and I became a stay-at-home mom and then a mom to 3 littles 2 and under when we had twins, we continued to shift our responsibilities to meet our new needs. We give and take where needed and help each other in any way that we can.
Sure, since I’m home 24/7 I tend to be the one doing much of the tidying up around the house throughout the day, wiping down kitchen counters, often doing dishes mid-day because it bugs me to have dirty dishes out for long, and making sure the house is fully stocked with what we need that week, including all the snacks for our kids. BUT he doesn’t expect me to to do all of that, it’s honestly more so that I like things to be a certain cleanliness and I’ve got the time to do it.
He still takes out the trash, takes it to the curb even when it’s brutally cold out, mows the lawn, is the main person shoveling the driveway, and he even does the laundry every Sunday! He also cleans toilets from time to time, washes dishes, makes lunch for all of us on the weekends since I do it all week, and helps with other cleaning, cooking, and dishes.
Like any stay-at-home mom, just because I’m a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean I have all the time in the world to be doing all the things. I have kids to care for, kids to help with their online schooling, and a small business to run. The blog/small business is completely optional but something that I really enjoy and gives me a greater sense of self-worth, which my husband is 100% on board with.
Action Step: Think of some household tasks you could share with your spouse and write them down. Get your spouse’s input as well!
4. Don’t Go to Bed Angry
I’m sure we’ve all heard this one a million times but I have to say it again as I find it to be very helpful. I honestly can only think of maybe 3 times that my husband and I have gone to bed angry and they were during high-stress times such as when we had twin newborns and no one got sleep or when undergoing a huge life change.
Typically though, we try really hard to not go to bed angry. Every night as we’re going to bed we kiss, say goodnight to each other, and tell each other that we love each other. I feel this really helps us end the day on a good note and is another thing that has become routine, in a good way.
If you find this to be difficult because the only time you two get to actually talk is right before bed, do your best to move your talking time up a half an hour so you can work things out and have ample time to get back to a good place before your head hits the pillow.
Action Step: Try to end your night with a nice word to each other and/or a kiss.
5. Open and Honest Communication
When I got sober less than a year into our relationship and before we were even engaged, I knew I needed to be 100% honest and open with my then boyfriend, now husband, or I would slip up and drink again. This has served us well.
When something is bothering one of us, we talk about it to each other. It might not be right away, but within hours we’ll talk about our feelings authentically with each other. My husband is the first to admit, he still has a hard time talking about his feelings since men are typically socialized to not do so, but he’s working on it.
Leading with “I” statements instead of “you” blaming statements is very helpful when talking things through. If I’m upset about something, I’ll frame it more as “I feel like you don’t care about what I have to say when you look at your phone during our conversation” instead of saying with anger, “Why don’t you care about what I have to say? Is your phone more important than me?!”
See how those two come off so differently yet relay the same message?
Are we always perfect at this? Heck no! The important thing though is that we at least try. We try not to point blame and try to think about why we feel the way we do, then work through things together as needed.
As you know through my writing on my blog, I’m all about being authentic with my readers, and I’m that way with everyone around me as well. I don’t have the time or energy to be fake with anyone or have them be fake with me. I left fakeness behind a long time ago and let me tell you, it’s quite freeing!
My husband and I fully trust each other, we share bank accounts, credit card accounts, password management systems so we can get into each other’s accounts if needed, and more. Does that mean I go through my husband’s email and Facebook to check on him? No, because it’s not needed but if I did suspect something I could, and he could check mine too. I can say with the utmost certainty that neither one of us is interested in leaving this marriage, so it’s simply not a concern. I realize that we’re very lucky and unique in that though. I’m not saying that if your significant other doesn’t share all their passwords with you it’s a red flag, just sharing that’s how deep our trust goes within our marriage.
In terms of being open and honest, I’m not saying that you have to tell each other EVERYTHING that happens within your day, that’s just a whole lot of does it really matter what you ate for lunch or when you pooped? No. However, there are a lot of things that we do share with each other that most couples may not.
One way that we ensure we have time to share is keep lists within our phones of things to talk to each other about as we think of them throughout the day and then schedule time to chat if we don’t feel we’ll have ample time as it is. I’ll get more into that later.
One last thing on open and honest, I’m also not saying that it’s important that we tell each other all of our dreams or thoughts if someone else pops up in them. Sure, sometimes I will have really bizarre sex dreams about people other than my husband and I’ll chose to share that with him because I think it’s hilarious, and he does too, but I don’t do it to hurt him and it’s not like I can control my dreams.
Being open and honest doesn’t mean not keeping anything to yourself, rather, being authentic with your partner and telling them how you feel instead of expecting them to just figure it out.
Action Step: Are there things that you’ve been unintentionally hiding from your spouse? Do you expect your spouse to figure out why you’re upset or do you tell them why? (I suggest telling them, it’ll work much better). Discuss this together.
6. Open to Different Ideas
Being open to different ideas is something that I really struggled with early in our relationship. I’m an only child and was raised by extremely tidy parents so really struggled when we moved in together after getting married and his cleanliness didn’t live up to my standards.
Heck, they still don’t, BUT I realize my standards are MY standards and if I want the kitchen counters to always be free of crumbs then I need to wipe them down. He just doesn’t see the mess the way that I do. Will I ask him to wipe down the kitchen counters from time to time? Sure, but I know that when he looks at the counters he sees maybe one crumb that is no big deal whereas when I look at it, to me it looks like a mountain of crumbs that are messing up my whole kitchen.
Again, MY problem, not his. He cleans to the level normal people do, I think.
I’m not saying he wasn’t raised in a tidy household, he was, just not museum tidy as we joke my parent’s house was when I grew up.
Early in our marriage I tried to change him A LOT due to my extreme cleanliness. Sure, he compromised or gave in on many things but over the years, so have I.
I have also been open to doing things different ways whether that comes to how to prepare food, how to do dishes, how to wash clothing, how tidy to keep our kids (messy faces drive me nuts but not him), or even things in our marital bedroom.
I won’t get into that much here but being open to new ideas in the bedroom can be a very healthy thing in a marriage. I’m not saying that if your partner wants to invite a third person into your relationship you should be ok with it, I sure wouldn’t be, but if they want to try role play or something very different from the norm, what’s it going to hurt if you try it once? You might even enjoy yourself!
Action Step: What’s one new thing you would each be willing to try? Whether it’s how to do something basic or something in the bedroom, what would you both be open to?
7. Scheduling Time Together
As much as this may turn some people away from the rest of this post, I find it very important. I used to think it was SO weird when I heard on TV shows that a married couple would schedule sex. I was like really?! Who does that?!
Want to know what? WE do that. It’s not because we’re super boring or because we don’t like each other, it’s because life is busy and without scheduling things, even sex, it simply wouldn’t happen. You can surely deviate from the schedule, we often do one way or the other, but at least having a schedule helps set the groundwork for things to happen.
Beyond scheduling sex, we schedule cuddle time together without technology one night a week, we schedule our monthly budget meetings, and whenever we need to talk about something specific. Does this mean that we don’t talk otherwise? No, it just means that if there is something we want to make sure we discuss, we make an event in our shared calendar with notes about what we’d like to discuss. That makes it more likely that it’ll actually happen.
This helps us feel much more connected and organized instead of having sticky notes or reminders on our phones to talk about something and completely blindsight the other person.
For example, while writing this blog post I realized that there are a couple things on my blog that aren’t functioning as they should. Since my husband is a web developer he’s able to help me troubleshoot when something isn’t working correctly and come up with a solution. Instead of distracting both myself and him by trying to figure it out right now, I made a 30 minute calendar event for tonight after the kids go to bed to discuss it. Then it’s off my mind and we both know that I’d like to have a chat tonight about it.
We also schedule date nights once a month. We don’t actually go out and do anything but those nights we spend time together, without screens, often talking, playing a game, watching a movie and cuddling, or working on Lego sets together. If you need more date ideas that are better than those, check out this Date Cards printable!
Action Step: With your spouse, look at your calendar and schedule one night a week, or even an hour a week, to spend together without technology. Doesn’t have to involve intimacy if you don’t want it to. Could be a board game, a card game, talking about your week, your annoying boss, etc. Just schedule time for each other.
On the note of intimacy, share your feelings with your partner about it regarding frequency, type, wants and needs. It really helps to discuss these things openly instead of just being upset that it never happens the way you want, whatever ‘it’ may be.
8. Scheduling Time Apart
As important as scheduling time together, is scheduling time apart. We didn’t realize this until we were married, had 3 kids including twin babies, and I was battling Postpartum Depression so badly I was close to taking my life.
It started out as weekly therapy appointments where I would be gone for a couple of hours between the drive to get to my therapist’s office and the actual appointment. Though it wasn’t “free time” just having that time away was amazing. The therapy helped a lot too.
After almost a year of weekly therapy, I graduated and though I no longer went to therapy, we kept Thursday nights as ‘my night’ for me to do what I want. That could include leaving the house or just being alone and not in charge of the kids. My husband fully takes over when he gets home from work, other than me possibly cooking dinner, and I get time to work on what I want. Sometimes, I even just relax during this time and stream a favorite TV series.
We each have times throughout the week that are our own to work on our own hobbies or just be ourselves in whichever way we want to. This has helped us both so much, especially since we both really lost our sense of self after having kids.
Action Step: Do you have a hobby or want to start a hobby? Maybe even just have some alone time once a week? Work with your partner to ensure you both get some alone time to work on your own things. Ideally, the time would be rather equal but doesn’t have to be, depending on the circumstances.
Compromise is an essential part of any relationship, there needs to be give and take. You’re going to have different needs than your partner and they different needs than you. You’ll each have different ways of doing things and different views.
A happy marriage doesn’t mean that you’re basically clones of each other and agree on everything.
It means that you’re able to be your own person while also being open to their ideas, ways of thinking, and ways of doing things. This could be as basic as what brand of milk you like or something as complex as whether or not to baptize your children.
Compromise, give and take, openness to other ideas is always essential whether it’s with your spouse, your family, or your job.
Action Step: What is something you have been standing your ground on that you think you could compromise on? Discuss this concept with your spouse and see if they can think of something as well.
10. Know Your Love Languages
Early in our marriage I came across the 5 Love Languages book. Our marriage has never been ‘in trouble’ to the point we’ve thought of not being together, but like most couples I’m sure, there were times that we didn’t feel as connected as others.
Reading through the Love Languages book and both of us taking the quiz, really helped us understand each other better.
To be honest, I read the book as my husband isn’t much of a read for pleasure type person, and I relayed the important parts to my husband. We both took the quiz in the back of the book.
Turns out, my primary love language is touch, which really helped to know this years later when I was battling postpartum depression, I realized that it got worse when I hadn’t had any cuddle time with my husband because we didn’t sleep in the same bed for the first 6 months after our twins were born. We weren’t upset with each other, I simply couldn’t sleep through their constant grunting and he offered to be up with them since I had to get up and pump anyway. I noticed that once we moved to a bigger house where they were able to have their own room and he and I could be next to each other and even cuddle before bed, my mood improved a lot. It didn’t fix everything but every little bit helps.
Through learning our love languages, we learned how to not only ensure we are each being fulfilled, like me with the cuddling, but also that our partner is feeling fulfilled. My husband really appreciates acts of service and shows his love in that way the most, hence the coffee and tea example I shared above. I reciprocate by getting him tea since he gets my coffee ready. It doesn’t always need to be an equal equation like that but I try to find more ways to do little things that equate to acts of service since I know he appreciates that. He finds little ways to touch me such as a hug before he goes to work, when he gets home, and holding hands while we’re in the van together.
Just little things.
Action Step: Check out the 5 Love Languages book from your local library or purchase on Amazon to further explore your Love Language. Discuss with your partner.
The link above is an Amazon Affiliate Link, if you click and purchase I’ll get a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
BONUS!! #11 Budgeting!
I’ll get more into this and some of the other areas above in subsequent blog posts but budgeting is a HUGE thing that we’ve done to ensure a happy and healthy relationship, whether you’re married or not.
We never fight about money and we always have money leftover at the end of the month to put toward the mortgage and college funds.
This is because we set a budget every month and stick to it. More to come on that…
The Way it Really Is
While we surely don’t have a perfect marriage, we do feel that the 10 tips above help our marriage stay strong, day in and day out. I hope that they help you too!
What’s one thing you could implement today?
Date Night Cards
Looking for fun date night ideas? Our Date Night Printable Cards are here to help! Get inspired with creative and unique date ideas for couples. Perfect for a memorable and enjoyable time together.
They include 66 date ideas in several categories including romance, outside, nighttime, inside, get it done, get craft, action, something different, daytime, getaway, and double date.
As a mom of identical twins and a son two years older, I have gained invaluable experience in the realm, and chaos, of parenting. With a Master's Degree and Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology, I spent years as a school psychologist, helping children navigate through their educational and emotional challenges. Now as a stay at home mom and professional blogger, I combine my areas of expertise to help you in your parenting journey.