With so many people being married, I wondered if there were some common guidelines or rules for marriage that made some marriages more successful than others. In doing some research and in-depth digging, I found that there were, in fact, certain common factors that happily married couples had in place.  These are things they stick to and live by to the greatest extent possible.

So what are the basic rules for marriage that makes one marriage happier or more successful than others?  Happy and successful marriages follow a set of rules that include: Loving and being committed to your partner; listening to each other; being thoughtful, kind and generous; not speaking badly of their partner in front of others; accepting and appreciating each other’s imperfections, and more. But the underlying foundation of all these rules is a commitment to mutual respect and understanding.

Basic Rules of a Successful Marriage

Happy and successful marriages appear to have a set of rules and guidelines in place that keep their marriage strong through years of being together.  These basic and simple foundations provide a framework for happiness and long-term success.

Love and Commitment

“Love” can mean different things to everyone.  In this case, for a happy successful marriage, you CHOOSE to love and be committed to your partner.

This means that while you may have loved or been attracted to various partners throughout your previous relationships, in marriage, you choose to love your partner above anyone else and be truly committed to that partner through good times and bad.

Love and commitment make up the core foundation of a successful marriage.

Respect and Appreciate Each Other

The happiest marriages understand the importance of respecting and appreciating their partner.  These practices should be sprinkled throughout your daily interactions. You truly can’t OVER respect or OVER appreciate someone, so be generous in sharing these sentiments with your partner.

One of the most common reasons for marriages to deteriorate is when one or both partners don’t feel appreciated.  The same holds true for feeling respected.

In respecting each other, this often comes through in your communications. Establish “rules of engagement,” so to speak, in that you agree to certain rules of communication (no name calling, no eye rolling, no crossed arms or closed body language when communicating with each other – kindly and openly listen to each other, and appreciate and respect your partner’s views even when you disagree with them).

You also want to ensure that you don’t say anything negative about your spouse when speaking with others.  It can be common to spout off a list of grievances on girls’ or guys’ night out, but the happiest married partners refrain from doing this.  Instead, they steer conversations to things they enjoy about their spouse and appreciate about him or her.

Incorporate Fun and Playfulness

It’s easy for married couples to get so caught up in day-to-day life and responsibilities that we forget to have fun.  Make fun and playfulness a priority.

Have “date nights,” hang out with friends who lift your spirits, go on picnics, enjoy little weekend get-aways or day trips – whatever sounds fun to the two of you.  Just remember to embrace a fun playful attitude and outlook.  That in itself will enhance your marriage.

Discover and Appreciate Your Partner’s “Love Language”

According to Gary Chapman, family counselor and author of The Five Love Languages, there are five ways that individuals “speak” and understand love.  By knowing your partner’s love language and “speaking” in a way s/he understands, your messages are received and appreciated by your partner.

  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch

So let’s look at an example of how this plays out.  If your partner experiences love through hearing words of affirmation, and you most often show your love with gifts of appreciation, your partner may truly feel unloved even though it’s not the case at all.  S/he may view the gifts as empty sentiments rather than the way you intended them.

If, on the other hand, you told your partner more often how much you loved him or her, the message sinks in and touches your partner deeply.  Can you see how powerful this is in boosting the happiness and success of your marriage?

Embrace Intimacy

If you’re not being intimate with your partner, you’re really no different than roommates in some respects. Being physically and emotionally intimate with your partner establishes and maintains a deeper bond than couple who are not intimate.

Marriage partners who are visibly affectionate with each other when in public are also the happiest couples long-term.  You can do this with class – holding hands, or a kiss on the cheek, or a quick hug.

When you’re out in public, take a look around.  (I’ve actually done this and it’s astounding.)  Notice how many couples who are physically affectionate are smiling.  Those who are distant and not touching each other at all are not smiling and seem entirely disconnected from their partners.

So any level of intimacy will enhance your marriage’s happiness.  Typically, the greater the levels of intimacy, the happier the couple, and vice versa.

Be Kind and Thoughtful

You chose to marry your spouse for good reason – so be thoughtful and kind to him or her in all of your interactions. The happiest married partners know this to be a recipe for success.

Treat your partner as a most special gift in your life and as someone you absolutely treasure.  Use kind words and actions, and a sensitive, thoughtful approach and attitude to show your spouse that you do, indeed, treasure them.

Practice Forgiveness

We’re all human, and we all make mistakes. The happiest married couples are forgiving partners. They don’t dredge up their partner’s previous mistakes over and over.

They are understanding about missteps (and yet also expect the partner who made a mistake to learn from it – not to repeat the same mistake year after year…so be forgiving, but not a doormat!)

Over-Communicate (and Listen!)

Just as we’re all human, we’re NOT mind-readers. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt in communication, but also clarify anything you don’t understand.

Tell your partner what you need and desire, and listen to your partner’s needs and desires, as well.  Most arguments stem from misunderstandings and miscommunication.  So communicating openly, honestly, clearly, and consistently are all keys to successful marriages.

Respect Your Partner’s Friends and Family

When you marry someone, you’re kind of marrying their friends and family, too.  You may not like every one of your partner’s friends or family members.

But remember that these people are important in your partner’s life. Even if you don’t like someone close to him or her, you should be kind and respectful. You would want your partner to be kind and respectful to your friends and family, so extend that same courtesy.

Give and Take Space

Both partners need time away from each other for the marriage to feel in balance. If you’re joined at the hip 24/7, the marriage will likely over time begin to feel smothering or stifling.

So mix it up.  Even if you enjoy spending every second with each other, tear yourselves apart long enough to miss each other a bit.

If you spend a little time part doing your own thing regularly, you’ll have more to talk about when you’re together. You can relay conversations you had with others, talk about what you did (maybe you took a class and learned something new, or went to an art gallery, or any number of things you can do alone or with friends outside of always being with your partner).

By spending a bit of time apart, you’ll have a greater appreciation of the times when you’re together.

Rules of Marriage in the Bible

The rules above are basic rules for a happy successful marriage regardless of any religious affiliation. But depending on your beliefs, you may look to Biblical rules to provide a framework for what constitutes a successful marriage.

The Bible includes various verses that relate to marriage and how it fits in with “God’s plan.”  Marriage is defined in this way as a sacred bond – specifically between a man and a woman – declared before God and most typically consummated by having sex.

Here are five most common Biblical marriage principles:

Permanence(Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9)

Marriage is intended to be a permanent union of husband and wife, joined before God. Divorce is only permitted for a very limited biblically-approved circumstances.

Sacredness(Genesis 2:22)

Because marriage is not only viewed as a union between a man and wife; but also is a relationship before and under God, it is therefore considered most sacred.

Intimacy (Genesis 2:23 -25)

Marriage, according to the Bible, unites a man and wife into being “one flesh.”  It involves leaving your original family and creating a new family with one’s spouse. “One flesh” can be viewed as relating to sex and procreation and establishes a most intimate connection between spouses.

Mutuality(Ephesians 5:25-30; Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; Genesis 2:18, 20)

Marriage is intended to be the giving of oneself to another. And spouses are to be concerned with the wellbeing of their partner, as well as offering love and devotion to their partner. Mutuality is not intended to be “sameness” in this sense. The Bible describes that wives are to submit to their husbands and that husbands are to take on the primary responsibility in the marriage in the eyes of God.

Exclusiveness(Genesis 2:22-25; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5; (Matthew 5:28; 19:9)

According to the Bible, marriage is intended to be all of the items listed above, in addition to exclusive. It dictates that no other relationship should interfere with a marriage union and commitment between partners. Outside of unfaithfulness by cheating on one’s spouse, lustful thoughts and premarital sex are not condoned. These were all considered to be sexually immoral acts.

Rules for New Marriages

New marriages can enjoy the same framework of rules listed above in the “basic rules for a happy and successful marriage.”  But there are a few more that can be helpful in new marriages:

Avoid Jealousy

Jealousy is something that gets in the way of success for many new marriages. Each of you may have friends or co-workers of the opposite sex, and it’s easy for a partner to be jealous if and when you spend a fair amount of time with that person.

If you are the one spending time with someone else, be open and honest about the time you spend with that person, yet don’t spend an inappropriate amount of time talking about him or her with your spouse. Ensure your mate that he or she is the most important person in your life – NOT the other person you’re spending time with.

And back that up with action. If it’s a friend, limit the time spent with someone else if your partner is jealous. If it’s a co-worker, you may not have a choice, but keep things professional and only spend time with that person as necessary.​

Essentially, you don’t want to provide an environment for things to get too close with someone other than your partner. Otherwise, you’re creating a backdrop for mistrust, and that’s how things can lead to infidelity (when one partner feels less secure, less important, and needs aren’t being met).

If your spouse is the one spending time with someone of the opposite sex, suggest these same guidelines to keep your marriage strong, healthy, happy, and on track for the long-term.

Support Each Other

This means both emotional support and otherwise. In a new marriage, you’re still learning each other – how you relate to each other and individually. You’ll need to support each other when one of you is sick, or loses his or her job, or as you grow professionally and personally.

Discuss your dreams and goals and be each other’s biggest fans. Even if those dreams seem unrealistic, unless they put your family or marriage at risk, support your spouse in her or her dreams in any way possible.

That ongoing belief and support is a true bonding foundation for happy relationships.

Rules for Long-Distance Marriages

Ideally, married partners live under the same roof. However, long-distance marriages are becoming more common as professional opportunities can take one spouse to a different location for long periods of time.

In some cases, long-distance marriages seem happier than those living together. Though often times, it’s because the marriage or partner is idealized when you’re not spending time together on a daily basis You can share the best of your day with each other and gloss over the worst.

In other cases, it’s clearly challenging, especially when the marriage partners have trust issues or other issues before living in separate locations.

Here’s a list of rules and tips for long-distance marriages:

  • Ensure you’re both on the same page about why you’re living apart. If you don’t agree to the reasoning, the reality of day-to-day living will be more challenging.
  • Check in with each other daily (or as regularly as possible). If you’re not staying connected about things that happen day to day, you’re missing a critical bonding opportunity.
  • Use Face-time or Skype or some technology that helps you to see each other as you talk.  So much about communication is non-verbal. By seeing each other, less is lost in translation. You’ll see facial expressions, body language, and being clued in to each other’s non-verbal communication nuances are another way to stay bonded.
  • Be honest about what’s happening in your respective social lives. Trust is the foundation that will make or break your long-distance marriage. So be open and honest about who you’re spending your time with and why.
  • Check in regularly about whether or not the long-distance arrangement is working for both of you. By talking through, rather than glossing over, any issues, you can tackle challenges together.
  • Decide an end time. If you can both see the time when you’ll be together again, living under the same roof, you can better view the time part as an adventure rather than a long-term lifestyle.

Related Questions

What are the qualities of a good marriage? Qualities of a good marriage that lasts include: love and commitment; trust; restraint; intimacy; communication; fairness; respect; humor; gratitude; appreciation; sensitivity; forgiveness; and teamwork.

What are basic rules of relationships? Before getting married, similar rules apply to relationships, yet with a few nuanced differences.

Basic relationship rules include: choosing your partner wisely (look to character, values, and generosity of spirit); ensure you understand and match well with your partner’s beliefs about relationships; differentiate between attraction and love; maintain self-respect, self-esteem, and self-awareness; look at the long-term big picture before taking the relationship further; as well as many of the basic rules listed in the above “rules for marriage” list.