Maintaining a healthy marriage is easier said than done. That's why the divorce rate in the United States is 3.2 per 1,000 population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There's a wealth of research into what makes happy and healthy marriages, however. And we've rounded up some of the best tips, according to science. Here are 13 habits that will improve your marriage.
Healthy marriages involve couples who communicate openly with one another. A whole host of research suggests that couples who communicate with one another in mature ways are happier together.
According to a survey of 910 people in relationships or married and living together by Porch, a network for homeowners and home professionals, remodeling a home scores highly on tasks couples enjoy doing together. Over half of those surveyed said they took on a new project like remodeling their bathrooms and bedrooms, and just under half did the same with their kitchens. Doing so helped improved their relationships—54% of men and 50% of women said their relationships improved.
Research continues to show that sleep deprivation impairs cognitive function. And, when that happens, it's harder to be yourself. That's why couples who get enough sleep together tend to be less irritable and can have better, more focused and intentional discussions with one another — science says so! Meanwhile, studies suggest that couples who report poorer sleep are much more likely to argue with each other.
Couples in happy marriages spend time with their mutual friends. Co-authors of the book Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple Friendships, Geoffrey Greif and Kathleen Holtz Deal, suggest that married couples who seek out friendships with other couples benefit from the emotional support and excitement they get from the group dynamic. Not sure how to make friends with other married couples? We tell you all about it here!
Couples who try new things together learn more about one another, teach and challenge each other and, ultimately, live a happier and healthier life together. Even if they're busy with work and other obligations, they make the time to explore together. Not sure how to make the time? We tell you all about that, too.
Marriage takes work—and that work requires your undivided attention a lot of the time. While we live in a world in which too many of us walk around with our noses stuck in our smartphones, happy married couples make it a point to spend time together unplugged. That means that they put the phones and iPads and laptops down. They don't switch on the television. Rather, they sit together and have real conversations. After all, research says that too much tech can be detrimental for relationships. And other research suggests that quality time is more important than tech time.
Couples in happy marriages make an effort to spend time together—often, that time is best spent sharing a meal together. Whether they cook together, go out to eat at a restaurant or order takeout, sharing a meal is one surefire way to spend some quality time together.
There's endless research out there about the importance of intimacy in relationships. In fact, there are tons of benefits of having more sexual intimacy in your relationship. According to a 2015 study, more sex and better quality sex actually increases happiness (because our bodies secrete cortisol, adrenaline and oxytocin during sexual intimacy). And it's not just sex—cuddling after sex is also important!
Couples that can work out any issues before they go to sleep, so they never go to bed angry with one another, tend to be happy.
A whole gamut of studies suggests that the early bird really does get the worm. And when both birds rise and shine, they're naturally better love birds.
Exercising has a whole bunch of both physical and mental health benefits. Exercising, for one, releases dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins that are responsible for our happiness. So, naturally, exercising with one's partner means that you are doing something happy together.
Keeping the house clear of clutter can have positive effects on mental health. Reearch suggests that a space that's clear of clutter can actually boost productivity, which means that you'll have even more, less-stressful time to spend together in a comfortable space.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.