8 Essentials for a Successful Marriage

happy couple successful marriage

“Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.” – Barnett R. Brickner

Two years ago, my family and I embraced a minimalist lifestyle. We decided that too much clutter had collected in our home and that it was demanding too much of our money, energy, and precious time. And thus, we embarked upon on a journey to sell, donate, recycle, or remove as many of the nonessentials possessions from our home as possible. It was one of the best decisions we ever made.

When we began removing the “stuff” from our life, we found a whole new world open up. We found that we had more time for the things that we valued most. Now, as a result, we spend more time at the dinner table, we take longer walks as a family, and we have been able to save money for some worthwhile experiences… like a weekend at the beach, for example. Removing the nonessentials has allowed us to focus more on the essentials. And we have discovered that true life is found there.

Often times, our marriages follow the same trajectory. At first, when we have nothing but each other, we focus intently on the important building blocks of a healthy marriage. But as our relationship continues forward, “stuff” begins to accumulate and begins to distract us from the very essentials needed for a successful marriage. Suddenly, we worry more about the appraisal value of our home than the value of our relationship. We check the health of our retirement account far more often than the health of our marriage. Or we spend more time taking care of the car in the garage than the other person in our bed. Things begin to accumulate in our homes and lives and soon demand our money, energy, and precious time. As a result, we have little left over for the very elements that keep our marriages successful.

Wise couples realize that a nice home, car, or retirement account may appear nice to have, but they do not make a successful marriage. They understand that there are far more important principles at play. As a result, they have learned to invest their money, energy, and time into the 8 essentials of a healthy marriage:

1. Love/Commitment. At its core, love is a decision to be committed to another person. It is far more than a fleeting emotion as portrayed on television, the big screen, and romance novels. Feelings come and go, but a true decision to be committed lasts forever – and that is what defines true love. It is a decision to be committed through the ups and the downs, the good and the bad. When things are going well, commitment is easy. But true love is displayed by remaining committed even through the trials of life.

2. Sexual Faithfulness. Sexual faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. When we devote our minds to sexual fantasies about another person, we sacrifice sexual faithfulness to our spouse. When we offer moments of emotional intimacies to another, we sacrifice sexual faithfulness to our spouse. Guard your sexuality daily and devote it entirely to your spouse. Sexual faithfulness requires self-discipline and an awareness of the consequences. Refuse to put anything in front of your eyes, body, or heart that would compromise your faithfulness.

3. Humility. We all have weaknesses and relationships always reveal these faults quicker than anything else on earth. An essential building block of a healthy marriage is the ability to admit that you are not perfect, that you will make mistakes, and that you will need forgiveness. Holding an attitude of superiority over your partner will bring about resentment and will prevent your relationship from moving forward. If you struggle in this area, grab a pencil and quickly write down three things that your partner does better than you – that simple exercise should help you stay humble. Repeat as often as necessary.

4. Patience/Forgiveness. Because no one is perfect (see #3), patience and forgiveness will always be required in a marriage relationship. Successful marriage partners learn to show unending patience and forgiveness to their partner. They humbly admit their own faults and do not expect perfection from their partner. They do not bring up past errors in an effort to hold their partner hostage. And they do not seek to make amends or get revenge when mistakes occur. If you are holding onto a past hurt from your partner, forgive him or her. It will set your heart and relationship free.

5. Time. Relationships don’t work without time investment. Never have, never will. Any successful relationship requires intentional, quality time together. And quality time rarely happens when quantity time is absent. The relationship with your spouse should be the most intimate and deep relationship you have. Therefore, it is going to require more time than any other relationship. If possible, set aside time each day for your spouse. And a date-night once in awhile wouldn’t hurt either.

6. Honesty and Trust. Honesty and trust become the foundation for everything healthy in a marriage. But unlike most of the other essentials on this list, trust takes time. You can become selfless, committed, or patient in a moment, but trust always takes time. Trust is only built after weeks, months, and years of being who you say you are and doing what you say you’ll do. It takes time, so start now… and if you need to rebuild trust in your relationship, you’ll need to work even harder.

7. Communication. Successful marriage partners communicate as much as possible. They certainly discuss kids’ schedules, grocery lists, and utility bills. But they don’t stop there. They also communicate hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties. They don’t just discuss the changes that are taking place in the kid’s life, they also discuss the changes that are taking place in their own hearts and souls. This essential key cannot be overlooked because honest, forthright communication becomes the foundation for so many other things on this list: commitment, patience, and trust… just to name a few.

8. Selflessness. Although it will never show up on any survey, more marriages are broken up by selfishness than any other reason. Surveys blame it on finances, lack of commitment, infidelity, or incompatibility, but the root cause for most of these reasons is selfishness. A selfish person is committed only to himself or herself, shows little patience, and never learns how to be a successful spouse. Give your hopes, dreams, and life to your partner. And begin to live life together.

This is a simple call to value our marriages, treat them with great care, and invest into them daily. Accomplishing the items listed above will always require nearly every bit of yourself… but it so worth it. After all, a successful marriage is far more valuable than most of temporal things we chase after with our lives. And will always last longer.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. tina lemna says

    You have amazing insight, your wife is very blessed to have you for a partner. (but i’m sure you are blessed too) love your blog, keep up the good work.

  2. Ray Merkler says

    I agree 100% with everything but #2, which I think applies an unhealthy level of absolutism to sexuality. Denying one’s sexual impulses to such a degree causes just as much cheating as the impulses themselves do when left completely without check. And the repressed cheater is more likely to be unsafe about it to boot! There needs to be a balance. Both partners need to understand, respect, and empathize with their spouses’ sexual urges. It cultivates honesty in a relationship. In some cases, it does mean allowing a little bit of roaming for the sake of sanity. It most cases, it means letting your spouse have his or her fantasies without feeling judged.

    And in ALL cases, these issues need to be discussed before marriage is even proposed.

    I think Dan Savage says it best here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fm9Bwpxy4V0

    • says

      I disagree with you here Ray. I have just seen too many marriages complicated and ruined by sexual unfaithfulness. Sexual fulfillment is most often found under the umbrella of commitment.

      Sanity is not found in sexual roaming. It is found in sexual commitment. The one thing I do agree with is that matters of sexuality most definitely need to be talked about prior to marriage.

      • Ray Merkler says

        That’s certainly the case for at least 51% of people, but everyone has urges, and forcing ourselves to repress them can lead to feelings of shame.

        That and everyone has different standards for faithfulness. This is a fairly spiritual blog, and as someone who was once Catholic, I empathize with your perspective on sexuality, but the vast majority of people will, at some point, find themselves thinking, “I sure would like to have sex with [insert name of someone who isn’t a spouse].” I feel like your philosophy on sexuality will make these individuals think they’re bad people for having these desires. In reality, they’re perfectly healthy, so long as they aren’t used to destructive ends.

        Which, again, what could be destructive depends on one’s perspective on sexuality. There are millions of polyamorous couples out there (you wouldn’t know it, as most of them are frightened of being judged for it — ahem :) ) who understand each other’s desires for sex outside of their relationship and encourage it. Why they prefer their relationships this way doesn’t matter: It’s what keeps their relationship solid, and most importantly, faithful.

        Because sexual faithfulness doesn’t always have to mean sexual exclusivity. Above all else, sexual faithfulness means sexual *honesty*, both to oneself and to one’s partner.

        • JLundholm says

          There is no shame in having urges, that is a part of being human. To make choices based on higher values, long-term outcomes, and personal commitments is not repression, it is self-expression, and the exercise of self-discipline over our urges is a source of pride.

          I can accept that some polyamourous couples “work”. Some couples that allow for sexual expression outside the marriage work. I have no spiritual comittment, except to evidence and reason, and from a purely practical/pragmatic viewpoint, I would never recommend a sexually open marriage. If you have a polyamourous relationship that works for all involved, then congratulations, but it’s a low probability outcome. Some lottery ticket buyers win– I would never, however, recommend playing the lottery as a retirement plan.

          • Dalbir Chana says

            If you are married, then you married one person, therefore you would need to be sexually exclusive if you respect that person. If you have urges and who doesn’t then it is better to acknowledge them and let them pass … you need to trust that you made the right choice at the alter. Truly it is that simple.

      • Li Ling says

        Joshua, I agree with you regarding sexual faithfulness. If you love someone so much and commit to him or her, how could you fantasize someone else? From my own experience, I will not have any interests to a man who checks out and flirts other women while he is in a relationship with me. My ex-husband is like that. Of course, I left him.
        I also really like other points you made in your “8 essentials of a successful marriage”. I read other similar articles by other authors. But yours is the best.

  3. says

    Hi Joshua,

    Great tips! I think it’s great for those who aren’t married but who are in commited relationships as well. After all, if we don’t practise these things before marriage, it would be a bit harder to cope once there’s tangible commitment and other responsibilities.

    I especially agree with being selfless. Like you said, selfishness is the root of all the problems in a relationship. If we couple being selfless with humility, working out problems would be easier.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us! :)

    Tariq and Shaheera

  4. says

    I’d like to think my marriage has most, if not all, of these elements. My husband and I will have been blissfully married for 14 years – tomorrow (Feb. 1)!

    You’re bang on with your list!

  5. says

    Excellent, excellent article. So important to strip down everything else and remind ourselves what is really important in life.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Darcy

  6. says

    So funny that you would post this today. My husband and I were smack in the middle of an argument when I plopped down and headed over to your blog and this pops up. I have to be honest, after I read #1, I clicked out. I was upset and didn’t like being reminded about the commitment part. So here I am, 2 in the morning and after spending some time reading in my Bible I remembered I never finished reading all 8. Thanks for calling me out. You are right. Being committed in the good times is easy…but when the hard times come it becomes difficult. Not because you stop loving the person, but perhaps because we shift our focus from their good qualities to their “bad” ones. Guess I needed to be reminded that “a deals a deal” and I took vows. And another thing you were right about…forgiving really does set us free. How could I not forgive my husband when God has forgiven me so much? I’m glad I came back and finished reading the post. :)

  7. says

    When my wife and I decided to get married, we were told by most people that our marriage would fail because we were so different. We come from different countries and cultures, speak different first languages (although we both have learned each other’s language), and are different ages. We thought that our marriage would succeed because we have so much in common- a common religion, common goals, and a common desire to have a good life and raise a family together. Nearly eight years later our marriage is stronger than ever, we have three children that embody both of our backgrounds, and we are very happy with our life. All eight of the points you mentioned have been crucial for us, but especially patience, humility, and selflessness. These things may make one appear weak to society in general, but they are the keys to what has made us successful.
    Thanks for this great post!

  8. says

    Hi Josh, It is so great to see a guy post something like this. You send such a great message. We would really like to have you write a guest blog post for our site The Groom’s List (http://thegroomslist.com). Please let me know if you would be interested!

  9. *pol says

    You hit the nail on the head.
    I think, in this time of the what’s-in-it-for-me-mentality, articles like this are a good reminder of what’s more important, and that things worth doing are worth doing well (like being a spouse).

  10. says

    Hi Joshua,

    I´ve been Reading your posts lately and this is the first time I make a comment; thus, I’ve decided to get involved with your ideas, and the reason I’ve decided this is because you are combining two issues I am interested: minimalism and married lifestyle.
    What other post of yours would you recommend in this sense?

  11. CD says

    I mean, this is nice and all, but it seems to me that this minimalism blog has run out of ideas for minimalism material and has now shifted to unrelated topics. Religion…. Marriage… First, it takes more than a line like “Often times, our marriages follow the same trajectory” to convince me that there is a true connection; hence my description of “unrelated”. Second, I’m not sure the author of the posts is qualified as either a religious leader or a marriage counselor. To be fair, I never see the author claim to be either. However, for not being either, the posts seem very authoritative. I’m not sure I need a “call to value our marriages” from someone who has less years of successful marriage than I do. The “preachy-ness” of this site is slowly become a turn off.

    • says

      CD, Congrats on the many years of successful marriage. Good for you.

      To be fair, this site has always been about things bigger than minimalism. It’s about intentionally living with less for sure, but it’s also about finding value in the most important places of life. And both marriage and parenting have made frequent appearances here in the past and will do so in the future.

    • Lisa says

      I think a person with experience is more qualified than someone with just knowledge. A religious leader or marriage counsellor who have not had years of marriage to pull from could very well be less qualified than Josh here.

      I appreciated this post. In this day and age when everything’s a free for all, “just do it” sort of mentality, someone needs to remind everyone about commitment, trust, forgiveness, humility etc. We don’t hear much about those anymore. Even worse when you dare to talk about sexual faithfulness. Everyone thinks it’s the most impossible thing. It isn’t and I endorse what Josh says completely.

  12. says

    CD,

    Joshua is offering his advice according to what he has personally learned from becoming a minimalist and how it has affected his marriage.

    Since his advice is free and you’re “free” to close the page and/or unsubscribe, why not do so without leaving your negative opinions behind?

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and that’s why most bloggers have a comment section, but there is a way to express yourself without putting someone down. It’s called constructive criticism.

    -Marnie

  13. LF says

    Religious leaders or marriage counselors aren’t necessarily any more qualified than anyone else. Someone who has less experience, not a good life, etc. doesn’t make what they offer any less valid. It’s crazy how we decide what is correct and what isn’t and most of the time its all WRONG. I’ve often given the best advice to people and truly helping them despite that things haven’t worked out for me. One may not have anything to do with the other. Except usually someone who has gone through tough times can be way more qualified to give advice than someone who hasn’t especially if they are constantly improving themselves.

    Great post. I agree with everything & I’m not at all religious.

  14. says

    Hi,

    As someone who is getting married sometime this year, and who is moving in with my fiance this week (!), this post is helpful, grounding and real. Nige and I have honesty, friendship and a soft place to land at the core of our relationship, and it’s great to read this and see my own value system reflected there. I just wrote him a note to say thank you to him for being better than me at photography, training and vigilance around his thinking – it’s so important for me to be humble, and is one area that I struggle with.

    Thank you!
    Love
    Elloa

  15. beachmama says

    I enjoyed the post very much but got more out of the exchange of ideas between Joshua, Ray, JLundholm and Dalbir.

    I’m married to my second husband, our marriage is his third. I was married to my first husband 26 years. This doesn’t make us marriage experts but we have learned things from our past relationships that we’ve brought into ours. My husband and I have made agreements around honesty that includes when we’ve had sexual fantasies or attraction to someone else. It’s been a difficult concept for me to embrace but there is no doubt in my mind that it is the healthiest way to deal with sexual feelings outside of our marriage. We take that sexual energy and bring it back to one another . . . talking about it and bringing the energy into our relationship has helped me heal from a long term marriage where I was intentionally kept in a state of uncertainty about fidelity.

    I have a high value for fun and playfulness and when that is waning in my marriage I start to feel bored. Because of our agreement to honesty and listening/speaking without judgment, I can go to my husband and ask for what I want. We may ask for adjustments to requests but we always work it through because we have a commitment to our marriage. In addition, we have a sacred agreement to never threaten our relationship. If there is anything that we feel is a threat we speak up before we are compelled to act on it. Making agreements works for us.

  16. says

    This is a wonderful list :-)

    I think its very appropriate that commitment is number one. After all, love is a choice :-) Once we realize that and choose to love, its amazing how much easier it is to love and more fun.

  17. Keith says

    Thankyou for sharing this to the point points about how to keep your marriage focus on the relationship of one another and then the children also. Thanks again for sharing these lessons that you have learned.

  18. Jason Cheshire says

    Hi Josh,
    I am wondering what your thoughts are about intellectual compatibility. How important is it for a couple to stimulate each other with intelligent conversation? I think this is very important and I find it very uncommon for someone I date to be very intelligent, articulate, and curious enough about life to provide a fresh, new idea when I bring something up that I am interested in.

  19. says

    This is great, it has been things that I have been thinking, talking, and advocating for years.

    Two things I would like to add.

    First thing is that money, energy, and time our so important to invest into our relationship as mentioned in your article. I would like to add another element you invest: Your mind/time.

    The second thing is I have another essential.

    Essential 9
    work hard, and think hard. So many people today are lazy when it comes to tasks, and putting actual thought into issues, problems solutions, and then acting on them.We need to not just “hear” when our partner talks, but “listen” to what they say. Think about it, and give them true, thoughtful feed back.

  20. Sonia Reshi says

    Im really glad i stumbled upon this site and read what i did.Im about to be married in a few months and what brings me here is the eagerness to make my marriage successful. Ive been hearing a lot about bad marriages, failures and it makes marriage out to be something so dreadful. From what I feel inside, it isnt all that hard.If you want to make it last,nothing can stop it from happening. i guess the most important thing is when you dont give yourself a choice to opt out of the marriage, you’ve ensured its survival. You’ll make it work this way or that. So the intention is supreme here. Dont we always find a way around something we dont wanna give up? Its as simple as that.

  21. Matthew says

    I have been specifically looking for this post, and am glad I found it. My partner drives me crazy in good and bad ways, but her commitment is truly a blessing to me. I feel sometimes a lot of other sites/ ideologies are based around self protection, ie the site Truth About Deception. It is as though someone is trying unconsciosly to justify their own behavior instead of promote fairness and honesty in a relationship.
    This information, though, seems based purely on the traditional rational values of love and respect and just reading it gives me hope for long term commitment and makes me feel like it is possible to hold up to the vow, “Til death do us part.”
    Thank you so much!!

  22. Amit Patel says

    We mate to be very honest, this sounds only good in the books and not in real life. The problems are much more complex and if things were this easy, I would get married twice.

    I think i need to take my wife out, not for a vacation but for a Brain Scan. Bet she’s got a pee brain that fails to function every-time a logical decision has to be made.

    What I fail to understand is….if my wife loves me so much. why on earth does she behave like she doesn’t?
    Twisted and curved short cuts of life seem to be more than the straight road around.

    Anyway I have got my learning from your article. Hope she gets it too…

  23. sneh says

    Hi,
    I have seen a pattern with myself in many cases….i.e. I meet a guy…find suitable for marriage….he too finds me suitable for marriage…..then when I see things progressing towards marriage….I have fight with the guy on some completely non issue…and ruin the relationship….Please suggest how to stop this pattern getting repeated. Thanks.

  24. Anastasia says

    My name is Anastasia and my ex-boyfriend dumped me 8 months ago after I caught him of having an affair with someone else and insulting him. I want him back in my life but he refuse to have any contact with me. I was so confuse and don’t know what to do, so I visited the INTERNET for help and I saw a testimony on how a spell caster help pe0ple to get their ex back so I contact the spell caster and explain my problems to him….. he cast a spell for me and assure me of 3 days that my ex will return to me and to my greatest surprise the third day my partner came knocking on my door and beg for forgiveness. I am so happy that my love is back again and not only that, we are about to get married. Once again thank you Dr lawrences, you are truly talented and gifted
    email:drlawrencespelltemple@hotmail.com All thanks to the source of my happiness{ DR. Lawrence}.

  25. michael says

    who ever is reading this testimony today should please celebrate with me and my family because it all started like a joke to some people and others said it was impossible. my name is Michael i live in Chicago i am happily married with two kids and a lovely wife something terrible happen to my family along the line, i lost my job and my wife packed out of my house because i was unable to take care of her and my kids at that particular time. i manage all through five years, no wife to support me to take care of the children and there come a faithful day that i will never forget in my life i met an old friend who i explain all my difficulties to, and he took me to a spell caster and and the name of the temple is called, okundonorgreatspell, i was assure that everything will be fine and my wife will come back to me after the wonderful work of dr okundonorgreatspell, my wife came back to me and today i am one of the richest man in my country. i advice you if you have any problem email him with this email: dr.okundonorgreatspell@gmail.com and you will have the best result. take things for granted and it will be take from you.

  26. DaveC says

    I will never get married again. I feel it is not worth the piece of paper. I feel that the marriage vows the God imposes on a person are unrealistic and a recipie for failure. You agree to an exclusive relationship for life and basically your needs pretty much go unmet. Even if you voice your concerns it falls on deaf ears. i was in a marriage for 18 years and it was nothing but a huge source of misery, frustration and basically feeling trapped. Knowing what the rules are, Why would anyone ever want to agree to something like this? Yet we all do it.

    • James says

      Its not about us, no one should get married for themselves they should do it for the other person and their partner should be doing the same. Its not about what just makes one person happy its about what makes you both happy and being happy with someone else is so much more than being happy alone. We find that person that we are capable of being so very happy with and to avoid commitment welcomes the other person to be swept away by someone who will commit, so we marry them. Its a vow to remain one unit against every hardship its an empowering union. I think you guys may have just lost your way as a unit maybe one side decided they valued themselves individually more than as a unit and that caused it to fall a part and thus causing misery. I have not been married long but I am also a very studious person I have payed attention to life and people, both failures and successes of myself and others, I learn from everything. I pay attention to what works and think a lot about what doesn’t and why. I think going into ones self and really taking time to learn something does wonders for anything we face in life, I know it has for me. Dont just react, contemplate and study yourself and your world. I and my wife do this so it helps us everyday in or lives together. If you do not know yourself how can you truly know others?

  27. says

    I’m married to my second husband, our marriage is his third. I was married to my first husband 26 years. This doesn’t make us marriage experts but we have learned things from our past relationships that we’ve brought into ours

  28. says

    If love is blind then the marriage has to be deaf :D
    I have always believed that a good marriage is made by keeping a balance between certain things. You have to forgive and forget, place compassion over passion and respect the ‘individual’ in your partner; this has to be the basic priority. Thanks for sharing such wisdom, you are going to make many marriages successful after this post :)

  29. Anonymous says

    I broke up with my girlfriend last 2 months due to many misunderstandings i was fighting so hard to get her back. none of her friends would give me any information about her. The only thing I could do was to go find help from anywhere, so i looked for a way to get her back then a friend recommended me to contact robinsonbuckler@yahoo. com that he will help me and as my friend said, Mr robinson helped me to bring back my girlfriend just in 3 days, I now have her back and this is the biggest joy of my life,

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