- Greg Cheney, PhD, LMFT
5 Characteristics of Successful Marriages
What are the characteristics of successful marriages? What is present in the relationships of the couples that have happily enjoyed each other for 20, 30, or even 50 years or more?! Here are five characteristics that seem to be present in successful marriages. Which characteristics are present in your relationship, and what other characteristics would you add to the list?
1. Ability to manage conflict and repair.
Couples in successful marriages tend to be able to manage conflict and repair their relationship more effectively and efficiently than marriages that are struggling. They tend to be able to admit mistakes, apologize, ask for forgiveness, and forgive in a way that mends and strengthens their relationship. Even when communication is tough they stick with it to help each other feel heard, understood, and cared for. Each partner is able to take responsibility for their actions and take steps were to repair the relationship. Couples in successful marriage are able to do this in an authentic and heart-felt way that their partner can connect with. Couples that are able to repair without going days and weeks disconnected is a marker of emotional intimacy. Another marker is the actions that take place to repair. Couples in successful marriages are able to see each other's perspective, understand their partner's point of view, and communicate in a what where they both feel truly heard and understood.
2. Phones are tools and not battlegrounds.
Couples in successful marriages do not feel the need to keep what happens on their phone or other devices private. When they know their actions on their devices would not be an issue to their partner there is no need to hide them. Protecting all information on devices at all costs seems to send the message, "I have something to hide.” Couples in successful marriages are also know when phones and devices are getting in the way of connection in their relationship. They put their phones down to have important conversations. Spending time connecting and getting updated on each other’s day, and how things are going, can seem mundane. But it is so important! At times, phones get in the way of just connecting over the little things that help couples understand each other’s little nuances in life. Couples that are able to use phones as tools of communication and entertainment seem to navigate conversations around technology easier. Knowing when to put the phones aside also to prioritize conversation can contribute to a successful marriage.
A key personality trait couples in successful marriages seem to have is empathy. When someone is able to feel their partner's pain, understand their world, and care for their partner in an empathic way this means they are connected in a way that develops a very strong bond. This type of empathy also helps with repairing a relationship after an argument or when one partner makes a mistake. Empathy also allows someone to take in influence from their partner, which can open up deeper communication and a connection that is a protective factor in the relationship. Empathy also opens the door up to be able to help carry each other’s burdens. No one is designed to carry life’s burdens alone. Brené Brown provides a great example of empathy which is very different than sympathy.
Couples in successful marriages are able to be open, honest, and vulnerable with each other. Protecting secrets and actions do not seem to be an issue as they seem to have each other's best interest at heart. Disagreement, arguments, and misunderstandings happen in every relationship. Couples in marriages that endure long-term are able to reconnect and often do so with their vulnerability. These relationships do not take advantage of each other’s vulnerability. When vulnerability is honored and connected with it draws couples closer to each other. This is the opposite of attacking your partner when they drop their guard in a vulnerable way. Vulnerability can draw couples closer in their relationship instead of using it as a weapon.
5. Ability to communicate soft emotions.
Couples in successful marriages seem to be able to share the softer feelings and emotions that are not expressed in other relationships. Couples can get caught in only sharing the hard emotions of anger or defensiveness that push each other away. Couples in successful marriages tend to be able to share soft emotions like sadness and disappointment in a way that brings partners toward each other instead of pushing them away. Communication at this level develops a deeper connection and trust in the relationship. Vulnerability and sharing soft emotions develops trust and a bond between partners. This is especially true in committed relationships where the couple knows their partner is not sharing like this with anyone else.
How many of these five characteristics do you see in your marriage? No marriage is perfect and great relationships take work. Perhaps it is time to reach out to an experienced marriage counselor to help develop, shore up, or improve these areas. It is our honor and privilege to honor couples taking valiant steps toward renewal in their marriage. Please let us know how we can assist you!
Services at Valiant Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling
Our team in our Fuquay Varina counseling clinic specializes in couples & marriage counseling. Couples & marriage counseling is not the only service we offer. Valiant Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling provides individual therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy, couples intensives, Christian marriage counseling, online therapy, and couples workshops.