According to Harvard researcher Daniel Gilbert, married people tend to be happier than single people. However, married people often report that their happiness declines after about 10 years.
"It’s not marriage that makes you happy, but being in a happy marriage makes you happy. - Daniel Gilbert"
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The importance of building a happy marriage can't be understated.
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, “At the heart of mankind’s existence is the desire to be intimate and to be loved by another. Marriage is designed to meet that need for intimacy and love.”
So, if you really want to Love Your Life (and we all do, right?) then building a happy marriage is one of the keys. Sounds so easy...
Sadly, depending on which report you read, the divorce rate for first marriages is somewhere between 25 - 40%. The divorce rate for second marriages is somewhere around 60%. So, .....
Why Do Marriages Struggle?
How did these marriages, which surely were happy at some point, go off track?
Well, there are several possible reasons, but one key reason is that all too often we are terrible when it comes to understanding the needs of our spouse. We don’t communicate well enough (or at all) to find what makes them feel loved or what makes them feel secure in the relationship.
Additionally, we don’t communicate to our spouses what makes us feel loved. We expect our spouse to read our minds and anticipate our desires and needs.
The lack of understanding between spouses often causes the relationship to slowly drift apart. It causes a failure to connect, or at least stay connected.
So, how do we better understand the needs of each other so that we can have the happy, healthy marriage that we all desire?
How Do You Build a Happy Marriage?
In order to build a happy marriage, you have to learn how your spouse interprets love.
Before I go out-of-town on business, my wife Anne will hide sticky notes in my suitcase, computer bag, etc. for me to find while I am away. The notes will read “I love you!”, “Miss you!”, “ILMH!!” - which stands for I love my husband, … you get the picture. Really mushy stuff I know.
Before I head out-of-town, I’ll leave hidden sticky notes scattered around the house (in her sock drawer, in the refrigerator, mixed in with the towels, in a coffee cup, etc.) for her to find while I am gone. My notes for her will have some similar mushy stuff written.
Now you may be thinking that this is kinda “high schoolish” and corny and I'd say that I absolutely agree with you. But, it’s what we do. It’s our thing.
Those simple sticky notes convey a lot more to us than just the written words. They say she thought about me and that she cared enough to write something down for me. They are simply reminders that she loves me.
Anne keeps a container of Q-tips on the bathroom counter. Periodically, we’ll use some Q-tips to spell out “LUV U” or some other similar note for each other. Again, really corny I know, but it’s what we do.
The sticky notes and the Q-tips are very simple acts, but they are acts done out of love. They are small tokens of affirmation that we are thinking about each other.
Anne and I understand that the message behind those arranged Q-tips is far more powerful than the simple act itself.
But, those acts didn’t just happen out of the blue. We had to learn from each other. We had to find out what we could do to help the other feel more loved and secure in our marriage. It took time, work, caring, and communication. It took a love for each other.
The affirmation we each receive from those simple, silly notes make us more secure in our marriage. Those Words of Affirmation are one of our Love Languages.
“And now these three remain: Faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 "
Use The Five Love Languages to Build Your Marriage
In Dr. Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages,” he discusses the five basic ways that people perceive love. This is based on his 30+ years of research of counseling married couples.
If you have not read his book, make that a top priority for your marriage.
You can purchase it here.
Whether you are already in an incredibly happy and healthy marriage or your marriage is really struggling, Dr. Chapman’s book is an incredible resource.
We read it and it gave us a much better understanding of each other's needs as well as a better understanding of our own.
It’s critical in a marriage that not only do we understand how our spouse receives love, but also how we receive love. Without an understanding of these basic principles, it’s like we are trying to love each other while speaking two completely different languages.
The Five Love Languages are:
Love Language #1: Words of Affirmation
Words (either verbal or written) can be very simple and very powerful in your relationship. They can build up your spouse and help them feel loved and valued or they can destroy.
Words of Affirmation can either be compliments, words of encouragement, or expressions of love to your spouse. Some example Words of Affirmation include:
“You look great, Baby!”
“Dinner was great tonight. I really appreciate it!”
“I know you are going to knock the presentation out of the park!”
“Thank you for all you do for our family.”
“I love you so very much!”
“I love being married to you!”
The important thing to remember is that you are looking to give them what they need. You are looking to reaffirm to them that you love them, that you believe in them, and that you support them.
We talked about it above, but Words of Affirmation are big for Anne and me. When she gives me a simple “I love you", it elevates my whole mood. No matter how I am feeling at the moment, those simple words change everything for me.
When she finds one of my silly notes, she will give me a call or send me a text just to say “Thank You.” We are speaking the same language in our marriage.
The key to Words of Affirmation is that you must be sincere and kind. You must learn to show empathy for your spouse in order to give them what they need.
Some action steps to give your spouse Words of Affirmation:
- Compliment your spouse in front of family or friends.
- Tell them how much you appreciate them.
- Leave them a simple “I Love You” note for them to find.
Again, sincere and kind words are your friend here.
Love Language #2: Quality Time
Sometimes nothing says “I Love You” as much as a little quality time together.
But what is Quality Time?
Quality time is undivided attention. Quality Time can really be anything that you do together where each of you is focused on the other.
A walk in the park, dinner at a restaurant, or sitting on the couch can give each other Quality Time as long you both are focused on the other.
Quality Time with your spouse is being together in heart and mind, not just in proximity.
"Here is a tip, when you are trying to spend Quality Time with your spouse, put the cellphone away."
I really struggle with this one sometimes. I often find it very difficult not to check my phone from time to time during what should be our Quality Time. Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” or just leave it in your car.
Another tip, if constantly checking the restaurant TVs is a temptation for you, sit with your back to the TV (or go to a place that doesn’t have TVs everywhere). Nothing kills the theme of Quality Time like one of you watching TV the whole time.
Remember, the goal here to give your spouse the Quality Time that they (and both of you really) need. Use this time to ask about their day, plan for your future together, or share some thoughts you have been having about your relationship (I know! This can be a little tough for some).
Some action steps to give your spouse Quality Time:
- Make plans to go to the local park and catch up on each other’s day.
- Plan a date night with your spouse.
- See our related post: 8 Inexpensive Date Ideas To Build Your Relationship
- Take your spouse to their favorite ice cream place to talk about your future.
Love Language #3: Receiving Gifts
Gifts are tangible symbols of love. Given in the right spirit, they show the receiver that you were thinking about them and that you care for them.
Don’t interpret this as big expensive gifts (but I’m sure that would be nice, too). Gifts can be just something thoughtful, remembering a special day, or just some small token.
The key to giving gifts is that it must be done with heartfelt intentions. Gifts given out of obligation or as a last-minute thought may not convey the message that you are really wanted to send.
Don’t say “I’m not a good gift giver.” That is just an excuse for not wanting to learn about your spouse and how they receive gifts. It’s not about you. It’s about growing your marriage and learning your spouse’s Love Language.
Learn your spouse and plan ahead when it comes to giving gifts. Part of the magic of this Love Language is the thoughtfulness you convey with the gift.
Some action steps for giving your spouse gifts:
- Surprise your wife by sending her flowers at work.
- Think of something your spouse has expressed interest in and get it for them.
- Be there for them in a time of need. The gift of self can be very powerful.
Love Language #4: Acts of Service
What can you do for your spouse? Acts of Service don't have to be big productions. It’s just as simple as looking for ways you can serve them.
Acts of Service can require some planning and thought. But, this is the beauty of performing an Act of Service. You are demonstrating that you have put thought into something that would be meaningful to them.
All words or actions done to communicate your spouse’s Love Language must be done with kindness and sincerity. You are performing an Act of Service to communicate to them that they are loved and appreciated.
The Apostle John writes in John 13 how Jesus provides us with an example of how to serve each other:
5“After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
14“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
As Jesus demonstrated, we are to serve each other with humility striving to meet the needs of others.
Some actions steps to serve your spouse:
- Fix their morning coffee (my wife loves when I do this!).
- Surprise them with supper when they get home from work.
- Here is an easy recipe for you to try: Easy Rotel Chicken Spaghetti
- Open her car door for her (chivalry isn’t dead, fellas).
- Taking the kids to the park so your spouse can have some “me” time.
Love Language #5: Physical Touch
Have you ever seen an elderly couple walking side by side holding hands? They appear to have been married for 60 years, but they are still so in love with each other?
How’d they do it?
Well, it may be because they knew the value of holding each other’s hand. They understood the importance of Physical Touch in keeping their marriage strong.
Physical Touch isn’t always about sex. Physical Touch can be holding hands, a kiss on the forehead, a tight hug after a long day at work.
Meeting your spouse’s Physical Touch Love Language may be as simple as rubbing their shoulders, playing with their hair, or just sitting close to them on a park bench.
The important thing is the two of you communicate. Pay attention to what they say and don’t say (through non-verbal signals).
If you aren’t sure, just ask them. Let them know that you are working to give them what they need in your marriage. This is about you better understanding their needs and strengthening your marriage.
Some actions steps to provide your spouse with Physical Touch:
- Learn to hold hands in public (I know, PDA might not be easy for some).
- Greet them with a big hug when they get home from work.
- Touch them on the shoulder as you walk by.
What are your Love Languages?
So now that you have a better understanding of what Love Languages are and how they can help build your relationship, do you think you know your Love Languages? Do you think you know those of your spouse?
It might be a little difficult to decide.
A fun and necessary activity for you and your spouse is to take the Love Languages quiz.
After y’all take the quiz, discuss the results with your spouse. Discuss how you can meet the needs of each other’s Love Languages.
Remember where we started?
We want to grow our marriage and learn to Love our Lives a little more. Much of that begins with a happy marriage. Learning and meeting your spouse’s Love Languages is a vital step in growing your marriage.
Honestly, our strongest desire here at LifeLoveandBlog is for everyone to be happy in their marriage. Having a loving spouse in your life is an incredible blessing that should never be taken for granted.
However, happy loving marriages don’t just happen. They require hard work and effort by both the husband and the wife giving 100% effort. They require thought and planning. They require care and commitment to learning each other’s Love Language.
Don't assume that you know your spouse's Love Language. If you are doing tons of Act of Service, but their Love Language is Quality Time; you both are likely to become very frustrated.
Our honest prayer is that you and your spouse work to learn from each other. Learn how each of you interprets love. Learn how you can give to them. Learn how you can build them up.
We would love to hear how you and yours demonstrate your love for each other. What are some of the goofy or silly things that y’all do? I’m sure that we can all learn from each other. What steps do you take to build a strong marriage?
If this post has been of help to you, please share it with others.
Other posts from LifeLoveandBlog.com that you may enjoy include:
5 Best Ways to Create an Emotional Connection
11 Best Dos to Build an Absolutely Awesome Marriage
11 Best Don'ts to Avoid an Unhappy Marriage
7 Awesome Communication Skills to Improve Your Marriage
Until next time, God bless and Love Your Life!
Steve and Anne @LifeLoveandBlog
Erin, thanks so much for reading and your comment! Congratulations on 10 years! That is wonderful. We must all understand that you never stop learning your spouse. It's part of what makes the journey together so much fun. Hope you have an awesome day! Steve
Shareen - www.pearlsandparis.com
Great tips + insight! My husband and I have only been married for 4 years but date night is so important to us - just time for the 2 of us.
Hi Shareen! Thanks for your comment and reading our post! Congrats on the 4 years! The quality time you get from those date nights is what helps make the relationship stronger. You are saying to each other (verbally and non-verbally) that no matter what else is creating demands for your time, you are going to put the relationship as the priority. Thank you again and hope you have a wonderful day!
Heather, thanks for reading and the comment! Anne and I love that book! It has done so much for us and our relationship. We just gave our daughter and her soon-to-be husband a copy. I'll probably quiz them on it soon. 🙂
Chetna, thanks for the comment and you are exactly right. Communication and affection are critical to a strong relationship. It's so difficult to have a happy relationship (married or dating) without open channels of communication. Unless Anne and I effectively convey to each other what we need from our marriage, we'll be stuck trying to read each others mind. Not really the makings of a successful and fulfilling relationship. Thanks again for the comment and hope you have a great day! Steve
Hi Keri and thanks for your comment! I'm so happy you liked the post. I'm glad to hear that y'all are letting the students know that the googly-eyed stage will eventually fade, but it grows (with commitment from both) into a stronger relationship. It's very important that they understand it does take effort. You can't just say "I do" and expect to coast to a happy, healthy marriage. In my experience, it just doesn't work that way. Thanks again and hope you have a wonderful day! Steve
You want to be happy first, THEN bring the happiness into the marriage Anne and Steve. The key is feeling good solo. But you want to share those good feelings with someone. Find a good partner. Some vibing and yep, some different view points. But finding your happiness first sets it all into motion, because each person brings their happiness to the marriage. Thanks guys!
Ryan, you are exactly right and make a great point! You absolutely must be happy with yourself. A couple can't (or at least not very likely) be happy together unless they are happy individually. Safe Travels! Anne and Steve