Keys to a healthy marriage?


As a child of divorce and dysfunction, I am very concerned about ensuring that any future marriage I have is a healthy marriage.

On those grounds, what is necessary for a couple to have a healthy marriage?

I would posit that one must have open communication, commitment to fidelity, openness to children, and humility, and commitment to indissolubility.

What does everyone else have to say?

  • marrying the right person at the right time for the right reasons (should be a given, but you’d be really surprised)
  • a crackling sense of humor
  • a deep understanding of what kind of dysfunction operates/d in your family and how it as influenced who you are
  • flexibility
  • a healthy prayer life
  • realistic expectations of your lifestyle based on actual income, not Hollywood fantasy
  • similar financial expectations
  • cultivating interests/hobbies as a couple
  • being able to have a good (or at least passably good) relationship with in-laws and extended family
  • the ability to build a bubble of impenetrability around your marriage so that family and/or friends without a sense of boundaries don’t become a 3rd wheel in your relationship
  • a sense of adventure
  • the ability to still be a good spouse after the children come
  • an understanding the every marriage is unique, that what works for one couple would never fly for another, and you know what, that’s Okay
  • knowing that a healthy sex life is critical for a good marriage, but what entails a healthy sex life varies wildly from couple to couple and even from one time period to th next in the same marriage, and you know what, that’s Okay
  • being supportive of each other’s spiritual and emotional growth
  • showing your spouse that they’re incredibly cherished at least five times a day :smiley:


I asked my grandfather this (devout catholic, married over 45 years) he said, “Luck and laughter”.


In addition to what’s been said already, I would add the following:

Always, always, come as a servant to one another. Serve one another, above yourself.

And, also, pray together. That’s one of the most important. Couples that pray together, stay together.


Probably the best thing you could have is both of you fully understand what a “covenant” means. Read up on some of Scott Hahn’s work on Covenant Theology. When you understand that you are exchanging yourselves, you understand the fullness and comPleteness of marriage.


Things that have helped in my marriage:

-Study marriage before getting married
-Fight pride and humble oneself
-Don’t go to bed angry
-Pray together DAILY
-Go to Mass together

I know it sounds silly to see “communicate” mentioned so many times, but that has been the best tool so far for me and my wife. Men tend to keep emotions to themselves and bottle things up. That is a bad idea in marriage. Your spouse needs to know what you are feeling, thinking, etc…God didn’t make very mant mind-readers. :wink:


So many good answers, and I agree with all of them so far.

My husband and I have been married for 32 years, and we dated for 6 years before we got married.

I would say that something that really helps keep a marriage healthy is when at least one of the spouses is able to earn an adequate living.

I know that some couples have marriages that survive and even thrive under constant grinding poverty, overdue bills, bad credit, living in a hovel, not having a car or owning a lemon that is held together with duct tape and Elmer’s glue, never having enough money to even go to McDonalds, being on food stamps and other public aid–

–but many many marriages crack under this kind of life. It’s really really hard to be poor in the U.S.

So I would say to make SURE that at least one spouse is fairly certain to be able to land a good job and keep that job and support the other spouse plus children with that job.

I realize that there is no one who is completely safe in their job; even nurses get let go at times depending on how the hospital or clinic is doing.

But there are certain careers, professions, and trades that are fairly safe and usually have a lot of openings and pay a fairly good wage. Almost any of the health careers are in this group at this time in history, and probably will be for many years.

(If the President’s health care plan remains in effect, then there may some changes and I’m not sure what those will be. The problem is that health care is already short-staffed, and when we add 150 million people to the roster of insured, who on earth is going to take care of all those people?!!! I predict that we will have to hire people with less “education,” e.g., high school graduates, and these people will be paid less than their peers with a higher education. But I think they’ll still be paid well.)

My brother is a welder at a scrap metal factory, and he works double shifts (8 hours of time and a half!) because there is so much work and so few certified welders. Good trade, and he doesn’t have to join a gym to stay in shape.

And there are certain professions and trades that are very risky and don’t pay squat unless you’re really lucky. E.g., writers and actors. Not good careers to make an adequate wage.

It sounds mercenary . So many of the love songs imply that a couple can live on love and that they don’t need filthy money. Well, maybe, but my husband and I need enough filthy money to buy groceries, pay our mortgage on a modest home, keep our cars running well, and make sure we are adequately insured. Plus we spend a whole chunk of money on figure skating!


Pray, Pray, Pray and Keep God at the center of your marriage, keep your relationship with God FIRST…even over your spouse, children, friends, coworkers, everyone.

I have a confession to make in my younger days when I read the scripture passage where God told us that HE had to be first I thought “Why that is plain old silly! God is just sitting up there in heaven an old man with a white beard…why would I put him BEFORE my loved ones he doesn’t need me!!!” * I really thought that…*

Fast foward: I come to the realization that God is not an old man…God is LOVE. God is PERFECT LOVE, PERFECT JUSTICE, PERFECT KINDNESS, PERFECT IN GIVING!

God IS love and the source of all perfect love. If the first and foremost relationship in your life is a close relationship with the source of all good and holy love in the universe…that will improve your marriage better then any retreat, self-help book, tips from other couples, movies and books.


In my 23 years of marriage, I found that humor got me through a lot. I also have to to say communication is also very important.


For a person with your background, I’d say: Don’t idealize “functional families”.

Psychologists like to joke that the definition of a dysfunctional family is “any family with more than one person in it.” I think one of the big things that people from “functional” families know is that your relationship isn’t over because you’re angry. It isn’t over because the thought crosses your mind that you should have married someone else. It isn’t over because the thought crosses your mind that you are terrible at this. You know the saying that a saint is not a person who never falls, but a person who always gets up and tries again? A lasting marriage is like that.

Other than that, I’d highly recommend reading “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert” by John Gottman and Nan Silver. I say that because you can read it and learn to recognize the difference between how couples who are headed for a break-up manage conflict and how couples who are going to stay together do it.

Your family had good aspects and bad aspects. Those aren’t the same as hard things and easy things. You may profit very much from learning what your parents left you that was a good legacy, and what wasn’t. Otherwise, you may lean too much on “I don’t want to be like my parents” and just make conflict-handling mistakes that are the opposite from theirs, but just as incompatible with marital success.

Realize that you can do this. You don’t have to be perfect. Every couple makes mistakes, every couple has some baggage to cope with. Sometimes the mistakes are very serious and the baggage is honestly toxic. I also know a lot of couples who drive everyone around them nuts and give each other high blood pressure, and they’re still married and still appreciate each other, and they will until death does them part. I think anyone who lives in an area where divorce is rare knows a couple like that!

I think if you face that fear head-on and know that other people in fine marriages sometimes have to cope with the same thing, that may help you a lot. It could save you some white knuckles, too, and there’s enough of that in marriage and parenting as it is!!


My wife and I struggled a lot early in our marriage. My in-laws fought quite a bit, but my wife somehow blocked this out and came into our marriage with the misconception that spouses never fight (to be fair, her parents were a lot more into the whole passive-aggressive manner of fighting, which I thought was a lot worse than outright yelling and arguing, but that's part of why she was able to ignore it). We had some major blow-ups in the first couple months after our honeymoon and my wife was ready to call it quits.

When she told me this, I was in shock. I had no idea that she was so traumatized by the fighting. I sat her down and told her that no matter how good our marriage is, we're going to have disagreements, arguments and sometimes even the big blow-ups we'd been having. I told her that didn't mean I didn't love her or that our marriage was in trouble. I told her that, no matter what, we had to learn to communicate, and if that meant communicating loudly sometimes, then that was fine because it was all part of the learning process. I told her that marriage isn't a fairy tale and it's certainly not easy. I told her that if we wanted a good marriage we'd have to work hard at it, and we'd have to put just as much effort into it on the good days as on the bad days. I told her there would probably be times that we didn't like one another, and maybe even times that we hated one another, but as long as we kept remembering why we got married and worked hard to get past whatever was making us angry, it would all even out in the end.

I've had to remind her of this talk several times over the years, but it's worked out well for us and we have a much stronger marriage now than we did on day one.


I remember our rector saying this sage piece of advice during my marriage preparation course.

It is not love that sustains your marriage, but the marriage which sustains your love.

To add my own advice, going on date nights at least once a month (or more frequently if possible) is a good practice to get into. :slight_smile:


Everything stems from Ephesians 5:22-33. Read it every week.

For expounding on this, listen to stuff like this, and I think you’ll get a pretty good idea:


Once to accept your marriage won’t be perfect you are along ways towards making it nearly perfect.


Wonderful point, Sam. Plus all of the other above suggestions from everyone are excellent.

It also can help not to threaten divorce. Rather, if problems arise, talk about them together early in the process before they snowball, and get help from a Priest or Catholic/Christian counselor. And pray - separately and together. God understands what we need before we even say it, but it helps us to remember to talk with Him anyway about everything and anything we may need to, and thank Him when things are going well and for all the blessings we often take for granted.

God bless!


The first thing to get right is your definition of marriage, which informs your expectations. Our culture in the last 70 years has gradually changed the definition of marriage into what I call “Hollywood Marriage.” That definition goes like this: “Marriage is the union of two people who love one another, wish to celebrate that love for one another and wish to make this feeling of love last forever.”

This is, frankly, a pitiful definition of marriage and its adoption in our culture mirrors the rise in divorce and infidelity. It’s adoption was (IMO) motivated by the desire to normalize contraception by removing kids from the definition of marriage and has had the unintended consequence of making ‘gay marriage’ seem reasonable to those raised with this definition.

It is a pale shadow of the previous definition of marriage in our culture, the remnants of which are still identifiable in the traditional marriage vows many still use (but few seem to ponder the meaning of). That one went: “Marriage is the lifelong, self-sacrificing union of a man and woman whose love so greatly manifests the image and likeness of God that it is ordered towards the creation and nurturing of new life.” It’s not about the feeling (i.e. infatuation), nor is it remotely self-focused.

When you go into marriage expecting to lay your own self down for your beloved (and the resulting additional beloveds), things just naturally are going to turn out better than when you go in expecting said beloved to make you feel warm and gushy inside for the next 60 years.


These are all spot on.

I would add though sacrifice for each other AND for the marriage. There may be times you both are going to have to sacrifice your goals, needs or wants, maybe temporarily or maybe permanently, so the marriage is made stronger.

Oh, and don’t keep “tabs” or a “scorecard” when you disagree. Don’t harbor past grievances. There is nothing worse than having a fight from months ago being thrown in your face or your spouse’s face.


Respect each other.


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