What if you could focus on just five things to make sure that your marriage is a success?

Relationships can sometimes seem pretty complicated. For this reason, we took a step back to ask the question, “What are the core things that we MUST focus on to make sure we’re on the right track towards marital bliss?”

We found (through the research of the National Marriage Project and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values) that the top five things to bring happiness to your marriage are:

Number 1 – Above average sexual satisfaction

The research says that “sexually satisfied wives enjoy a 39-percentage-point premium in the odds of being very happy in their marriages, and that sexually satisfied husbands enjoy a 38-percentage-point premium in marital happiness.”

From this we conclude that couples with a better sex life report to be happier in their marriage!

It’s normal for sexual activity to decline immediately following the birth of a child, but it’s important that couples rekindle and renew this part of their relationship as quickly as possible. (Keep a look out for a great upcoming episode – “How to get it on when you really don’t feel like it” or something like that!)

Husbands, here’s a newsflash for you… “Woman are more likely to report that they are sexually satisfied when they report that they share housework with their husbands. What happens outside the bedroom seems to matter a great deal in predicting how happy husbands and wives are with what happens in the bedroom.”

The research also shows that men and women are more sexually satisfied in marriages “marked by high levels of generosity, commitment, religious faith, and couple-centered quality time.”

I always knew that sexual intimacy was more than just what happened in bed, but I didn’t realize that it was affected by so many areas of life!

Cultivate a great sex life – you’ll have a happier marriage!

Number 2 – Above average commitment

“The association between commitment and marital success is striking. Spouses who score above average in terms of commitment are at least 45 percentage points more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages, and 29 percentage points less likely to be prone to divorce. In other words, above-average commitment more than triples the odds of marital happiness for husbands and wives and reduces their divorce proneness sixfold.”

Wow! This tells me that more commitment equals more happiness in marriage. It also shows that more commitment equals a significant drop in divorce risk.

How committed are you to your marriage? How are you building that commitment? And how are you communicating that commitment to your spouse?

Deepening your commitment so that it is above average is a top predictor of a very happy marriage.

Number 3 – Above average generosity to your spouse

First, let’s define generosity in the context of marriage. It is simply “the virtue of giving good things (we don’t mean jewelry) to one’s spouse freely and abundantly. It encompasses small acts of service (like making coffee for your spouse in the morning), the expression of affection, displays of respect and a willingness to “forgive him/her for mistakes and failings”.

Embrace a spirit of service – not entitlement, and genuinely look for ways to serve one another. Add to that frequent displays of affection (hugs…kisses…holding hands…smiles…winks) and being ready to forgive, and you have a winning combination!

Learning to serve each other generously in this way leads to a very happy marriage!

Number 4 – Above average attitude towards raising children

I found this part of the research interesting. “Fathers and mothers who spend lots of time with their children in activities such as playing, talking, or working on projects together also enjoy significantly higher levels of marital happiness and lower divorce proneness (and also enjoy more couple time with one another).”

Some research has indicated in the past that more family time means the couple isn’t as happy; as in, kids make marriages less happy. However, these researchers found that high family values correlated with happy marriages.

Notice the piece in brackets though: it is especially effective when you add couple time. They also found that “wives who spend quality time with their spouses once a week or more are about 50 percent more likely to be “very happy” in their marriages.

In other words, a regular date night appears to be part of the recipe for marital success among today’s parents.”

Both things together are strongest. Celebrate your marriage, celebrate your parenthood. Don’t resent the kids because you wish it could be just the two of you, and don’t be so child centered that you have no sense of being a couple as opposed to just co-parenting. BOTH AND, not EITHER OR!

Be engaged as a parent but make sure you romance each other as a couple. If you’re struggling with a child-centered marriage, make sure you check out Episode 2!

Placing a balanced emphasis on marriage AND parenting predicts a happy marriage!

The first four predictors of marital success were equal for men and women, but number five is different. Let’s go with ladies first…

Number 5 for wives – Social Support

For a woman, having friends or family who are supportive of their marriage is very important.

The classic movie image of four wives bellyaching over their salads about their husbands is NOT GOOD. It’s so easy to put ourselves in a situation where it is acceptable to complain about our husbands.

Remember, they say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. What if we say, your perception of your own husband is the average of the perceptions of the husbands of the 5 woman you are closest to? Where does that leave your view of your husband?

Surrounding yourself with friends and family who support marriage (and your marriage specifically) will make you a woman very happy in her marriage.

Number 5 for husbands – Marital spirituality

Marital spirituality is linked to beliefs and behaviors that strengthen the marriage bond. Meaning, a husband who believes God is at the center of his marriage is more likely to report a higher level of commitment (number 2 above) and show more generosity to his wife (number 3 above).

So here’s a call to husbands to put your marriage and your family into a spiritual context that honors and cherishes marriage. As in, go to church together! It amazes me how some people will give priority and be religious about taking their children to Sports or 4-H or Boy Scouts or Cadets and yet will miss church at the drop of the hat to do other “family” things.

Listen, if you want to bless your marriage and your family, put God at the center of that and then build the other activities around it. Why? Because placing an emphasis on God at the center of your marriage is not only the right thing to do Biblically, but it is also confirmed by the research that this will make men very happy in their marriage.

There you have it: 5 things to focus on to create a very happy marriage. Take the time to review and challenge your marriage this week. You want to succeed – so focus on the things that really work!

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