Stop for a second and ask yourself this question: “Is my marriage perfect?” If you said “no,” you’re on the right track. The truth is, there’s no such thing as perfect when it comes to most things in life, and relationships are no exception. Now, the question, “Do we have a strong marriage?” is probably a little trickier to answer. After all, what factors determine whether or not a marriage is strong? According to relationship experts, there’s quite a list.
Overall, the best sign that you have a strong marriage is that you’re happy — maybe not all of the time, but most of the time. Here are some other major indicators that your marriage with your spouse is stronger than you realize.
You ask each other questions.
Especially after several years or, perhaps, decades of living side-by-side, some couples fall into a routine where they merely co-exist—they stop asking questions, wanting to know their partner’s point of view, etc. This is a big no-no, according to Christine B. L. Adams, M.D., relationship expert and author of Living On Automatic: How Emotional Conditioning Shapes Our Lives and Relationships. “If you are able to give your point of view, ideas and opinions to your partner, without censoring yourself, even if you think your spouse will disagree, it is a sign that you have a strong marriage,” she says.
You can make the right decisions for your needs as a couple.
Whatever it is you need to feel happy, relaxed and at peace with your state of the union as a couple, you should do — and half of the battle is acknowledging and realizing when you need something. “The decision must best serve the needs of whichever person’s needs are foremost at that particular time, explains Dr. Adams. “This is accomplished by discussing the issue together and using logical thought, not emotional appeals.”
You acknowledge that marriage is hard work.
Juliana Morris, Ph.D., marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor, has worked with many couples for whom a common thread is an unwavering commitment from both parties to work on the marriage. “Most importantly and perhaps, uniquely, these couples regard this aspect as ‘good work’ as opposed to hard work,” she describes. “They go in to the marriage knowing there will be work that will need to be done on an ongoing basis—to them, it’s as much a simple fact of life as paying a mortgage.” Being aware that it’s normal for a relationship of any kind, and especially a marriage, to ebb and flow is key, she explains. “Couples with strong marriages see these periods, the ebbs, as something to be grateful for—like a friendly warning of ‘issues requiring attention’ rather than a red flag for impending failure,” she adds. “They see these times of discomfort as a way to ‘level up’ together and grow closer to each other and richer individually.”
You have a team mentality.
If you and your spouse make decisions together as a unit and ensure that those decisions are for the benefit of, not only each of you individually, but both of you as a couple, your marriage lies on a strong foundation. “A team mentality is created and maintained through ‘team’ language, seeing all decisions as rooted in and affected by the team, and placing the highest value in protecting and preserving the team so it can thrive, grow and remain flexible to the changing needs of the individuals and family,” says Dr. Morris. “Couples who put this effort in to team-based communication, reap the benefits of a stronger and more fulfilling marriage.”
Your spouse is the first person you think of when you have the best and worst of news.
When you have something of heightened emotion to share, whether it’s news that you just got your dream job or a call from a doctor about some alarming test results, if your partner is the first person you reach out to for support, it’s a sign that you’re connected on a deep level, according to Dr. Morris. “That is best-friend-level intimacy, the level of sharing that denotes a sense of trust in their support, a deep sense of gratitude in the friendship that is the underpinning of a healthy relationship and a connection that binds you in good and bad times,” she adds.
You have deeply rooted respect for each other.
Respect is one of the most essential ingredients for a strong marriage. According to Dr. Morris, respecting your spouse means that you genuinely want him or her to be happy, fulfilled and to have the best life possible. “In strong marriages, this reveals itself in how you speak of each other publicly, how honest you are with your spouse in your words and actions, and how you demonstrate (by your actions) that the other person’s happiness matters deeply to you,” she says. “When you have deep respect for each other there is an air of trust in everything you do with each other and for each other.”
You both feel like “the lucky one.”
Dr. Morris asks this question of couples she sees: “Who is the lucky one?” How they answer is more important than what they say, in most cases, she explains. “The answer in strong marriages is typically that both partners think they are the lucky ones,” she says. “It is equally important for each spouse to feel that their loved one thinks they are lucky to be loved by such a special person.”
You have fun together.
As simple as it sounds, having fun together is a predictor of a strong marriage. If you and your spouse are able to let loose and enjoy time spent together, be it sitting on the couch watching Netflix or spending a weekend away just the two of you, you’ll have a happy life together. “Strong marriages find laughter is often present and delight is consistently found together, even in the toughest times,” adds Dr. Morris.