Why Couples Stay Happily Married

As a dating coach, I distinguish between two types of traits: attractive and important.

Hot, brilliant, charismatic, hilarious, rich are attractive.

Consistent, kind, committed, communicative are important.

Attractive qualities bring people togetherThat doesn’t mean you have to forgo looks, brains, charm, wit and money, but rather  finding a man with all of those attractive qualities does not ensure a happy marriage. Thus, attractive qualities BRING people together, they don’t KEEP people together. Tweet this! 

So what allows different people with different needs, different opinions, and different communication styles to live together in peace for decades? It’s not really a secret. You read it here every week. Yet someone posted this question on Reddit and crowdsourced the answer into an article called “13 Secrets of Happily Married Couples“.

Attractive qualities BRING people together, they don’t KEEP people together.

To which attributes did these happy couples ascribe their happiness?

Trust. Commitment. Respect. Honesty. Enjoy little things. Embrace your differences. Fight fair. Have fun. Cheer each other on. Support each other. Accept your partner’s flaws. Feel lucky you found each other. Uphold your promise “in sickness and in health.”

Not a word about height, weight, age, income, education, religion, or common interests.

Hmmmmm…

What do you think, my single friends? Are happily married couples participating in a conspiracy to encourage you to “settle”? Or do you think that maybe they’ve been fortunate enough to discover and share what makes healthy relationships thrive?

Please let me know what’s missing from this list – and whether you’ve found it to be as true as I have.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Sunflower

    Considering all the attributes listed are not things you would discover right away in a person, I’d say TIME and making a true investment.  They’re qualities of substance, not surface level.  Everyone wants instant everything these days…..it’s our culture, unfortunately.  The good things in life are worth waiting for.  Let nature take its course.  

    1. 1.1
      Fay

      I so agree with this statement Sunflower….Im discovering this for myself with my partner of 4 years. We still dont get it right but our commitment to each other underpinns us and helps us to forgive our mistakes. 

  2. 2
    melie

    This is so true. Both people have to have these basic characters traits for a relationship to succeed. Honor commitment, trust, honesty, enjoy the small things, embrace your differences, cheer each other on, and discover what you can share.

  3. 3
    Isa

    Meh.  Happily married couples have probably already self selected by “type” (religion, education, height, weight, etc.) so they then move onto the next set of selection filters. 

    1. 3.1
      Karl R

      If I stuck to my “type”, I wouldn’t have dated my wife. She’s sixteen years older than me. (Just to give one example of how she fell outside my normal type.) 

      Evan’s wife falls outside the type he dated for years, also. 

      Most people who see me with my wife assume that she’s my normal “type”. The same thing happened with previous girlfriends who were nothing like her. I think you’re blindly assuming that these happily married couples are paired up with someone who is their type. (Some are, many aren’t.)

      But I’m sure you would prefer to focus on the ones who married someone who was their normal type. Because that affirms you decision to keep doing what you’re already doing (regardless of how little success you have), rather than challenging you to try something different.

      1. 3.1.1
        Isa

        Nonsense.  Perhaps I should have qualified that not all couples are like that, but most people’s shining sense of commitment and respect don’t appear on the first meeting.  That takes a lot of time, which most people won’t give if someone is far outside of what they like at first glance.
         
        And thank you kindly for the advice as per my personal selection of a mate.  I’m sure he’s very happy to know that I have “little success” with him and ought to be “challenged to try something different”.

        1. Julia

          Indeed, all these qualities are vital to a long term relationship but they mean squat if the person who has those qualities makes you shudder when they touch you.

          You must be attracted first. 

        2. Noquay

          I agree Is a, there is some self selection for those “other” traits that does occur with successful couples. For instance, with similar levels of education/income/ health status, comes (usually) similar levels of financial responsibility, long term goals,  social skills, communication levels, activity levels, attention to
          fitness/diet. When these things are widely disparate among a couple, things ain’t gonna last for long. As someone that had been happily married for 12 years, embracing differences AND still being your autonomous self were key. My ex needed to spend
          weeks at a time with his grandkids, as someone much less family oriented, I’d let him go without complaint and keep doing my own thing, seeing friends, getting stuff done. You cannot be joined at the hip. I also agree that while you must be attracted physically to a mate, there does need to be love, respect, caring.

  4. 4
    Fay

    I was married for 24 years…and I married at 21 years of age. Too young to know who I was as a person but so desperately wanted to marry and have kids.

    I seriously didnt consider any of the things listed on the check list and put attraction before anything. I realize years later when children came onto the scene what I had gone and got myself into. Luckily he is a decent man but just emotionally unavailable and at age 45, I decided I wanted to start looking after ME first for a change so I left and he didnt even try and stop me (he is your classic conflict avoider too).

    Im now in counselling as I question everything now and even sabotage good things with out knowing why (I feel like I dont deserve it).

    Divorce and forming new relationships brings out the worst in you and its pretty confronting. I want what is on that list….I really do. And Im working hard on myself to get it. 
     

    1. 4.1
      Integrity

      Fay, it sounds like you had a midlife crisis.  Your questioning and self sabotage may have been what made your past H. not feel secure enough in your relationship to be ” available “.  Placing ” yourself ” first is one of the signs of a MLC.  Not communicating your needs in a non emotional way, may have built up resentment and frustration in you.  This is  such a common thread in those who leave.

  5. 5
    sarahrahrah!

    Loved the comment from the guy who married his opposite: “Together we are  ****n superheroes, winning and conquering all.”  What a great attitude! 

  6. 6
    Jenna

    No, this is simplistic. It’s also important to be with someone that you’re a good fit with — you get each other. I’m not best friends with every nice, respectful, communicative girl I meet — sometimes we just don’t have a lot to say to each other or don’t get each others sense of humor. They may not understand why some of my passions are important to me and vice versa, or have very different views on their mission in life. 

  7. 7
    Peter 51

    I had a 30 year long war I still don’t properly understand.  The key issue was bringing up children.  It is impossible to find a way forward with a conflict avoider.  In my new relationship we have stnnd up rows.  Ten minutes later we are friends again.  It is so refreshing to have things laid out on the table.  “have fun”/”Enjoy the little things” was a big void that now gets filled too.  Of course everything is easier without children.

  8. 8
    Noemi

    Selflessness is one. And generosity–not necessarily with money but also with time and affection. 

  9. 9
    Rebecca

    Trying to take seriously the advice to not seek chemistry, but I think Julia’s got a strong point, too.  I’m going out tomorrow with a man who is consistent, kind and communicative.  Who knows about committed – this is our third date – but he’s been committed in his previous relationships.  I totally enjoy his company, he’s fascinating conversation, he’s obviously into me without being obsequious, but I am, so far anyway, not at all tempted to kiss him.  

  10. 10
    susan

    Why do they stay married? Because they honour their commitment above all other things – and both are at the same level of that.  Doesn’t matter one iota if only one person is committed or values the above list. They both have to. Every day. Every single day for ever.
    Every day those couples (and I know lots of them), start their day with I choose you. Maybe not those words. And probably a lot of the time they sure ain’t feeling it. But they do it anyway.
    Feelings. They are the death knell to happiness. Once you start beleiving that your feelings are whats most important you are in trouble. That’s YOUR feelings. And your FEELINGS.  What a mess the world would be in if everyone did that. 

  11. 11
    Observer

    How many of the commentators on this topic have been married for 30 years +??

    My wife and I just celebrated our thirtieth anniversary; most of the “attributes/characteristics” described in the article do “ring true”.  The most important thing for me regarding being with my wife is the fact that she is my partner in everything:  sex, finances, where we live, how we furnish and maintain our home, the schools that our three children (now grown adults) went to, 
    things that we enjoy together and things that I enjoy that she does not (and conversely!), information about her work day (sometimes boring but sometimes critical for her willingness to go to work), etc.  Such a list is endless!

    In my uneducated opinion, to get to 30 years takes a commitment to one only (for better and worse), implying that  there can be no distractions for anyone else, no matter what the circumstances!   And, certainly, it is not easy, as a consequence; but this is just my two cents worth!

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