Why Married Couples Stay Married

Why You Should Put Relationships First

With 10 million readers in 2016, I have a pretty popular blog, but I’ll tell you: this guy, Mark Manson, has a way of writing first-person pieces that go viral.

Thankfully, he gives good advice in a plain-spoken, straight-talking way (often laden with profanity for emphasis), and I’m pleased to share this  recent article with you.

If you can’t accept your partner exactly as he is at this moment – despite his flaws – DUMP HIM.

He calls it “Every successful relationship is successful for the exact same reasons,” and I wouldn’t disagree. We talk about them frequently in this space: they’re  best friends, they’re flexible and  try to say yes as much as possible, they deal with conflict kindly and directly,  they are focused more on their partners’ strengths than their weaknesses, they are not driven by their insecurities, they don’t spend much time trying to change their spouse. I’d call it common sense, but common sense goes out the window when it comes to lust, chemistry, and a false set of expectations about what marriage actually looks like.

Enter Manson and his list of why relationships succeed:

  1. Be  together for the right reasons – not because you’re young and “in love,” not because your parents approve, not because it looks right on paper, not because you’re lonely or desperate – but because you feel like you could make 100 decisions a day with your spouse and still enjoy spending time together.
  2. Have realistic expectations about relationships and romance. Helen Fisher said it best: the first 18-36 months of your relationship is driven by chemistry. True love is what happens AFTER that original giddy feeling has  faded. How do you treat your spouse  when it’s not driven by a feeling, but rather, the choice to do loving things for your partner? That will determine how successful your marriage is – not how often you had sex in the first six months.
  3. The most important factor in a relationship is not communication, but respect. Personally, I think they’re intertwined. When you lose respect for someone, you pull away, you act sarcastic, you drip disdain – you literally can’t hide it in your communication. What Manson calls “respect” is what I call “acceptance.”   If you can’t accept your partner exactly as he is at this moment – despite his flaws – DUMP HIM. Otherwise, you’re signing on for a life of frustration that the man you married is, in fact, the man you married. And he’s signing on for a life of being second-guessed, micromanaged, emasculated, and insulted – all because he’s exactly what he  appeared to be during the first three years you dated  him.
  4. Talk openly about everything, especially the stuff that hurts. You may think that I’m a bit of a bull in a china shop with the way I communicate. Truth and honesty above tact and diplomacy. But I’ll tell you what: my wife – who has been cheated on three times – ALWAYS knows what I’m thinking. There are no guessing games. No mysteries. No silent treatments. No going to bed mad. If something bothers me, I bring it up in a way that doesn’t attack her – and vice versa. As a result, we have to be one of the only couples that has never had make-up sex. Our fights simply don’t result in that kind of lingering anger and resentment. I highly recommend direct (nonviolent) communication instead of hints, passive-aggressiveness and swallowing your feelings. Warning: your partner has to be SECURE for this to work. An insecure/anxious partner will make a big deal when you tell the truth – thereby discouraging you from telling the truth. Don’t date  anyone who can’t handle the truth.

Don’t date anyone who can’t handle the truth.

Manson lists  six more unassailable things, which makes it worth it to click here and read the entire article. When you’re done, please come back and comment which reason seemed particularly hard to find in your own relationships. Thanks.

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  1. 1

    Awesome article – summarises Everything, absolutely Everything. Straight.

    Thank you Evan for sharing it.

  2. 2

    Probably one of the best articles I’ve ever read on this sort of thing. Much appreciated.

  3. 3

    A wonderful article which i have filed and intend to reread on a regular basis, as it is almost too much to take in at one time.

    Having realistic expectations has been the killer for me up until two years ago. I grew up in a dysfunctional home and dreamt of the prince on the white horse who would sweep me off my feet and magically give me all the love and self confidence that had been sorely lacking in my younger years. The results were a series of car crash infatuations with men who were at best dumbfounded about what to do with this random lady who expected so much from him and at worst men who saw low hanging fruit and used it to feed their ego. A lot of this article makes good sense, but we first need to our inner work before we have a hope of achieving anything else on the list.

  4. 4

    Not sure that I found this to be as great as the other people think.   I get skeptical when   you ask a bunch of people what makes their relationship works and then distill their answers.   You’ll get what they think works which has a lot of amateur/popular beliefs in it (I’m an amateur too).   Read the Codependency Myth in Attached, page 25, and I think you’ll recognize a lot of things mentioned in this article.   #5 in particular struck me as a popular belief that isn’t necessarily correct:
    “5. A healthy relationship means two healthy individuals  Understand that it is up to you to make yourself happy, it is NOT the job of your spouse. I am not saying you shouldn’t do nice things for each other, or that your partner can’t make you happy sometimes. I am just saying don’t lay expectations on your partner to “make you happy.” It is not their responsibility.”
    Whenever I hear this business about how it’s not your responsibility to make sure your partner is happy, I think back to one of Mr Kalas’ columns about that.   He says:   “I’m saying that great love affairs require a consistent intentionality  and  a willingness to be responsible and careful for the gaping vulnerability great intimacy implies. And, in that sense, I do bear a grave responsibility for her happiness, if for no other reason than she has given me the terrible power to render her so desperately unhappy! Fidelity in marriage includes waking up every day with some part of your brain asking and answering the question, “How today will I make my beloved feel loved? How today will I contribute to his/her happiness?”   In another place, he states:   “I  am not responsible for my mate’s happiness. But I’m damn well responsible to her happiness. Our current culture is replete with conversation about how we cannot love anyone until we love ourselves. We keep talking as if “I” and “We” can be reduced to dichotomy. It can’t. The only way to be happy in life partnership is to cultivate a solid selfhood (differentiation). But the only way to have real progress in the journey of differentiation is to throw yourself headlong into the mystery of intimacy. Relationship!”
    7. You and your partner will grow and change in unexpected ways; embrace it.   
    Absolutely agree.   I am not the person I was 10 years ago (thank goodness!) and I hope in 10 years I’ll be different than today.   You better expect people to change.   And hopefully the two of you will change together in a positive and synergistic way rather than one of you thinking that you need to divorce and go out and find yourself.
    11. Sex matters… a LOT
    Definitely!   I think sex is a very reliable barometer.   Pay close attention to it!

    In the end, and I hate to sound like a spokesman for Attached and Attachment Theory, but I think it does all boil down to compatibility of attachment styles.   The people who have long lasting satisfying marriages have compatible attachment styles and practice effective communication.   The part of the article that talks about not getting married to fix ourselves seemed a bit fishy to me.   We all get married to meet certain needs whether we recognize that or not.   Read Hendrix’s book, Getting the Love You Want.   He explains why we become interested in another person and it’s all about healing and getting fixed.   It doesn’t sound romantic or exciting but so be it.   Makes me think of another author, Schnarch, who Kalas quotes a lot about marriage being a people growing machine:   “What I mean is that so very few modern Westerns have seriously confronted the question, “What, in its very nature, is marriage?” Answer: it’s a People Growing Machine! It should not surprise us in the least that marriage, in cycles, provokes discomforting, disquieting times. These times are rarely evidence of what is wrong with your marriage; rather, evidence of what is right! Your marriage is working! To wit: Your marriage has grown a level of intimacy that has overwhelmed your developmental capacity to handle intimacy! And that’s a good thing. It’s not an invitation to leave. Rather, it is an invitation to get to work on the next stage of differentiation. That is, the growth of selfhood.”

    I do think the article was thought provoking and gives some good tips.   I really liked the part about love being a choice.   So many people are disillusioned about what relationships should be and leave when the illusion becomes reality.   That’s what happened in my marriage and she refused to do the work of selfhood and consider that maybe her ideas were a bit too romantic.

    I hope the formatting of this comment comes out ok.   Not sure how all the copy/pasting will work.    Also, not my most coherent response either.

  5. 5

    I also liked the article esp the bit about the importance of respect. My one criticism was the absence of the word appreciation. In my experience (my social group involves people been married for about 20 years) the happiest marriages feature a great deal of appreciation.  Appreciation means respecting the other people, seeing the efforts they make, feeling love but also having a bit of distance.

  6. 6

    Respect, affection, reasonable expectations, willingness to handle crises, and in the husband (I’m thinking both Monty Python and Rumpole here): fanatical devotion to She Who Must Be Obeyed.

  7. 7
    Tron Swanson

    I’ve never been married–thank god–but I’m surrounded by far too many married people, and I’ve frequently had their lives spill into mine. Speaking as an outside observer, here’s my list of reasons why people stay married:

    1. Genuine love.

    2. Compatibility, which can involve any or all of the following: personalities, beliefs, lifestyles, interests, priorities, and economic classes.

    3. Children. The couple may not always get along–or they may even be miserable–but they stay together for the kids.

    4. Inertia. It’s easier to tinker with the status quo than it is to actually change and do something new.

    5. Settling/security.

    6. Fear. For women, it’s usually the fear of being alone; for men, it’s usually the fear of divorce, financial ruin, and being kept away from their own children.

    7. Religion. This isn’t as much of a factor, anymore, but I’ve known couples who only stayed together because they didn’t believe in divorce.

    1. 7.1
      Evan Marc Katz


      You not only need a new attitude, but you need some new friends, too. I pretty much surround myself with happily married people and my worldview is reflective of that.

      Again, not sure why you post here given your disinterest, but I think it’s self-evident that you and I see relationships in very different manners.


      1. 7.1.1
        Tron Swanson

        We certainly do, Evan. But, really, is pointing out that marriages survive for both positive and negative reasons really indicative of a “bad attitude”?

        Tell me, do you think that all–or even most–married couples stay together for positive reasons?

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          I don’t, Tron. I’ve heard only 1/3 of marriages are happy. I teach women who desire to be in that 1/3 to achieve it.

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