Making Marriage Last

Save yourself from separation with these simple rules for keeping things fresh

Dear Monica, You concentrate on ways to infuse excitement into a marriage, but how do you really make a marriage last in this day and age? — M. L., Wayne

Many women spent their teens and 20s dreaming of their perfect weddings–the flowers, our gown, the reception party, who our bridesmaids would be. All we needed was Mr. Right to throw into the equation and we’d carry on happily ever after, just like in the movies. But what happens after the honeymoon phase is over?

The divorce rate in the U.S. is more 50 percent for first marriages, 67 percent for second marriages and 74 percent for third. While none of us foresee divorce in our future as we say “I do,” marriage can evolve from newlywed bliss into monotony if you let it. There are a number of mistakes couples make, both in expectations and priorities that can set a marriage up for disaster.

Recognize the following early on and set yourself up to beat the odds:

  • There’s more to marriage than love. You’re setting yourselves up to drift apart if you don’t make time to work on your marriage, seek to understand each other’s needs, discuss your feelings, and feel understood, .
  • Recognize that you’re part of a team. With today’s hectic work schedules, don’t assume  you’ll naturally spend time with one another. When you do spend time together, don’t make it just focused on the daily grind of work, money and the weeks to-do lists. Make a conscious effort to schedule uninterrupted time to discuss life and matters of the heart.
  • Don’t just go through the motions. Do something you both view as fun. Find enjoyment in your partner being happy. Remember, it doesn’t have to be date night. Steal a half-hour in the early morning, during lunch hour or after dark to invest in your marriage.
  • Marriage doesn’t ensure happiness. If you have problems in your relationship, marriage will not fix them. Don’t lie to yourself. Just because he sees a future with you doesn’t mean he’s the right person for you. Make sure you’re entering a life with your eyes wide open, knowing all the good, bad and ugly about each other. Make sure you discuss how you view life together, including lifestyle, budget, money, religion, children, careers, passions, dreams, needs, et cetera.
  • Everyone argues, but it’s how you handle your emotions during disagreements that matter. In fact, taking the effort to discuss your arguments and work out solutions will only make you stronger. Make sure you don’t fight below the belt. Work at communicating your thoughts and seek to understand each other instead of focusing on winning the argument. Remember love and hate are equal emotions. When you’re indifferent, it’s over!
  • Roles and responsibilities will not just fall into place. Chores and family responsibilities should be divided and discussed. Don’t assume he knows which nights are his to empty the dishwasher, or has memorized your specific organizational methods. In an era where both men and women work outside the home and are dually responsible for chores within the home, there’s room for a lot of negotiation.
  • Television is not real life. It’s not fair to compare your husband to romantic scenes on TV and in movies. Even comparing your marriage to your best friend’s is setting yourself up for failure. Just because someone gets more does not mean they have more. All marriages go through ups and downs. Enjoy your own experiences and celebrate what you love about your relationship.
  • Children won’t necessarily bring you closer together. Studies show married couples were happiest before they had children. Why? You have a lot on your plate already. Add children to the equation and it’s likely that one-on-one time with your spouse will be hard to come by. Make a conscious effort to carve out time for each other at least once a week. Additionally, focus on ensuring your marriage is standing strong on its own before bringing kids into the picture.

Marriage is a journey. It requires dedication and realistic expectations. Communicate, don’t compare yourselves to other couples and be happy with what you have. A marriage won’t work unless you dedicate yourself and your time to making it successful.

Monica Mandell, Ph.D. is the Director of the Philadelphia office of Selective Search, the premiere (off-line) upscale matchmaking firm for the most eligible singles. Please send your questions to: