How to Make a Marriage Work

How to make a marriage work

As the title of today’s blog post suggests, marriage or long-term relationships do indeed take work. Your marriage/relationship isn’t a static, lifeless abstraction that just involves an agreement that you’ve entered into.

Think of your relationship as a living entity that arises from the intersecting of two lives. And like all living entities, it requires sustenance, attention, and ongoing care. Some couples know that relationships take work while some of us simply coast, forgetting or not realizing that love isn’t enough to sustain the union in the long run.

So let’s explore how to make a marriage work…

5 Relationship Tips for How to Make a Marriage Work

Before we jump in, it’s important to note that keeping things simple is a good starting place. While couples can and do get caught in complicated entanglements, the steps necessary to keep your relationship fresh should make sense to you, and these steps should be straightforward and should feel doable. So let’s jump in!

1) Ongoing Check-ins

When we check in with our spouse/partner, we are directly asking, “Are you okay? Is everything all right between us? You seem upset about something, should we talk?”

Check-ins are a way to create momentary bridges that deepen emotional connection. And check-ins help couples clear the air by periodically addressing issues rather than letting emotional residues and faulty expectations take over the relationship.

You and your partner need to find the right rhythm of checking in with each other. It may take some trial and error, but this simple relationship tip can go a long way in figuring out how to make a marriage work.

2) Finding Ways to Show Love and Affection

Love is a wondrous feeling that makes our lives meaningful. But just as importantly, love is action. It involves (or should involve) doing. If you do not put the love you feel for your partner into action by showing affection, your partner may feel unloved despite the intensity of your feelings.

Saying “I love you” is important, but you shouldn’t stop there. Use your words as well as your actions to demonstrate the love and affection you feel for your spouse/partner.

3) Tune into Your Partner’s Uniqueness

We don’t fall in love with just anyone. We fall in love with someone who lights us up emotionally, someone we’re drawn to, a person we find special in some way. This truth can lead us to questions that can be used to make the marriage work (questions I believe couples should periodically revisit):

What is unique about my partner? What do I appreciate about him/her? What do I know about him/her that others don’t get to see?

And finally: How can I use the answers to these questions to make my spouse/partner feel special, like s/he matters to me more than anyone else in my life?

Reflecting on these questions (and any others that you find relevant) allows you to fine-tune how you approach your partner. When we sensitively become attuned to each other in this way, love and emotional connection are both fed.

4) Change and Shake Things up a Bit

Trust and security are built upon you and your partner being emotionally available to each other. Consistently available. Reliability and familiarity ground us; comforting routines ground us emotionally. They allow us to feel strong within our marriage or relationship.

But some couples start to feel a little bored without some changes to the routines they’ve established. Deliberate changes in your routine can breathe new life into your relationship. Variety can pull couples out of a relationship rut (a rut that results from feeling listless over the week-to-week patterns that you and your partner have co-created).

5) Reunite with Feeling

Typically, couples spend a great deal of time separated from one another. Careers and other obligations pull us in different directions. While separation may make the heart grow fonder, too many couples fail to express enthusiasm when they reunite. A rote kiss; a quick “Hi, how was your day?” can make us feel un-prioritized.

This is a complaint I hear from many couples, usually under the larger complaint that “my wife shows no affection” or “my husband is not affectionate.” I’m not suggesting that you have to do a celebratory dance or set off fireworks every time your partner returns home from work, but I do want to raise your awareness about the ways in which you and your partner say goodbye (when separating) and hello (when reuniting).


While the above list is far from exhaustive (there are many more things you can do when considering how to make a marriage work), it’s a good starting point to keeping love alive.

The fact that you and your partner have to work on your relationship does not in any way imply that there’s something amiss between you two—we all need to actively work on our relationships (if we want them to last). There is no shame in finding ways to show affection and express love. What counts is the effort to do so, effort that is well worth it. This ongoing effort can deepen the emotional connection that is so vital to you and your spouse/partner.

I’d like to close today’s blog post with a message that a wife wanted me to share (a message I believe eloquently highlights some of the issues we’ve explored today):

“My marriage is in no way perfect. Larry is forgetful at times. And, oh my God, he is so sloppy. And there are times I’m reminding him about something that is important to me, something I’ve told him before, and I can tell he thinks it’s the first time he’s hearing it. This makes me want to pull my hair out! But (and this is an important ‘but’), he loves me. He shows me love and he tries to show me love. I can feel it.

“And when things between us get messy, I can see how it pains him. It knocks him off his center. He wants things to be right between us. Larry is also kind and considerate. And he goes out of his way to make me laugh. This is how he makes our marriage work. He knows me and he uses what he knows in ways that are authentic to who he is. Yes, he drives me crazy at times. And he also drives me crazy with love.”  ~ Nancy, who just celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary

Here’s to making your marriage work!

Dr. Rich Nicastro

(Featured image courtesy of Chris Sharp at