Updated on 08.14.14

Some Thoughts on Building a Successful Marriage

Trent Hamm

From my perspective, once you enter into the realm of marriage, building and maintaining a successful marriage is actually a big part of personal and financial success. A solid marriage not only results in people sharing resources together, but a marriage also provides a lot of emotional support, cheerleading, and encouragement to succeed.

In the most recent reader mailbag, I answered a question about marriage from a reader named Sally: You and your wife seem to have a very strong marriage. Can you give me some tips on how to keep my marriage strong? What do you do to keep it that way?

After I posted the question and my response (which I quoted below), I received a small flood of emails from readers telling me about their troubled marriage at length and asking me for more suggestions along these lines, something that I was happy to oblige in the first email, but by the time the twentieth or so arrived, I realized that this would make a better standalone post than simply reiterating the same ideas in a long string of emails.

First, a general note: my belief is that a successful marriage is built one moment at a time. From what I’ve learned, a marriage is like a stone wall: it’s a mix of big things and little things, all assembled together to form something strong. Sure, there are a lot of big rocks in that wall (the big moments in your marriage, like your wedding day or some other big, key moment), but those rocks don’t fit together without a lot of little rocks to fill in the gaps and make them strong.

Most marriages seem to have little problem with their big moments. It’s easy to think back and think of big, happy moments in the marriage. I tend to believe that most marriages fail because of the small moments. Our individual lives get so busy that we fail to spend the time and effort to put those little stones in place, and when a bit of pressure is applied, the wall falls apart easily. On the other hand, when the little stones are there to fill in the gaps, the wall becomes strong and able to withstand anything that comes along.

I also believe that the little things are hard. Often, it’s not a matter of desire – almost all of us genuinely want to make our marriages work and work well. The challenge for many is that we get wrapped up in the complexity of our own lives. Others simply have difficulty expressing or showing what we feel.

What follows are twelve little things I do quite regularly to put those little pieces into my marriage. Please, use as many of these as seem reasonable. The first five are quoted from my response to the original question in the mailbag.

I tell my wife I love her every single day. I usually do it in the morning before she leaves the bedroom, and on weekdays I’ll also tell her when I see her in the evening for the first time. I usually couple it with a kiss. It’s so simple, but it’s a constant reminder of the fact that I do love her, no matter what.

I ask about her day, listen, and ask follow up questions.

I do this not only so I can keep tabs on her professional life, but also to give her a great chance to vent about her situation. Everyone needs to talk about themselves sometimes to someone who is interested – I try to provide that for her as often as I can.

I try to surprise her on a regular basis.

I’ll spend an hour preparing a really excellent supper when she doesn’t expect it. I’ll spontaneously give the kids a bath when she’s comfortable on the couch under a blanket, even if it’s her turn. Doing these little unexpected things not only shows her I care, but also often compels her to do similar things for me.

I hold her hand.

I do this all the time, whenever it crosses my mind and seems appropriate. I just hold her hand gently while we’re talking or we’re riding in the car or we’re waiting for an appointment or we’re sitting on the couch in the evenings.

I talk about EVERYTHING with her and let her determine what’s interesting.

If something is concerning me, I don’t hide it from her. I tell her about it. Most of the time she’s interested and we’ll discuss it – sometimes she’s not and I let it drop (this is key – if she’s not into the topic, I don’t push it). Either way, though, she gets the message that I’m making an effort to share and be open.

I work on building a positive relationship with her family.

Whenever I visit or see anyone in her family, I make a special effort to try to establish or build upon a strong relationship with them. This accomplishes several things: it makes her more at ease in a family situation, it helps me to build stronger ties with people that are important to her, and it helps me to understand the influences that were around her as she grew up.

I send her messages during the day.

About once a week, during a time where my wife is really present in my thoughts, I send her a little simple note by email. All it says is something along the lines of “I was thinking about you just now. I can’t wait until I see you this evening.” It’s just a very simple way of letting her know she’s on my mind and in my heart.

I put careful thought into gifts I give her.

Sure, it’s easy to just run out and get a generic gift to cover yourself during an anniversary or a birthday. However, a gift with some real thought behind it means substantially more than an obviously off-the-cuff gift.

I encourage her to follow her passions and interests, even if they don’t inspire or interest me.

If my wife chooses to spend significant time on a project, it’s obviously something that’s important to her. That doesn’t imply at all that it has to be important to me. If she’s involved in her own project, I give her positive encouragement and then work on my own interests instead of saying things like “that seems like a waste of time.”

If she needs me, I willingly contribute to those passions.

If something genuinely excites her and she wants me to experience it, I willingly involve myself in whatever it may be: a particular type of art, a craft project, a yard project, whatever. Even if I don’t enjoy it, I do have the opportunity to learn more about my wife and what she’s passionate about, which means that my understanding of her grows.

I look for opportunities to build mutual friendships.

The idea that there is a group of people that are “my” friends and another group that is “her” friends can be a big dividing factor between us. Instead, I often focus on building friendships and relationships that we share with others so that something of a community of friendship and love grows up around us.

I hold her every night, even if it’s just for a moment.

I might be completely exhausted when I go to bed in the evening, but I take a moment to move close to her, put my arm around her, and hold her close, even if it’s just for a minute or so. That moment of physical contact to end the day is a simple sign of love.

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  1. Janine says:

    What a wonderful post. I sometimes struggle with the topics you usually talk about but this one was great. Not only have I gotten myself into deep debt but I am a widow to boot(only 54.) Thanks for giving me hope.

  2. a faithful reader says:

    Well said. Amazing, my husband does a lot of these things as well. I enjoy it when he does, and I realize that I respond by doing little things for him as well. I think it is especially important to say “I Love you” at least oncea day and we also make it part of our bedtime, it is the last thing we say to each other each night.

  3. Christopher says:

    I agree fully with the above comment, and the article. In addition, I love my wife in part because I respect her, her needs, and her desires. Everything about relationships comes down to respect, and a marriage is no different.

    For young couples, I would also recommend the book, “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before (and After) You Marry” by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott (Amazon Link). Our minister suggested my wife and I read it together before our wedding day, and even though we had been dating for 7 years, we still found some great discussion points.

    Love the blog, keep up the great work.

  4. Michelle says:

    That is very well said. I think having the perspective that you are better off together than apart is a good one to have when times are hard.

    No one else shares those big moments of your adulthood like your spouse. The birth of your kids, buying a house, getting into a career – that is the one who was there, those moments are all but lost to yourself otherwise.

    Those little things might add up, but if spouses can truly embrace simple concepts like “never go to bed angry with each other” it really makes a difference.

    Interesting post. I’m sure the comments will be interesting too!

  5. Jackie says:

    My husband and I do many of these as well. I think you’re absolutely right, that marriage is built in the little moments. My husband and I recently went on a lovely weekend getaway together and had a fabulous time, and while I’ll remember that trip forever, I think the major reason we enjoyed it so much is because we had done so much work building our partnership in the little moments and years leading up to it.

    I also think that it’s important to be continually thinking of ways to be supportive of each other, in ways small and large. Staying aware of the stresses your partner might be dealing with is important for this as well, and like you said, being aware and involved in their passions, whether or not you enjoy them yourself. I think, “How can I support my husband today,” often, and I know he does as well. The other side of that coin is trying to show your appreciation of the support your partner is offering you, so that there’s a mutual connection happening.

  6. Neal Frankle says:

    I do many of these things with my wife and I think we have a great marriage but you’ve given me some fantastic ideas.

    Thank you!

  7. CPA Kevin says:

    Man, what a great explanation. Sometimes in the day-to-day grind, we lose sight of the big picture. Thanks for this post.

  8. Peter says:

    Another thing I would suggest is giving her unconditional support. That has been very important in my marriage.

  9. Jill says:

    Wonderful post!

  10. Heather says:

    WOW! In case you were wondering, these are the things that EVERY woman wants! I think probably, on some level, these are the things every guy wants too. I love the way you summed it all up though. Your wife is a lucky lady!

  11. Maureen says:

    Great list! My dh and I have found that love matures through the years, and may not ‘feel’ at 15 years the same way it did at 5 years. I think it gets better! After a point you cannot even imagine not being married to your spouse. We are fortunate to have been happily married for over 25 years.

    It’s important to have interests apart from each other too. I can accept and even indulge my dh’s interest in computer games, electronics and aquariums even though I have little interest in them. Similarly, I don’t expect my dh to be passionate about scrapbooking or gardening. To each his own.

    We always start and end the day with a ‘snuggle’ too. It is such a comfort to us!

  12. SteveJ says:

    Great advice. As you said, alot of it is hard, but if one of your goals is to have a successful marriage then you usually get out what you put into it. There are always times when I want to do something just for “me”, but I’ve got to look at where it lies on the priorities list.

    A problem I have, that I’ve been thinking about lately, is that I refuse help in a lot of situations where an extra hand/mind certainly wouldn’t hurt. Then I feel let down when I do want help with something and it magically doesn’t show up as desired. It’s interesting to look at the kind of behaviors you’re “training” in those close to you, if you always criticize the way the dishwasher is loaded and redo it anyway, you’ll soon find that you’re taking on more than your “fair share” of chores. You wouldn’t eagerly work for pay for someone that didn’t desire and appreciate your services, why would you expect your spouse to do thankless tasks under criticism?

    In short, I’m learning to appreciate all the people around me and make sure I express how appreciated they are.

  13. Susan Young says:

    Good advise Trent. My husband and I cover at least eight of these on a regular basis. I have found one key to a successful marriage is to not get hung up if one or two items are missing and to focus on those that are present. For a long time I use to get stuck on the fact that he didn’t plan ahead for special events or try to surprise me. Now I have learned to really appreciate that he really listens to me and that we can talk about anything.

  14. Joanna says:

    Beautiful post, Trent. Reading it filled me with happiness for you and your family (since your children benefit greatly from your strong marriage) and gratitude that my husband and I share a similar closeness that unfortunately seems rare these days.

    One thing he did for me recently that really stood out was my Valentine’s Day gift. It was not at all expensive, simply a small, red box, the inside of which he had covered with little post-it notes, each of which had a specific thing that he loves about me. Saying “I love you” is so important, but reading those specific reasons that he loves me made me feel cherished.

    One thing I’d suggest for folks who may be struggling is to set your intention to love your spouse. Your focus must be on what you can do to love them, not what they should do to love you. (This is a tough one, I struggle with it as well sometimes.)

    Another thing that was great for us was reading the Five Love Languages. The main premise is that not everyone gives/receives love in the same manner, thus you could be giving love that your partner is not receiving and vice versa. In other words, if they need a hug and you’re bringing them little gifts periodically but never touching them (outside of the bedroom), you’re probably frustrated thinking they don’t appreciate you. You can change your manner of loving them for a huge payoff. I’m sure a lot of couples figure this out on their own, but for a young couple like us it was good to know on the front end so that we can very intentionally love the other.

  15. Susan says:

    Five Long Languages is a great book. We took premarital counseling and the minister recommended this book. Trent realizes that spending time together is a great way to show love for his wife – even if it something he doesn’t want to do. But he is spending quality time with her.

    I love all the subjects that come up on this money blog!

  16. ldub says:

    it thrills me that this list describes my own relationship in every way. lovely to feel like we’re on a well-trod and already-proven, successful path!

  17. k says:

    nice. I do most of this stuff, except for the little messages once a week. We have Windows Messenger set up and she’s my only contact on their, so we’re pretty much in constant contact… that actually might be a problem!

    Anyways, two things:
    1. I believe, although I don’t have the experience to back it up, that money surprises can sink a relationship as surely as infidelity can. If there’s one surefire way to erode your partner’s trust, it’s to have them suddenly shocked into realizing that a couple thousand dollars is missing from savings, and the guilty party is sitting in front of a new big screen TV.

    Therefore we have an agreement that neither of us will do anything involving money that will end in a nasty surprise for the other. We discuss any expense over a hundred dollars.

    2. This one I DO have the experience to back up. no matter what kind of a crappy day you’ve had, always greet your spouse like you’re happy to see them. My wife had a troublesome job that resulted in her leaving work annoyed and angry every day for almost a year. And, of course, I had to pick her up every day. It got harder and harder to be supportive and empathatic when she’s so pissed at them she can barely talk to me.

    Anyways, I spoke to her about it, and it improved; good thing too, because my next step was to buy her a bus pass so she’d have time to cool off after work. She held out for her severance for a few more months, and is much happier now.

  18. Scott says:

    Great post.

    I most agree with the holding hands and the holding (even if for a moment) at night. I’d add to that putting your arm around her occasionally when you are sitting next to her, especially in public.

    I’m amazed when I am out in public, that married couples so rarely touch these days. I’m especially amazed while sitting at church, that almost every single married couple sits in their own space, and usually aren’t touching at all. I grew up in a church where the husbands almost always had their arm around their wives, so it just seems odd to me. I’ll put my arm around my wife and realize I’m the only one. I make sure to do it, and hopefully that rubs off on someone else.

    It’s the little things that build a foundation for when the big things hit.

  19. Josh says:

    Great post Trent. I whole heartedly agree with all of your thoughts/points, and do most if not all of them with my wife. One thing that I think worth noting, is that while all of these take thought, and are sometimes hard at first, they become much easier as you do them. Afterwhile many of them become second nature as part of a loving relationship that has been blossiming. For instance, if you make a point of saying I love you regularly, you will soon find that you just naturally say it whenver you see your spouse, simply because you feel it.

    Of course, this just means that as some of those things become second nature, it is time to come up with other ways to build your marriage that you can work on. Now that you always remmber to say I love you a few times a day, it might be nice to specify it more and say why you love them, or tell your spouse how beautiful they are each day, or something of the sort.

    Also, I really like your point about having friends that you are both friends with. While there is nothing wrong with having seperate friends, having people that you both want to be around as your core group of friends really helps to build your own relationship, and gives you more reason to spend time together. You can not grow as a couple if much of your extra curicular time is spent sperately, with your own personal friends. My wife and I are finding even more benefit from this now that we have children and our friends are starting to have children as well.

    Thanks again for a great post Trent.

  20. viola says:

    Very nice post Trent! The main theme running through it is: attentiveness. That doesn’t mean you have to be with someone 24/7, but thinking about the other person and doing small things goes a long way.

  21. Shannon says:

    Wow, did you ever expect to become a de facto general advice columnist? I bet not! These are fantastic little tips, Trent. And it puts me in mind of something that Steve at The Sneeze posts every Valentine’s Day:


  22. kz says:

    @ Maureen (#6): You said you can’t imagine not being married to your husband – I was just thinking this the other day. My husband and I have been married just a year and a half, and together for 4, but I already can’t imagine a life without him. He brings so many positive things to my life, and helps me be a better person because he is strong in areas where I am weak, and I know he thinks the same of me.

    @ Joanna (#8): One of the best things my husband and I did when preparing for our wedding was in the selection of our officiant. She required 9 hours of premarital counseling, where we spent three, three-hour sessions learning about how we each approached relationships and communication, and how our partner approached the same. We learned that we each have our own way (he needs to ‘talk it out’ and I need to get away and think about things myself before I’m ready to do that) and that we need to be sensitive to our partner’s needs. In the year and a half since our wedding, we’ve reflected on those sessions often. Her insight and advice has done wonders for our communication.

    I tell my husband often how I feel – that I’m the luckiest person in the world. And I’m even luckier that he feels the same way :)

  23. What a great post! I wrote one like it on Valentine’s Day, entitled “Top 5 Reasons Why My Marriage Works”: http://is.gd/kZ7x

    I like your tip about surprises. Gonna definitely start doing that. We’re only 5 months into our marriage, so we have plenty of time to grow!

  24. KoryO says:

    If you have to walk off for five minutes to cool down, which I have had to do because of my very hot temper, do it. It’s better than taking a risk of saying something stupid you will be apologizing for over the next few days (and beating yourself over for longer than that.)

    Also, if your sweetie does something for you that you would thank anyone else for, ALWAYS say it to him/her. It’s amazing how many people will thank a stranger for holding open a door or helping with a bulky package, but who won’t do it for their spouse.

    (I startled my hubby one day when he did something for me early in our marriage and I thanked him for it. He told me I didn’t need to do that. I replied, “If I would thank someone who I didn’t know and meant nothing to me, why wouldn’t I thank the person who means the world to me?” It shocked him…in a good way. We still thank each other for doing nice things, especially when our little guy is around. I hope that his future sweetie appreciates it someday! ;) )

  25. One important thing to do is stand by her when she’s going through a tough time. Dealing with adversity together can strengthen a relationship.

  26. Clinical Therapist says:

    In my profession – Ph.D. clinical psychology – we don’t practice outside our realm of expertise. Hence, I don’t hand out financial advice……stick to what you know, Trent.

  27. David says:

    And for those wondering what a happy marriage has to do with frugality, ask some of your divorced acquaintances when they felt “richer”–before or after the divorce. I know what my friends say…

  28. Ben says:

    Maybe because I’m from a younger generation, I don’t know, but my girlfriend and I are having the problem of “other” friends. Let me just attest to this being a BIG deal in a relationship and I’m still not sure how to handle it. I realize that we all need alone time to recharge our batteries, but I don’t get the idea of a separate group of friends for each individual. Anyway, that is our biggest problem…but I guess it could be worse.

  29. Pete says:

    Great article! One thing that I read somewhere about marriage and that I think is really important is to “treat your spouse as if you have just met.” In other words, don’t forget to say words like “please” and “thank you”. It’s very easy to settle into a routine where one person washes the dishes, another does the laundry, etc. and treat the other person as if this is simply a job that they are required to do. I really appreciate it when my wife thanks me for taking out the trash or asking me to “please” do whatever is next on my honey-do list. It shows that you are appreciated for all that you do and acknowedges that both of you are making an equal contribution to your marriage and your life together.

  30. Todd says:

    I think David’s post is right on the mark. I’ve seen as the number one item on several “How to Be Financially Successful” lists–“Get married to the right person and stay married.”

    I know quite a few people who were destroyed financially by divorces, and others by spouses, male and female, who spent money irresponsibly for years to get back at always being accused of things. Work together with YOUR money on YOUR goals. Don’t fall into the “he or she is spending MY money” trap. That just leads anyone into an attitude of “Oh, yeah, I’ll show you what spending money is…”

  31. Anna says:

    For a friendship to be broken up or “forbidden” because the friend doesn’t appeal to the spouse would be very sad. All kinds of friends are valuable. His friends, her friends, and their friends all have their place in a good relationship. They don’t have to cause divisions if handled well.

  32. EngineerMom says:

    Marriage is also a work in progress. There are things on this list that my husband and I do for each other, but there are also a lot of good ideas to apply to our marriage, especially since we’re still adjusting to the presence of our 8-month-old son!

  33. MegB says:

    I agree that attentiveness is a common theme. I make a concerted effort when my husband is in the mood to talk–about anything–to stop whatever I am doing and concentrate all of my attention on him. I stop myself from gravitating to the kitchen to do the dishes, or to the laundry room to fold clothes, and just focus on him. Likewise, he will sometimes ask me to come sit with him on the couch after dinner so we can “snuggle.” The dishes can wait–moments like that can’t.

    I think sometimes people think that your joy in marriage is tied to big moments or grand gestures. One of the greatest gifts that you can give to yourself, your spouse, and your marriage is to constantly find the joy in small things.

  34. Ivy says:

    I love your metaphor about big and little rocks. And I have to say that the cement that holds the rocks together is just plain common courtesy. Things like saying please and thank you, apologizing promptly, and general kindness … the kind of things we often do for strangers but not to our closest loves.

  35. SwingCheese says:

    My husband and I are navigating our marriage through the waters of parenting a one month old at the moment. We might not have a lot of energy, but we always find the time to tell each other that we love each other. More than that, though, we both find the time to tell the other how much we appreciate what they do, be it childcare, errands, chores, etc. It feels good to hear that you’re appreciated for the hard work you’re doing. It also feels good when someone offers to help you with your work, something we also do on a daily basis.

    He and I have decided to always keep in mind something we heard on Dr. Phil years ago: “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Concentrating on the “happy” over the “right” has helped our marriage/family to become a supportive sanctuary for all of us.

    And the “Five Love Languages” book that someone mentioned earlier is a wonderful read. I highly recommend it!

  36. Robin says:

    Been happily married for 44 years and Trent, you’re so right. The small things are important.
    We noticed that many times, one of a couple will leave without saying goodby or arrive without greeting hello.
    We have a “rule” – must kiss whenever we part.
    Works for us….

  37. Erin says:

    Great post. A nice follow-up might be to list a few of the “little rock” things that your wife does — there are probably some that overlap with yours, but it would be interesting to hear how her actions complement yours to enrich your marriage.

  38. Joanna says:

    @David: You make an excellent point. The state of Texas (where I live) has recently added a pre-marital education program that is free to attend & gets you out of $60 of the cost of the license & let’s you avoid the 72-hour waiting period. My husband and I attended and the teacher explained that the reason the state added this class was due to the cost to society at large of broken marriages. And if you think about it, it’s absolutely true, esp. if there are children.

    Conscientious focus on strengthening marriages is beneficial to all of us, including single folks.

  39. K says:

    I like the stone wall analogy. Many people facing divorce look back at their marriage and all they see is a pile of “big rocks.” They remember all the good events they have shared and wonder what went wrong. They don’t realize that there are no little stones or mortar to give those big rocks any meaning.

    People always give the advice never to go to bed angry but personally for me the best way to resolve an argument is sometimes to just go to bed angry because fighting while you’re tired will get you nowhere. I find that when we wake up, we realize what a little thing it was to begin with.

  40. logmas says:

    Great, Wonderful, Out of this World,

    Now what does she do to back YOU up?

  41. Bill in Houston says:

    Good deal, Trent. You do many of the things I do with my wife. I also discuss everything with her, hold her hand, tell her I love her, listen to her, and keep her surprised.

    My wife’s passion is belly dancing. I encourage it and go to every performance I can. I knew nothing about it at the start, but now I enjoy watching her whenever she and her troupe perform. I’m my wife’s biggest fan.

    We seem to gravitate into holding hands. Last night I turned off the lights, shut off the TV and helped my dozing wife off the couch. Even though it was dark in the house we held hands all the way into the bedroom. I don’t go to sleep without telling her I love her.

  42. Donna says:

    Tent, Will you marry me? Just kidding. Wish more men were like you. :o)

  43. Dawn says:

    DH does most of these things some of the time but I think I might print your post for him….because honestly these little things make me feel so special – ok maybe I just need to tell him that. From a wife’s perspective though when things don’t seem close enough in a marriage we as women also need to step it up a bit too – the circle needs to be broken and no matter who breaks it you both benefit. After 20 years and two small chilren (6 and 3) you would think we would have it all figured out. But yeah we forget sometimes too ;)

  44. Rachel says:

    Great post! I love the stone wall analogy! Its true that marriage is built on the little things. Its great to see someone put up all this practical advice on making a marriage work, thanks!

  45. Oleg says:

    Though I usually read The Simple Dollar for financial motivation, I found this post and the post you wrote about a stay-at-home partner a while ago insightful.

    I think you’ve kept a good balance between financial articles and the occasional miscellaneous post peppered in. Keep it up.

  46. Chiara says:

    What a lovely discussion!
    My advice would be: Cut each other a lot of slack and give each other space to be who you are. My husband and I get along really happily this way.

    I was in a very bad marriage years ago and suffice it to say it was the opposite there. That marriage also nearly ruined me financially – there is most definitely a link between having a good partner and finding success in life. Or rather, NOT having a bad partner to drag you down. Much better to be single.

    P.S. to our friend the clinical psychologist: Seriously?

  47. Local Corrupt Politician says:

    Not to rain on the party, but I must call you out on a few things. Now the owner of this blog site may be in a good marriage and that’s great, but the reality is marriage is bad financial decision for most men and a growing number of bread-winning women. A bad marriage will financially ruin your life…period. I know guys who are 50 years old trying to start over in what was supposed to be the beginning of their golden years after a failed marriage; house, kids, money, sanity and hope all GONE! Easily over 50% of marriages fail, so if you are going to give financial advice to young investors like myself, it’s is only fair that you tell us about the financial positives and financial negatives about marriage. Just how you point out the good and bad in everything else, Thanks

  48. GHelms says:

    Been married 36 years; your advice is spot on. Thanks for reminding me about some of the little things that I take for granted. A subtitle for your column could be ‘The Simple Life’.

  49. doug says:

    What about….spend time with your partner on a daily basis! Take a walk in the park together, go grocery shopping together, work out together. I see waaaay too many couples that are married yet they live separate lives and do not spend time together.

    Seems to me that would be one of the most important ingredients in a successful marriage..

    Just my two cents, thanks Trent for all the great advice!

  50. Cyllya says:

    I just wanted to note that, while this is good advice, you should make sure you tailor these to your specific spouse instead of following each instruction verbatim. And on my way to say that, I found this:

    @ Heather
    “WOW! In case you were wondering, these are the things that EVERY woman wants! I think probably, on some level, these are the things every guy wants too.”

    Don’t speak for all women, you sexist pain in the butt. I can’t say emphatically enough that “ask about her day, listen, and ask follow up questions” is ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE advice for anyone who doesn’t want me to hate their guts. If my guy did this, it’d turn the ten minutes after I got home into the worst part of my day. (Actually, he used to. I finally got him to stop.)

    Not everybody likes to talk. Not even everybody with a uterus. Coming home after a long day, your spouse might not want to spend a bunch of mental energy figuring out how to answer your questions–or FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS.

    When it comes to being nice, the Golden Rule is a good start, but still just a start.

  51. Clinical Therapist says:

    @Chiara –

    Yes, I am clinical psychologist and it is totally unethical for me to practice outside my realm of experience. This website is titled “The Simple Dollar – financial advise for the rest of us” and this discussion is about keeping his wife happy. He only knows his wife and should not be handing out advice on marriage. Reading about his toilet habits is not much better – but, at least they somehow related to the topic of finances.

  52. Clinical Therapist says:

    @Chiara –

    Yes, I am clinical psychologist and it is totally unethical for me to practice outside my realm of experience. This website is titled “The Simple Dollar – financial talk for the rest of us” and this discussion is about keeping his wife happy. He only knows his wife and should not be handing out advice on marriage. Reading about his toilet habits is not much better – but, at least they somehow related to the topic of finances. This discussion is way off topic, hence – out of Trent’s expertise.

  53. Sharon says:

    Clinical therapist, you clearly have no understanding of what a clinical therapist does if you think that Trent’s advice falls under that heading!

  54. April says:

    Amazingly insightful. Marriages usually take years and years to get right but you are miles ahead of most people at such a young age. Congrats on focusing so much on your marriage (which can be challenging when you add a new business and two kids). Your family is fortunate to have such a good role model!

  55. Juan says:

    I loved the post. I just started a relationship (3 months) and at my 27 years, and I think that if you take a step back and think about these tips, seems to me that is a lot of what you do when dating. I think those little stones are key and they form an important role of building a strong base in order to move forward.

  56. Kim says:

    I’m beginning to believe that you may be one of the smartest men on the planet. :)

  57. Cyllya says:

    @ Clinical Therapist –
    Your marriage has far more impact on your financial success than your toilet habits.

  58. Danielle says:

    My husband and I decided back when we were engaged that after the wedding, the biggest priority for the rest of our lives was developing our marriage. Yes, work (and at that time, school) are important. Yes, church is important. And yes, our children are REALLY important… but nothing is more important than our marriage. So far, we’ve been married two and a half years… and couldn’t be happier, even though it hasn’t always been easy.

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned that has worked wonders for us is that we don’t, under any circumstances, fight with sex. This takes many forms. Two major ones come to mind right now… a wife refusing to kiss her husband because he’s growing a beard, or either spouse refusing intimacy because they are mad or want something. Both of these can take something special and use it as a weapon that can (and in many cases, does) destroy a marriage.

    I don’t know if this idea works for everyone, but not fighting with sex has genuinely strengthened my marriage.

  59. Su Prieta says:

    The most encouraging thing I take from this is that I see the same things in my own marriage, so I know we are on the right path.

  60. Rae says:

    Number #26 poster, a PhD holding psych doc, advised Trent to “stick to what he knows”. Trent HAS a successful marriage. That IS what he knows! Interesting that in general, a single psychiatrist would be considered “qualified” to counsel a couple, but a married realist is not. I think if one has a disfunctional marriage and is not being willing to own responsibility for it, it could cause them to imagine the reasons are more complex than those stated on Trent’s post. But from my own experience (twice married), when we apply these principles of presence, attentiveness, gratitude, reciprocity, verbal and physical affection, marriage succeeds. When we do not, it fails. My first husband is deceased, but my second marriage has come to the brink of dissolution multiple times over the years, each time being pulled back to workability by just the application of 1 or 2 of those principles. I daydream, wish, pray, yearn, for the day we manage to achieve them all. It’s hard work. So much so that it’s tempting to imagine that such SEEMINGLY simple things cannot possibly be the “easy” answer.
    Between myself and my two husbands, we have dealt with issues of childhood physical and sexual abuse and neglect, bipolar disorder, homosexuality, terminal illness, in-law problems to ths point of restraining orders, years of far below average household income, followed by the wasting of a period of far above average income, marital infidelity, psychiatrists and drugs, major household moves, and child rearing. Yes, you may have a hard time believing it, but it is all true.
    And I must strongly assert that while I do believe marital counselors can and do help others, I respect their work, and realize some people or situations may require them, they have done me little good. The application of simple principles is what works. Putting one foot in front of the other. My first husband actually taught himself to love me by everyday saying he did until it became true. My second husband was never touched affectionately or told he was loved by his parents and also has to force himself to do these things, and he does them very rarely. But every year it improves. We work the principles and gradually, it gets better.
    This reminds me of Flylady’s site. She has helped thousands of people and hundreds of “extreme hoarders”, who it would seem need a psychiatrist, since their homes are filthy and virtually impassible, by simply teaching them principles of “15-minutes at a time” and daily routines. People reclaim their lives and even health and marriage because of her. She has no training, no doctorate, and is a very simple homey person. Her program is free. I’m sure she annoys some doctors.

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