It’s encouraging to go to the dentist and find out you don’t have any cavities. It’s nice when you have a physical and your blood-work is all clear. Being reassured that everything looks good is useful. It doesn’t guarantee that everything will be fine tomorrow, but it does say in the big issues of life we are doing okay. Marriages sometimes need that reassurance as well.
While there may not be a definitive test of marital health, there are some common signs of good relationships.
Here are 10 signs your marriage is healthy:
1. You spouse is your “first” person. In good times and bad, who do you call? When your spouse is your first person to hear most of your good news and your bad news, your marriage is likely in a healthy place. Anytime we notice that we are leaning excessively on others rather than our spouse, something is wrong. Friends are important and our spouse doesn’t have to be our first person in every situation. But most of the time, we should want to share our lives with our husband or wife before we share it with others. (See: One Habit that Starves Your Marriage)
2. Your house isn’t silent. It can be quiet. Especially if the nest is empty, your house might be much quieter than it used to be. However, a healthy house isn’t silent. There is a good amount of conversation back and forth. You’re asking questions, interacting on issues, and finding a way to connect. The problem with a silent house is the absence of emotional connection. Silence might be just as deadly as violence when it comes to marriage.
3. You have healthy boundaries in place…and you live by them. No matter how good a relationship, temptations still exist. A couple without any boundaries is a disaster waiting to happen. Freedom is not the byproduct of no restrictions; it is the result of submitting in the right way. Whenever we protect our relationships and submit to wise boundaries, we allow our relationships to experience true freedom.
4. You can talk about issues and find a meaningful way forward. You may not solve issues. Many issues aren’t solvable. You might even have the same conversation that you’ve had for years. But you do have the ability to discuss frustrations and concerns and to find a workable solution for the next day, month, or year. Whenever couples can no longer have productive conversations, it is a warning sign that something is wrong.
5. Even hard times draw you closer together. Healthy couples aren’t continually in a state of bliss, but they are on a general trend of growing closer together. This is true in times of peace, but it’s also true in times of stress. When a couple can turn difficult times into situations that deepen their trust in each other, they almost become unstoppable.
6. You feel as though your partner always has your back. Life is hard. One of the great benefits of marriage is knowing that someone desires to make our lives easier. When our spouse is seen as someone who lessens our load rather than adding to it, our marriage is likely in a good place. (See: Friends, Partners, and Lovers)
7. You seek ways to spend time together. This differs across the stages of life. Newlyweds and retirees likely don’t have to seek time together as much as a couple working two jobs and raising kids. However, in all healthy relationships, husband and wife enjoy each other’s company. This doesn’t mean they spend every minute together, but it does mean they seek to spend time with one another and they appreciate the time they have together. If you no longer want to spend time with your husband or wife, it’s a sign that something is not healthy.
8. You laugh with, not at, each other. Laughter might vary among couples, but it is an integral ingredient in a healthy marriage. In good relationships, couples often even laugh at their mistakes. What might cause a fight in a bad marriage, can cause a chuckle in a good marriage. Knowing we aren’t perfect and that we will make mistakes, healthy couples give ample grace to one another (and themselves). This allows them to laugh often at the things of life. When laughter begins to die, the relationship is dying with it.
9. Sex is meaningful. It doesn’t have to be mind-blowing, but in a healthy relationship (and barring outside factors of age, pregnancy, or illness) it is a meaningful experience. Society often overvalues sex–it isn’t the most important thing in the world. But many couples undervalue sex–it is an important element of a healthy marriage. When a couple finds the middle ground, it results in a meaningful level of intimacy. (See: The Greatest Aspect of Sex)
10. You feel, say, and believe that you love one another. It’s easy in a relationship to get into the habit of saying “I love you.” In a healthy relationship, it’s far more than just habit. Happy couples are regularly struck by their good fortune of having one another, an awareness that at any moment life could take one of them away, and a gratitude that they have the time they have been given. If you don’t feel lucky to have your spouse, something is wrong.
Marriage is likely more art than science. It’s difficult to have a definitive 10 point check list of what makes a healthy marriage, but this is a good start.
What would you add as an 11th point?
Here is Jenny’s addition:
You truly respect each other. You earnestly want to hear what your spouse has to say on an issue, even when you know it will often be different than your own opinion. And when they make choices that aren’t the same you would make, you still show respect and discuss future choices in a respectful manner.