How to Be Happy in a Marriage, According to a Relationship Expert

Happy Marriage

PHOTO BY DACIA PIERSON OF EAGER HEARTS PHOTOGRAPHY 

Some people dream of their wedding their entire lives, but it’s less often the case that people dream about their marriage. Marriage is not always glamorous, nor is it for the faint of heart. Whether you’re thinking about tying the knot or you’ve been married for fifty years, marriage is often anything but smooth sailing.

We consulted with Dr. Viviana Coles to help you navigate the rough shores of wedded life. Ahead, she shares her tips for a happy marriage.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Viviana Coles is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Hailed as a relationship expert, Coles is featured on Lifetime’s reality show Married at First Sight.

Tips for a Happy Marriage

Communication is key.

“Being an open communicator is so important,” says Dr. Coles. “That’s the only way to get through this busy life. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. If someone really struggles to let you know what they're thinking and have inner conversations that don’t come out, that's probably because they don’t trust you, or trust themselves to communicate their needs without hurting you.”

Disagree, but don’t fight.

“Disagreements and arguments are different things,” says Dr. Coles. She says if you find yourself arguing constantly, it’s time to reassess the situation.

Plan for the future.

“If your partner doesn’t ever talk about the future, whether it’s their own or with you,” then that’s a red flag, according to Dr. Coles.

Be honest. Always.

Dr. Coles says many of her clients come in because of “infidelity, of all sorts,” but that doesn’t necessarily mark the end of a relationship. “People also can tend to lie, and that creates a sense of distrust that is difficult to overcome,” explains Dr. Coles. “I’ll get couples in all places. I get some couples to fantasize about [infidelity] or another couple that tells me they’ve cheated on each other three times.”

Dr. Coles says some couples will make their situation even worse by trying to even the score and cheat, too. She strongly advises against this because that erodes a fragile relationship.

Check-in with yourself.

“I think a lot of people think as long as their partners are satisfied with their relationship that they’re safe from infidelity and challenges,” says Dr. Coles. “What I really want them to do is to check-in with themselves. If you’re really unhappy, it can show up as infidelity or addiction, and that ultimately will affect your relationship.”

Advice From Real Couples

Samina Hassan and Fayyaz Hassan (Dallas, TX)

Samina: “You have to let go. Yeah, I get mad but you don’t hold on to stupid things. Respect is the main thing. You have to respect each other and each other’s families. Acknowledge each other. I tell everyone I believe that love is all action—not empty words. We have a lot of medical challenges, but you have a love that carries you through. We are the best of friends. We talk a lot. We fight a lot. We watch movies together. I believe a person should never be proud but never forget their pride. Nobody is perfect. Marriage is not like a wedding ceremony. There are times your partner is in a very bad mood or unreasonable, but you accept each other. Don’t have too many expectations. Life is not perfect but you can be perfect for each other. Please and thank you are the magic words.” 

I tell everyone I believe that love is all action—not empty words.

Fayyaz: “When your wife is upset, keep your mouth shut. That’s the best secret. You don’t think of leaving. You just keep living. You care about your spouse and your kids and everyone around you. Once you start caring for more than yourself, you’ll be a good wife or a good husband. Try to stay happy. Your time is limited. You’re not here forever. Your negative thinking will not change the situation. If there’s one thing I learned, it's that the secret of keeping friends is to not criticize them. You may not be received as constructive. That applies to marriage.”

Marilyn and Derrick Turner (Brooklyn, NY)

Marilyn: “This year will mark our 20th anniversary. We’ve grown up together. The key to a happy marriage is honesty. Keeping the lines of communication open is so important. I’m so blessed because my husband makes me laugh all the time. Don’t forget to laugh. Don’t forget you were friends before you were husband and wife. Friendship is so important. I think too many couples give up too quickly. We see that in Hollywood and in life. Whenever you’re not happy with something, tell [your partner]. Talk things through.” 

Derrick: “Marriage is hard goodman work. I could tell you the basis of all relationships, particularly of marriages very succinctly—it’s communication. Being willing to communicate the good and the bad. Even if you’re indifferent, as we men typically are. I would tell people not to rush into marriage. Just because you’re in love and that’s been openly communicated, it’s important to take time and continue to assess the situation and the dynamic between the two of you. Just because it’s working now doesn’t mean it will be five years down the road. We genuinely enjoy one another. In addition to being a loving, married couple, we’re best friends.”

Kayleigh and Mason Seeley (College Station, TX)

Kayleigh: “For me, it’s open communication. Being sure to talk things out and express what we are feeling even if we are mad or frustrated at each other, even when what we are feeling is hard to put into words. It’s also being able to laugh with one another through hard times and good times. Laughing together at our situation or at ourselves is good.”

Mason: “The baseline is 100% commitment. Divorce is not an option. Never was and never will be. And unconditional love. We chose one another and even if it calls for sacrificing something, we are committed to always doing that for one another.”

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