13 Things That Will Create, Maintain and Save Your Marriage

I was recently with a friend of mine who is a marriage counselor. While she wanted to remain anonymous, she offered up some great tips for couples thinking about getting married, those who are happily married and those who also might be struggling with the marriage they're in.

I'm by no means an expert on the subject, but I'm always looking for ways to provide information to better people's lives and think this will help.


Ari (Jeremy Piven) and Melissa (Perry Reeves) Gold on the HBO Series Entourage in marriage counseling.

Q: What are the most common reasons that some marriages do work? Is it just luck?
A: Rather than giving one reason, I will give you four. One or both spouses don’t have the commitment to work through problems and don't have tools for conflict resolution, infidelity and addiction.

The couple needs the ability to resolve conflicts that are inevitable in every marriage. Luck is not involved. Commitment and ability to resolve conflicts keeps marriages together.

Q: Whose fault is it that so many marriages don't work?
A: Neither men nor women are to blame, though more women than ever are initiating divorce.

Q: What advice can you give a couple that is about to get married?
A: People need to prepare for marriage. Marriage only intensifies problems. Couples need to identify red flags and potential problems and resolve them before marriage.

Q: Tell us three things that a couple should work on right from the start of their marriage?
A: Couples need to talk at least 2x a week about any issues they have and how the relationship is going. They need to resolve issues as they come about and spend time alone no matter how many stressors they have; children, job, etc. Couples need to say, "I feel such and such when you do such and such" rather than accuse the other one.

Q: Sex. How often should married couples have sex?
A: There is no recipe for the amount of sex a couple should have. If sex is less than once a week, usually someone is unhappy with that. If sex is too infrequent for either member of couple and if it can't be resolved, a marriage therapist is necessary. No sex in a marriage is unhealthy and has disastrous results. Sex gets people through bad times together in addition to creating a bond.

Q: Does it or should it change as we get older and as time goes on? When you have younger kids how do you keep the sex life going?
A: Regardless of age, sex should be present in a marriage unless neither person wants it. As people get older, sex is still very important. People live longer if they have sex. Dropping down to less than 1x a week can have consequences at any age.

A couple needs to have a lock on their door so that children know the parents need time to be alone. Children are used as the main excuse as to why couples don't have sex. If financially able, the couple needs to spend time away together if even for a night. Many couples need to make a date to have sex in the marriage. That means that there is an agreement on a certain day or evening each week they have sex. No sex becomes a very bad habit, which is the source of many problems in a marriage.

Q: Tell me the main reason why a marriage can get off track?
A: The main reason marriages get off track early on is a lack of commitment or inability to resolve conflict.

Q: I don't see many therapists going out of business or hurting for business? Is there an increase amount of couples in counseling?
A: Marriage therapists should have a lot more business. Most people divorce without even seeing a marital therapist and many couples who start drop out because one person feels the therapist sides with spouse.

Q: So, do all couples at some point need some form of counseling in order to have an authentic growing partnership?
A: People do not want to spend the money on marital therapy. They like to spend money on superficial things they think will make them happy. It doesn't work.

Q: It’s a pretty dramatic, BIG change when your kids leave home. Do you have advice for empty-nesters?
A: Couples need to be developing interests and friendships together all along so when their children leave there isn't a void that destroys the marriage. It's very important to prepare many years before for an empty nest.

Q: What is the #1 thing men just don’t get?
A: Every man needs to know that if he doesn't help with household chores and childcare, the marriage will deteriorate regardless of his job responsibilities.

Q: What is the #1 thing women just don’t get?
Every woman needs to know if she withholds sex or has no desire, the marriage is likely to deteriorate.

Q: If you could tell every married couple one thing, what would it be?
A: I would tell every couple to get professional help as soon as you know you are unhappy if you can't resolve issues. Marriages deteriorate very quickly if there are lots of arguments and little or no conflict resolution. Many marriages that come to marriage therapists have already passed the point of no return.

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