Some people are in happy marriages. Some people are in unhappy marriages. What makes the difference? It’s partly the things they do for each other, but it’s just as much the things they don’t do.

They don’t keep score.

Marriage involves two imperfect human beings living together and sharing their lives together. One of them is bound to let the other one down sometimes. One of them is bound to tick the other one off. Both of them inevitably have habits the other person finds annoying.

That’s just the way it is. People have flaws. You can choose to overlook them or let them drive you crazy.

People that are in happy marriages are experts at not holding their spouse’s shortcomings against them.

They don’t prioritize their own comfort.

Being married means that you made a commitment to care for another person. Single people are allowed to look out for Numero Uno, but the day you get married is the day your spouse’s well-being becomes more important than your own.

In most marriages, there will be seasons of give or take. The wife is definitely going to need more emotional and practical care and support from her husband when she is pregnant and has young children. Either spouse will need more attention when they are sick. The husband will need more emotional attention if he loses his job.

Marriage is a great playing field for daily having the chance to make the one you love feel important to you, cherished and accepted. These are really basic human needs and people in healthy marriages meet them more often than not.

They don’t take the other for granted.

Did you know that the act of being grateful actually changes the chemicals in your brain for the better? It’s physically beneficial to be a grateful person. It’s also beneficial for your marriage.

When you live with another person, every day brings more chances to express your gratitude to the person you does the most for you. Need help of thinking of something your spouse has done for you recently? The following things just may have taken place in your home and deserve a “Thanks you’re the best” from you:

Washed, folded and returned your clothes to the drawer.
Mowed the yard.
Got the kids out of your hair for a while.
Remembered to order your food the way you like it.
Made a special trip to do the errand you forgot.
Made dinner.
Refilled your cup of coffee.
Rubbed your aching shoulders and neck.

That list should trigger your memory of things your spouse has done for you as well as give you a couple ideas of things you can do for him or her. Maybe you’ll even take it to the next level and write down the things you’re grateful for about your spouse in a sweet love note.

They don’t trash each other (face to face or behind their backs).

How can you be friends with someone who says horrible things to you or about you? How can you trust a person like that? How can you live with a person like that?

You can’t. A healthy marriage is  a place of loving and respectful communication. That doesn’t mean you never say something you regret, but it does mean that you don’t seek opportunities to take verbal cheap shots at each other.

Your marriage is a team sport. You must be for each other, not against. Successful teams work towards unity and embracing the mindset that they are stronger and better together.

They don’t give up.

The life cycle of a marriage has many seasons. They don’t all feel the same. You don’t have the same level of time and energy to devote to your spouse during each season.

Healthy couples understand that each person is still a work in progress. Each one is going to make mistakes and let the other down. When one spouse is struggling the other can see that as an opportunity to show support, persistence and true friendship. The struggling times are not the time to bail, they are the time to dive deeper into knowing and understanding the hurt partner better. 

Life isn’t easy. Jobs, coworkers, strangers, circumstances beyond our control, and so many other things have the ability to stress us out and wear us down. On the flip side, your spouse, your home, your marriage–the life you create with the person you promised your life to– have the opportunity to be a haven from the wearying, trying world you live in each day.

Don’t sabotage your marriage. Do forgive. Do serve. Do be grateful. Do respect. Do hang in there.