CULTIVATING A HAPPY MARRIAGE: WHAT’S THE SECRET? | Articles | Blog | Better Marriages | Educating Couples - Building Relationships


By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

What do you picture when you imagine a happy marriage? Some people think of financial security, a nice house, physical beauty, good health, high-profile careers, a thriving social life, or societal status. Others picture a quiet life, surrounded by comfort, children, and extended family.

In reality, a couple’s wellbeing has little to do with material wealth or external circumstances. While these things can lend themselves to a happy life, the real key to happiness in marriage is adopting and maintaining a good attitude together. Because life can turn on a dime, we can’t rely on externals to keep us happy. The real work is an inside job.

Today, we’re sharing some ways you and your spouse can create an enduring, positive attitude–and a happy marriage. Let’s dive in!


If you want your marriage to be a happy one, you and your spouse will have to master the ability to be adaptable to your changing circumstances–particularly if they’re unpleasant or out of your control. Happy couples have learned to work together to adopt a positive mindset when faced with issues that they can’t influence.

Life is unpredictable; you never know what each day will bring. You’ll experience good times and bad times together. If you can’t weather storms and rise above unfortunate circumstances, you’ll never find the happiness you both desire.

Being adaptable means being able to cultivate contentment, no matter what’s happening around you. In order to build that contentment, work together to nurture a positive attitude in your marriage. Do your best to banish negativity and put your focus on the good things that are happening in your life. In the end, positivity will enable you to adapt to life more readily.


In our years of working with couples, we’ve seen three major happiness saboteurs over and over again. Think of these as the three big DON’Ts of marriage:

  • Blaming: Spouses have been casting blame on one another since Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. When you blame your spouse, what you’re really doing is trying to dodge responsibility for your own unhappiness by placing it on him or her. And when your spouse (predictably) reacts angrily to your accusation, that sparks a cycle of anger, blame, and more anger.
  • Feeling Sorry for Yourself: When you wallow in self-pity, it can eventually consume your life. Complaining becomes your primary form of communication with one another, and eventually with your friends and family. Spouses who feel sorry for themselves make their spouses miserable, and self-pitying couples make their friends and families miserable. Your marriage can’t be happy if you’re stuck in self-pity.
  • Resenting Your Spouse: It’s normal to feel pain, anger, and disappointment when you’re treated unfairly, especially by your spouse. But brooding and holding onto those negative emotions will eventually create resentment. And when you allow resentment to thrive, it grows under the surface of your marriage like cancer.

If any of these issues has already become rooted firmly in your life, you may need to seek professional counseling in order to change your patterns. It will take some time, healing, and hard work to change track, but it will be worth it. Keep your marriage free of blame, self-pity, and resentment, and you’re well on your way to lifelong happiness.


You and your spouse are in control of your happiness because marriage itself doesn’t make you happy. Instead, you make your marriage happy.

Having unrealistic expectations about marriage will ultimately make you miserable. We can’t afford to think of marriage as the magic bullet that solves all our problems and keeps us blissfully happy for the rest of our lives. Instead, accept that you’re both humans with flaws. It takes both of you, flaws and all, to create that fulfilling, lifelong bond you’re longing for.