What Are the 3 Most Important Things in a Marriage?

Medically Reviewed on 3/3/2022
most important things in a marriage
What are the most important things in a relationship? Here are 3 key elements to a happy marriage

Marriage rates in the United States have been declining in recent years. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, national marriage rates decreased from 6.9 to 6.1 marriages per 1,000 people from 2017 to 2019, which is the lowest rate recorded so far.

While there are many potential reasons for this, it’s clear that many people still want to marry. But since long-lasting marriages are becoming rarer and rarer, how can couples ensure that theirs is a happy one? 

Every couple is different, and so is their relationship. So there’s no one-size-fits-all magic formula for a happily ever after. However, there are some key elements to a long-term, healthy partnership.

Below are the three most important things in a marriage:

  1. Commitment: Commitment is more than just wanting to stay together for a long time. It’s the act of choosing your partner for life and promising to go through all of its ups and downs together. And while there may be plenty of fish in the sea, being married means you are wholeheartedly invested in making the relationship last, casting away any doubts that this is just a temporary experiment.
  2. Love: While most couples start their relationships being in love, sustaining that feeling for each other takes effort, sacrifice, and generosity. True love means putting your partner first and giving of yourself without expecting anything in return. It also helps you to accept each other for who you are, flaws and all, and to forgive each other when you fall short.
  3. Respect: Expressing love, no matter how heartfelt, doesn’t mean much if marriage partners don’t respect each other. Respecting your partner for their qualities, thoughts, and capabilities means that you not only accept but also admire your differences. Respect can also help you listen to each others’ opinions and overcome challenges and disagreements.

Of course, while these are the most important things in a marriage, there are plenty of other elements to keeping a marriage happy, including patience, communication, intimacy, trust, empathy, and humor.

What are the most common problems in a marriage?

No matter how happy your marriage is, you’re bound to encounter problems—big and small. One of the secrets to a healthy relationship is understanding potential challenges and making efforts to overcome them.

Some of the most common problems in a marriage include:

  • Lack of trust
  • Lack of communication
  • Jealousy or competition
  • Financial issues
  • Parenting issues
  • Differences in opinion
  • Infidelity
  • Cultural differences
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Boredom

At the root of many of these problems is a lack of trust, especially when it comes to infidelity. Trust is perhaps one of the most important foundations of a marriage. So how can you strengthen trust in your relationship?

How to build trust in a marriage

They say that trust is more fragile than glass and shatters with the lightest blow. And once lost, it may be difficult to regain.

To maintain trust in your marriage:

  • Keep your word, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you.
  • Be available for your partner when they need you.
  • Express yourself honestly and openly.
  • Be loyal and show them that they can count on you.
  • Be a patient listener.

At times, despite your best efforts, marriage can be a challenge to navigate. But with commitment, love, respect, and trust, you and your partner can make it work even through the tough times. And if all else fails. don’t hesitate to seek the help of a relationship counselor when needed.


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What percent of open marriages end in divorce?

Men and women experience sex differently. Sex mistakes men make include a lack of emotional intimacy, not factoring in their partner's needs, keeping things routine, premature ejaculation and other factors.
Open marriages are complicated, and they don't work for every couple that tries it.

Infidelity can shatter a marriage. Cheating and lying about it is almost always a crisis in a relationship. Research shows that cheating is cited as a reason for splitting up in 40% of divorces.

For some couples, non-monogamy is a choice. In open or polyamorous marriages, the partners agree to have emotional or sexual relationships with other people. They set rules and expectations for the relationships and try to be honest about what's going on in and out of the primary marriage. 

Open marriages are complicated, and they don't work for every couple that tries it. Some people open up a marriage for the wrong reasons, such as letting a partner openly cheat rather than lying about it. Other times, a partner may fall in love with an outside partner and want to pursue that relationship more deeply. 

For other couples, polyamory brings sexual or emotional satisfaction they won't get in a monogamous relationship. Their marriages are strong, happy, and long-lasting. 

Non-monogamous marriages are as varied as monogamous marriages. They don't follow a set pattern. There is no sure way to predict if a non-monogamous marriage will last or if the partners will split up. 

By some estimates, as many as 20% of Americans engage in some kind of non-monogamy during their lives.  Studies suggest that 4%-5% of couples in the United States are non-monogamous. There is little published data on how many of these couples eventually divorce. Their divorce rates may be similar to monogamous couples.

Choosing a non-monogamous relationship can be very rewarding if both partners are committed to it. For couples who don't both embrace the choice, it might be the decision that ends their marriage. 

Types of non-monogamy

There are a lot of ways couples engage with additional partners. Cheating or non-consensual non-monogamy is very common. Having sex with people outside your primary relationship without telling your partner is usually distressing. The deception and infidelity pack an emotional punch. Not all couples can overcome that. In addition, you may run the risk of bringing home a sexually transmitted infection from such a relationship. 

Other couples choose to have relationships with additional people. They go into it knowing what their expectations are, and they avoid deceit or dishonesty. They are upfront about their feelings and try to be sensitive to one another's needs. 

There are several different forms that non-monogamy can take, such as:

  • Open marriages 
    • In an open marriage, the couple agrees to sexual contact with other partners. Often, it's a situation where both members of a couple have sex with other partners together. Other couples prefer to have sexual adventures separately. The primary relationship is their main emotional focus. Most of the outside relationships are limited to sex without a deep emotional commitment.
  • Swinging
    • Swinging is a term for when a couple engages in partner-swapping with other couples or invites additional people to have group sex with them. They may go to sex clubs or swingers' parties to meet like-minded people. Swinging tends to be about sexual gratification for both people in the couple. They aren't looking for long-term relationships outside their marriage, though they may become friends with their swinging partners.
  • Monagam-ish 
    • This is a pop-culture term popularized by sex writer Dan Savage. Some couples agree to have sexual contact with others under very specific, pre-defined circumstances. They are honest about their personal boundaries and try to stay within them. They don't typically seek out other committed relationships. The sexual encounters are brief and non-committed.
  • Polyamory
    • Polyamorous couples look for lasting relationships outside their primary relationship. The parameters vary from couple to couple. Some couples keep their outside relationships separate from their primary relationship. Others introduce their additional partners to their primary partners. Typically, all the people involved in polyamorous relationships are aware of the situation, and they consent to everything that happens.


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Medically Reviewed on 3/3/2022


Archives of Sexual Behavior: "Open Relationships, Non-consensual Nonmonogamy, and Monogamy Among U.S. Adults: Findings from the 2012 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior."

Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice: "Infidelity and Behavioral Couple Therapy: Relationship Outcomes Over 5 Years Following Therapy."

Psychology Today: 7 Different Kinds of Non-Monogamy," "Are Open Marriages Happier?" "When Your Partner Wants Non-Monogamy and You Don't."

Sexual and Relationship Therapy: "Prevalence of Experiences With Consensual Non-monogamous Relationships: Findings From Two National Samples of Single Americans."