Research on what makes a marriage work shows that people in a good marriage have completed these psychological “tasks”:
1. Emotional Independence from Primary Family
Separated emotionally from the family you grew up in; not to the point of estrangement, but enough so that your identity is separate from that of your parents and siblings.
2. “Together” Space and “Me” Space
Build togetherness based on a shared intimacy and identity, while at the same time set boundaries to protect each partner’s autonomy.
Establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship. Work together to protect it from the intrusions of the workplace and family obligations.
4. Staying a Happy Couple With Children
For couples with children, embrace your roles as parents and absorb the impact of a baby’s entrance into the marriage. Learn to continue the work of protecting the privacy of you and your spouse as a couple.
5. Together Through the Good and Through the Bad
Confront and master the inevitable crises of life together. Learn to cooperate when times are hard instead of blaming each other.
6. Your Marriage is Your Safe Place
Maintain the strength of the marital bond in the face of adversity. Marriage should be a safe haven in which partners are able to express their differences, anger, and conflict.
Use humor and laughter to keep things in perspective and to avoid boredom and isolation.
Nurture and comfort each other, satisfying each partner’s needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support.
9. Keep the Spark
Keep alive the early romantic, idealized images of falling in love, while facing the sober realities of the changes wrought by time.