And they do so like clockwork.
By Mitzi Bockmann
Last updated on Nov 20, 2023
Photo: jacob lund / Shutterstock
People often go into marriage hoping that it will be “happily ever after,” but often have no intention of putting in the work to make that happen. After all, there’s no instruction manual or a guidebook to help them navigate marriage and all its challenges, and it’s easy to get lost and not know how to make a marriage last.
Staying married can be challenging but it can also be surprisingly simple, even somewhat obvious. But you need to be willing to put in the effort and have daily, weekly and even yearly rituals that keep you deeply connected.
Here are 7 things couples should do every single year to stay married for a lifetime.
1. Have a check-in.
I have a client who’s been happily married for 10 years. When I asked her the secret to her success, she told me it’s because they have an annual check-in — one to check on the state of their relationship and their marriage.
They do it every August, on the porch, and with a drink in hand. They start first by talking about the state of their relationship.
Are they still friends? Are they compatible in the lives that they are living? Do they have any frustrations that they are feeling? Is there anything that is going particularly well, or particularly badly? If they had to choose, would they stay in the relationship or leave it?
Once they talk about their relationship, they get into their marriage, and all the tiny details they may miss on a regular basis. That seems like one and the same but, for them, a relationship and marriage are different — marriage is about their vow, their contract that they like to examine as well.
So, check-in with your spouse, whether it’s actually just once a year or even once a month. Make sure you each where know where you stand, and that you’re on the same page when it comes to making your partnership work.
2. Take a vacation together.
Who has the time or money to take a vacation? I you want to stay married for life, going on a vacation together once a year is very important.
When I was married, life was chaotic. My husband worked crazy hours, my kids had activities all over town, there was dinner and bedtime and relatives and pets and life was insane. My husband and I barely had time to say two words to each other over the course of the day, and that definitely didn’t make us feel connected.
So, what did we do? We started to take a vacation together every year. In June, we would drop the kids off with my mom in Virginia and we would head over to West Virginia for a week of hiking.
Photo: Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels
And what happened during our week together, on vacation? We got to know each other again. We got to see the person who we had fallen in love with all those years ago. We got to laugh and not worry about bedtimes and stay out too late drinking.
Once a year, my husband and I got to be lovers, not spouses and parents — and it felt great. It recharged our marriage so it could survive the chaos that was our life. While it may be difficult to take off from work or financially afford a luxurious vacation, there are always ways to do both. Remember: your marriage depends on it.
3. Take a vacation apart.
As marriages go on, you become so familiar with your spouse that you sometimes take them for granted.
Every morning, they’re there at the table, drinking coffee. Every night, you try to fall asleep while they snore. Furthermore, the more time you spend together, the harder it is to see yourself as a man or a woman in the world. And that can feel bad. Really bad.
Going on a vacation without your spouse can change all that. You can get out in the world and do something that you love, perhaps with your friends or your family.
You get to be selfish and do what you want to do. You get to be who you want to be. You get to just step away from the life you have for a moment and take a breath. And, while you’re gone, your spouse will notice your absence and, when you come back, will be very pleased to see you.
Taking a vacation away from your spouse will remind you of why you married them to begin with. Plus, it will allow you the time you need to just take a break from your hectic life. And when you return well-rested and grateful for the life you have, you’ll have an even stronger relationship.
4. Celebrate special events.
Over the course of the many, many years of a marriage, the special occasions tend to fall by the wayside. Again, life is crazy, and pausing to celebrate little things can just be too much trouble.
A client of mine is very unhappily married. A few weeks back, it was his wife’s birthday. I asked him what he had done for her and he said that he got her a card. Their anniversary was in February and what did they do? Nothing. And for Mother’s Day — again, nothing.
I asked him why he didn’t take the time to recognize those things. He said that they had been together so long that she no longer needed him to do anything special. He didn’t buy her anything for her birthday because she could buy anything she wanted.
The anniversary, he more often than not forgot about, and Mother’s Day was about his mother. How do you think that made his wife feel? Not so good and very disconnected.
Photo: Antoni Shkraba / Pexels
So, take the time to celebrate those special events and moments, no matter how big or small. Obviously, celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and Mother’s Days, but why not honor other momentous occasions, at least once a year?
Your first date, the first time you said “I love you,” the day you bought your first home, the day he proposed — all of these days can be considered special. And you don’t have to celebrate them all individually; instead, you may want to do so once a year.
5. Talk finances.
Money. A couple’s worst nightmare conversation. Finances are incredibly hard to discuss, especially for married partners, but talking about them annually just might be the key to living happily ever after.
One of the major problems with finances in a marriage is that it isn’t discussed — it’s taboo. As a result, it can be the source of an incredible amount of anxiety that doesn’t keep a relationship healthy.
How are you to keep your marriage happy and stable if all you ever talk about is finances, and the conversation usually ends in arguments? If there’s a lack of honesty and transparency around money, literally the thing that makes your life function, how can a couple stay connected and feel like a team?
If you and your spouse can talk about your finances annually, once you get some practice at it, you will find that it isn’t that hard to do.
6. Set goals.
When you set out to be successful at work, do you just plunge ahead, blind, ignoring what is happening around you, hoping that things will all work out? I’m guessing not. Instead, you set goals and define a path to reach them. And it works, more often than not.
So, why wouldn’t you do the same thing in your marriage? Why wouldn’t you set goals for the year ahead and define how you are going to reach those goals? Why would you just plunge forward towards nothing in particular and hope that it all works out?
Set goals for the year ahead, annually. Maybe after you do your check-in, you can look at what’s ahead and make a plan. Set goals for your relationship and what you want it to look like at the end of the year.
What would your relationship look like and how would you feel if you met your goals? Keep this question in mind as you make a plan and set those goals for the year, and maybe even 5 or 10 years down the road.
7. Revisit your story.
This is one of my favorite things to do: to retell the story of how my boyfriend and I met and how we fell in love. Why? Because those were such magical times.
We are 5 years into our relationship now and while we’re still very happy, we are complacent. We still have a lot of fun but romance isn’t a priority. And so, sometimes, often after a gin and tonic, I tell our story again.
About how I walked out of my friend’s guest room and there he was at the breakfast bar. How we talked for a few moments and I thought that maybe I had found my person and then I drove away and didn’t think about him for months. About how we promised to be friends and then he kissed me. How we fell in love and never looked back.
Photo: Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels
Those times were magical and remembering them brings us close and reminds us why we are still together after all these years. So, make it a point to sit down with your partner, at least once every year, and recount how you met. Tell each other your story from each of your unique perspectives, reminding yourselves why and how you fell in love.
Some of these things might seem a little bit daunting, but I can promise you that, with practice, you will become comfortable doing them. You can have the happily ever after that you want. All it takes is a little bit of effort and awareness to make it happen.
More for You:
Zodiac Signs That Are Terrible At Relationships (And Why)20 Little Things Women Do That Guys *Secretly* LoveThe Perfect Age To Get Married, According To Science5 Little Ways Men Wish They Could Be Loved — Every Single Day
Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate who works exclusively with women to help them be all they want to be. Mitzi’s bylines have appeared in The Good Men Project, MSN, PopSugar, Prevention, Huffington Post, and Psych Central, among many others.