20 Best Marriage Advice Tips from Experts and Old Couples

We spoke with a marriage therapist and couples about their best marriage advice for engaged couples, newlyweds, and couples celebrating another year of marriage.

By McCall Minnor

Mixed race bride and groom looking at each other lovingly on their big day
Photo by Heather Faulkner Photograhy

Marriage isn’t all bliss and riding off into the night after you say your I do’s. While your love for your partner may feel as strong as ever post-nuptials, marriages take effort and a continual choice to honor your vows daily. Make no mistake, this is no easy feat. That’s why there’s no shame in seeking out relationship advice that could aid in keeping your union as strong and healthy as ever.

We rounded up the best advice for marriage from therapists and couples whose love has stood the test of time. See our 20 top marriage advice tips below.

1. Marriage is work

You must be willing to put in the work. “You have to know that love is more than an emotion,” notes Mary Kay Cocharo, licensed marriage and family therapist. Being in a relationship, especially a marriage, needs more than your fondness for one another to last. “People fall in love, so they decide they should be partners and get married,” she says. “And while love is great and propels you into that commitment, it’s just the beginning. It’s not enough. A really good partnership takes commitment and kindness and generosity, and it requires tools like good communication.”

The 3 Best Pieces of Marriage Advice, According to a Marriage Therapist Photo Credit // Unsplash

2. Listen more

Without a doubt, every healthy marriage will hit a rough spot, be it internal or external. When that happens, your love for each other will be the thing that makes you want to get through it, but it can’t do all the heavy lifting alone. That’s when you have to be able to have productive conversations, understand your partner’s perspective, and decide how to move forward.

3. The honeymoon will end

“When couples get married, those early hormones and chemicals that happen towards the beginning of a relationship—the ones that launch us into commitment—start to wear off. Neuroscientists tell us this happens after about two years,” Cocharo explains. What she’s referring to is a study done by a team from the University of Pisa in Italy. They found that the bodily chemistry that makes people sexually attracted to a new partner lasts, at most, for two years. “They wear off, and now you’re looking at [your partner] and realize, oh, we have differences.”

Expecting this and knowing it’s inevitable (and completely normal) softens the initial blow tremendously. If you recognize this before it happens, you can even work to make sure you have the tools to get through future married life difficulties.

4. Use the right tools

Learn and use relationship tools like good communication, healthy boundaries, and actively showing your partner love. These marriage work tools heavily aid in resolving disagreements and getting through those inevitable tough times. “Sometimes couples will hit something difficult and use that to mean they’ve chosen the wrong person or that it’s over. That’s just not true,” Cocharo says.

“It’s hard, and sometimes you don’t have the proper tools. Maybe you didn’t grow up in a situation that taught you about love and respect or being a married partner. In that case, you just need to get the help. You don’t just give up.”

Not sure where to get the tools? Consult a marriage therapist. There are also tons of helpful books, workbooks, workshops, and even phone apps (try Love Nudge) you can use to do couples’ exercises and prompt conversations with your partner. So long as you’re willing to seek out help (and you have an internet connection), you have the ability to learn and use the tools that will take your marriage the distance.

5. Take care of yourself

An often overlooked key part of having a successful marriage is taking care of yourself. “When some people get married, they think it’s their partner’s job to take care of them. In reality, everyone is busy and has a lot on their plate—you really do need to put on your own oxygen mask first,” says Cocharo. This isn’t to say that you can’t lean on your partner and vice-versa, but rather that when you get married, you should continue to treat your well-being and self-care as a priority. Don’t expect that responsibility to be handed off to your loved one. Making time for self care assures you’re happy and healthy and lets you bring your best self to the relationship.

“Make sure you’re doing the things that make you a happy, healthy, whole person. Simple things like eating right, exercising, and getting out in nature. Maybe praying or meditating, reading, or whatever calms you down. Also, going to see friends and visiting family,” Cocharo suggests.

6. Marriage is 60/40

Some people say marriage is 50/50, but that’s really hard to measure, and it often ends up with both partners feeling shorted. With the 60/40 relationship rule, a marriage is uneven, with both partners feeling like they’re giving 60%. When you put in 60%, “you’re giving your partner love on their terms,” says Mt. Sinai psychiatrist and relationship expert Amanda Itzkoff. “When both partners focus on giving 60% and taking just 40%, the relationship has an overwhelming chance of being successful.”

Stocksy txp05f31680VSp300 Large 4393583

7. Lose the battle, win the war

You might feel like you have to get them to mow the lawn today, or if you pay for that new kitchen, you won’t save enough this year. Go ahead and lose those smaller battles now to build a healthier marriage. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes, but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.”

8. Start counseling before you need it

Waiting until there’s a problem before you start marriage therapy is like waiting to get teeth pulled instead of flossing every night. According to Marriage.com, the best time to start couple’s therapy is as soon as possible, and preferably before you’re married. Think of marriage counseling like coaching, not a sign that something is broken. Choose a good coach, and use it as an opportunity to work on and change yourself—not your partner.

9. Listen to audiobooks

One chief cause of marital stress is endlessly replaying arguments after they have ended. After an argument, the tendency is to stew about it and try to make sense of it. While working to understand is healthy, it can put your emotions on perpetual simmer. Listening to an audiobook while you mow the lawn or do the dishes can keep you from stewing, give your feelings time to reset, and even show you good ideas that can help you strengthen your relationship. Get an Audible subscription or a free app from your local library.

10. Eat first, fight later

This piece of marriage advice is so simple it’s easy to overlook it. Before you talk to your spouse, have a meal or at least a snack. Eating a meal increases agreeableness (so your partner is more likely to see your point of view) and reduces dominance and submissiveness (so you’re less likely to be overbearing or give in too easily). Feel a fight coming on? Take a snack break.

11. Give grace

Spoiler alert: Your spouse isn’t going to do everything right. In fact, they’ll often do things very wrong. If you keep a tally of every way they’ve let you down, you may win on points, but your relationship will lose. Grace is saying, “You did wrong, but I forgive you, and I love you anyway.” Give your partner a clean slate every day (and every hour). And while you’re at it, give some of that forgiveness to yourself.

The 3 Best Pieces of Marriage Advice, According to a Marriage TherapistPhoto Credit // Unsplash

12. Don’t assume

Our brains are good at filling in the blanks. The problem is it’s easy to fill in someone else’s thoughts. That’s why talking without judging, arguing, or adding your opinions is so healthy for relationships. When you let your partner talk, you won’t have to fill in any blanks. You’ll know. Sound easy? It’s not. Active listening is a skill you’ll have to learn, like playing the piano or shooting jump shots. You can start with Kate Murphy’s eye-opening book, You’re Not Listening.

13. Learn to fight

Prediction: you will fight. But—you can fight in a way that weakens your relationship or strengthens it. The secret here is that nobody is born knowing how to fight the right way. And though there’s plenty of great advice online (be respectful, take a break if things get heated, use active listening), they’re easier said than done. So, consider taking a class on how to fight. Some marriage counselors and churches offer fighting classes for couples, and the online Couples Fight School can be a fun, rewarding experience for both of you.

14. Learn to apologize

We all know we should eat humble pie from time to time, but did you know there’s a right way and a wrong way? The key is to accept full responsibility (no buts), then take your lumps. Expect your partner to unload on you after you say you’re sorry and accept it with more listening. Then, be willing to make it right, give in, and give up something you thought you really wanted. (What’s more important, winning the argument or your marriage?)

15. Be a team

You’re in this together. While this may sound like cliche marriage advice, the key point is to see problems as both of you vs the problem, not both of you against each other. Don’t blame each other. For a little inspiration, see this Atlantic article: Marriage Is a Team Sport.

16. Spend now or spend later

Is it too expensive to take your spouse out to eat once a week? Is time precious to you? You may want to spend time or money on things that set you up for a good life later, but what good will it do you if there’s nobody there to share it with? Spend a big chunk of your time and money on your spouse now, even if it’s not the smartest play for your career or finances. If you don’t, you may spend it later in divorce proceedings and custody arrangements.

newly engaged couple in debt

17. Love is a decision, not a feeling

If you don’t feel loved, you may mistakenly conclude your marriage is a failure. And while most couples report being happy with their marriages, there will undoubtedly be times you don’t feel loved at all. When that happens, take comfort in knowing that love is more of a choice than a feeling. To choose from the heart, read the Amazon bestseller Love Is a Decision by marriage counselor Gary Smalley.

18. Let them grow

“You’re not the woman I married.” Surprise—she won’t be. In fact, 90% of adults will change at least one major personality trait in the next few years. So, if your marriage lasts 50 years, you might end up married to a completely different person from the one you said “I do” to. The gold nugget of marriage advice here is to accept that from the start. Instead of resisting change, expect it, celebrate it, and accept it.

19. Just show up

You don’t have to have an opinion on every issue or a solution to every problem. You don’t even need to say something every time there’s a lull in the conversation. Sometimes, just your presence can show you’re there for your partner, and that can win their goodwill. That’s a lot better than looking like you have all the answers.

20. You can’t fix them, so don’t

Your partner is going to have flaws, and some of them will be big. You can encourage and support them, but you can’t repair their damage. While this can be a hard pill to swallow, you married them, not the person they could be. You can help that medicine go down by acknowledging your own flaws and spending some time reflecting on their strengths. Accept and honor who they are, along with your differences.

Although we here at Zola concentrate on wedding planning, we also realize that your celebration is a small part of your lifetime together. While you’re choosing flowers, arranging the ceremony, and planning the honeymoon, don’t forget that your wedding is the start of a lifetime together. We want to give you the best start you can have—from the planning stages of your engagement to the start of a beautiful life partnership.

Up next for you

Illustration graphic of an engagement ring box with a wedding ring and shine marks to indicate sparkle

Just Engaged? Here’s What To Do Next!


Just engaged and wondering what’s next? A lot goes into wedding planning, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Here are the must-do to-dos after getting engaged.

Most Important Things in a Relationship

18 Things That Are Important In a Relationship


What are the most important things in a long, healthy relationship? Read on to find out now.

Talk About Marriage When Dating

How to Talk About Marriage When Dating

How To

Want to find out where your partner stands on marriage, but not sure how to broach the subject? Read on to find how and when to talk about marriage when dating.

Finding the one to marry

How Do You Know You’ve Found “The One“?


Finding the person you spend forever with is no easy task. There are signs to look out for to know if someone is your soulmate. Learn more here.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola

Find even more wedding ideas, inspo, tips, and tricks

We’ve got wedding planning advice on everything from save the dates to wedding cakes.