My husband and I just celebrated ten years of marriage. We were overwhelmed by support from friends and family. Messages poured in through social media and texts: “What an accomplishment!”, “A huge success!”, “A whole decade of life together under your belt!” 

While it felt good to look back over the years and note the milestones we’ve accomplished together, I couldn’t help but think: Is a length of time the best measure of marital success? What about the health of the relationship?

While it is crucial for couples to celebrate their anniversary and every milestone in their relationship together, I sometimes worry we (as a collective society) put more emphasis on the number of years than we should. It can be easy to assume because two people have stayed together for a significant amount of time, they have a thriving relationship. But we’ve all been around those couples–the ones who may have been together for a long time but seem miserable and tired of each other.

What if the collective support for married couples focused more on celebrating and encouraging healthy connection instead of only glorifying the amount of time they “stuck it out together?” 

Decades of research, including recent studies published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, suggests that the quality of the relationship is a more accurate predictor of marital satisfaction than the number of years spent together.

Longevity alone does not guarantee a fulfilling and harmonious environment for the couple.

In other words, milestone anniversaries are undoubtedly worth celebrating, but the sheer length of a marriage doesn’t guarantee its success or happiness. It also doesn’t guarantee that future generations will have the skills and understanding they need to develop thriving families.

Psychologist Dr. David Banks says couples should not only see their anniversary as a time to celebrate the longevity of their relationship but as a time to evaluate the quality of their marriage. “As a couple reaches another year together, they should strive to ‘level up.’ Think about what you can do to make your relationship stronger year after year. The length of time isn’t the only measure of success,” says Dr. Banks.

So, what does a healthy marriage look like? And how can we encourage married couples to focus on increasing their relationship quality as the clock ticks by?

According to the Journal of Marriage and Family, there are five pillars of a healthy marriage:

1: Communication:

Effective communication is the bedrock of a healthy marriage. Couples who openly express their needs, concerns, and feelings create a foundation of understanding and connection.

2: Emotional Intimacy:

Prioritizing emotional intimacy is paramount to marital satisfaction and creating a solid foundation for generational relational health. It involves vulnerability, trust, and a deep emotional connection that withstands the test of time.

3: Shared Goals and Values:

Couples with shared goals and values tend to weather challenges more successfully. Aligning aspirations and beliefs creates a sense of purpose that can strengthen the bond between partners.

4: Adaptability and Growth:

Embracing change and supporting each other’s personal development are crucial for long-term success.

5: Seeking Professional Help:

When challenges arise, seeking the guidance of a marriage counselor or therapist can provide valuable insights and tools to navigate difficulties. Proactive efforts to address issues contribute to the resilience of a marriage.

For nearly three decades, First Things First has advocated for the benefits of a healthy marriage.

For those benefits to be seen and experienced in our homes, communities, and throughout generations, it’s imperative to shift our focus from the number of years to the quality of connection. As we redefine success in marriage, let’s embrace the notion that a healthy, fulfilling partnership is the true measure of success, regardless of the number of candles on the anniversary cake.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at [email protected].

Recent studies have shown that being married can make people happier compared to those who aren’t married. Economist Sam Peltzman’s latest research suggests that marriage is the key factor in determining happiness, with married individuals being 30% more likely to report being happy than unmarried individuals.

Further studies indicate that married people tend to have better mental well-being overall. For example, the 2022 Cooperative Election Study surveyed 60,000 Americans and found that almost 60% of married couples rated their mental health as “good” or “very good,” compared to only 38.4% of unmarried individuals.

These benefits of marriage extend regardless of how long the couple has been married or their demographic background. Marriage seems to boost mental health right from the start and continues to provide benefits over time, affecting both men and women, young and old, rich and poor, and people from various ethnicities and political views.

But what exactly makes marriage so beneficial for mental well-being? Let’s break it down:

  • A Strong Support System: Having a spouse can provide support during tough times, offering comfort and encouragement that helps individuals cope with stress and challenges.
  • Stability: Marriage offers a sense of security and stability through commitment and shared responsibilities, providing a solid foundation for psychological well-being.
  • Opportunities for Growth: Within a marriage, individuals are challenged to grow and develop personally, fostering better communication, empathy, and resilience.
  • Biochemical Boost: Loving relationships trigger the release of hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, which are associated with reduced stress levels and improved mood.

Despite these benefits, divorce rates remain high, with many couples citing a lack of commitment as the primary reason for their separation, even more so than infidelity. Building a fulfilling marriage requires deep commitment and a willingness to work on the relationship.

Maybe building a relationship that has all these benefits is harder than some couples are prepared for. If marriage is going to provide the well-being it’s capable of, individuals must be deeply committed to the relationship and to each other. They must also have a desire to cultivate and experience the type of marriage worth benefitting from.

It’s an election year, which means more news, more debates, and more campaign ads are on the horizon.

While many have figured out how to avoid heated politically-fueled conversations around extended family members, it’s more challenging to keep the peace when you and your spouse have different political views.

As the political landscapes become increasingly polarized in our nation, maintaining harmony within the confines of marriage can feel like a high-stakes balancing act – but it’s not impossible. With understanding, respect, and open communication, couples can navigate the choppy waters of divergent political beliefs and emerge with a stronger, more resilient bond.

Finding commonality amid differences requires a delicate touch.

Here are some strategies for married couples seeking to keep the peace and the passion alive this election season and beyond:

1: Listen with empathy and speak with respect.

The foundation of any healthy relationship rests on open communication. When discussing political matters, prioritize active listening over winning debates. Seek to understand your partner’s perspective, and ensure they feel heard and respected. Remember, love and respect can transcend political differences.

2: Establish boundaries ahead of time.

It’s crucial to recognize the point at which political discussions become counterproductive. Agree on boundaries to prevent heated debates from escalating into arguments. Designate specific times or spaces for discussing politics, ensuring that these conversations don’t overshadow the shared joys and interests that initially brought you together.

3: Find common ground.

Explore areas of shared values and interests that extend beyond the realm of politics. Engaging in activities that you both enjoy can strengthen the foundation of your relationship. Remember: a deep connection goes beyond the voting polls.

4: Embrace the art of compromise.

Successful marriages thrive on compromise. When faced with political disagreements, seek a middle ground where possible. Understand that compromise doesn’t mean abandoning personal beliefs but rather finding solutions that respect both perspectives. Two things can be true: You can love your spouse dearly, and you can completely disagree with their political views. Those two things can coexist.

5: Lead by example.

Be a model of the values and behaviors you wish to see in your partner. Encourage open-mindedness and a willingness to consider alternative viewpoints. Leading by example can inspire positive change and create an environment where differences are celebrated rather than feared.

6: Seek professional guidance if necessary.

If political disagreements begin to strain the fabric of your relationship, consider seeking the guidance of a professional counselor. A neutral third party can provide valuable insights and tools to help you navigate complex issues and strengthen your connection.

Instead of allowing political differences to drive a wedge between you and your spouse, use them as an opportunity for growth and understanding.

By cultivating empathy, establishing boundaries, finding common ground, embracing compromise, and leading by example, you can not only survive the political storm but emerge with a relationship that stands resilient in the face of challenges. After all, the strength of a marriage lies not in the absence of differences but in the shared commitment to weathering life’s storms together, hand in hand.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at [email protected].

Most people have heard about how important it is to be kind, understanding, and communicate well in relationships, right? Recent research shows one ingredient to relationship satisfaction that often goes unchecked: a generous amount of self-compassion.

Self-compassion is giving the same break and understanding to yourself as you would to a friend going through a tough time.

Imagine this scenario: you’ve had a crazy day at work, deadlines looming over you, and then your partner starts hassling you about dinner or cleaning up. You’ve got two choices: either let it all get to you and feel like you’re failing at everything, or give yourself a pat on the back, admit you’re doing your best, and ask for a hand. Being a bit kinder to yourself not only takes the edge off for you but also for your partner. Plus, it opens up a chance for you both to be real and connect on a deeper level.

Studies have shown that people who practice self-compassion tend to have happier relationships overall. Makes sense, right? When you’re nicer to yourself, you can handle all the ups and downs life throws at you better, and you can be there for your partner when they need it.

Think about how many times you’ve taken your frustrations with yourself out on your partner. We’ve all been there. What if we could break that cycle by just being a bit nicer to ourselves?

Self-compassion is something many of us don’t realize is missing from our daily lives. But guess what? It’s a skill that can be learned and improved over time. So next time that little voice in your head starts telling you that you’re not doing enough, here are a few things you can do to practice self-compassion:

  • Cut yourself some slack, especially when things get tough. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can, and that’s more than enough.
  • Recognize and appreciate your own efforts, even if things don’t always go perfectly. Starting a gratitude journal can help with making this a habit you can build on.
  • When you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask your partner for help.
  • Remember that learning to be kind to yourself takes time and practice.

By being kinder to yourself, you’ll not only improve your own well-being but also create a more loving and supportive environment in your relationship.

With another election cycle rolling around, it’s time to brace ourselves for all of the political chatter. While it’s one thing to dodge those awkward family debates, it’s a whole other ball game when you and your partner are on opposite sides of the political fence. But fear not! With a little work, you can keep the peace and the passion alive in your marriage, even when you’re seeing red and blue.

Here are some real-life tips to help you navigate those choppy political waters without capsizing your relationship:

1. Listen up and speak kindly

Communication is key, folks. When the topic turns political, focus on really hearing each other out. Forget about winning arguments and prioritize understanding and respecting each other’s viewpoints. Love can conquer all, even differing political opinions.

2. Set some ground rules

Before things get heated, agree on some boundaries for your political discussions. Maybe it’s avoiding the topic during dinner or a rule against debating before bed. Whatever works for you, just make sure to keep the peace and remember why you fell in love in the first place.

3. Find common ground

Look beyond politics and reconnect over shared interests and values. Whether it’s cooking together, binging your favorite show, or enjoying nature together, focusing on what brings you joy as a couple can help keep your bond strong.

4. Compromise like a boss

Marriage is all about give and take, right? So when you hit a political roadblock, try to find a middle ground that recognizes both of your perspectives. You don’t have to agree on everything, but you do have to respect each other’s beliefs.

5. Lead by example

Be the change you wish to see in your relationship. Stay open-minded, be willing to consider new ideas, and show your partner the same respect you’d like in return. Your positivity just might rub off on them.

6. Seek help if you need it

If political disagreements start putting a strain on your marriage, don’t hesitate to reach out to a pro for guidance. Sometimes, having a neutral third party can work wonders in helping you find that common ground and strengthen your bond.

Remember, it’s okay to disagree. What matters most is how you handle those differences. By communicating openly, setting boundaries, finding common ground, compromising when needed, leading by example, and seeking help when necessary, you can weather any political storm that comes your way. After all, a strong marriage isn’t made from not having any differences, but in committing to weathering life’s storms together, hand in hand.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and it’s time to start planning something special for your significant other. If you’re tired of the same old dinner and a movie routine, we’ve got you covered with 5 creative Valentine’s Day ideas.

1. Plan a Themed Dinner at Home

If you’re looking for a romantic and creative way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your significant other, consider planning a themed dinner at home. This is a great way to create a unique and intimate experience that you both will remember for years to come. Here are a few tips to help you plan the perfect themed dinner:

Choose a Theme. Whether it’s food from a specific area of the world or recreating your first date, the first step in planning a themed dinner is to choose a theme that you both will enjoy. 

Create a Menu. Once you’ve chosen a theme, it’s time to create a menu that fits the theme. Look up recipes online or in cookbooks to find dishes that match your theme and your tastes. Make sure to include appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

Decorate Accordingly. To create the perfect ambiance for your themed dinner, decorate your dining area accordingly. Use tablecloths, placemats, and napkins that match your theme. Add candles, flowers, and other decorations to create a romantic atmosphere. You can also play music that fits your theme to enhance the dining experience.

2. Craft a Romantic Scavenger Hunt

Looking for a fun and creative way to spend Valentine’s Day with your significant other? Consider planning a romantic scavenger hunt! Here are some tips to help you get started:

Design the Clues. The key to a successful scavenger hunt is designing clues that are challenging but not too difficult. Consider using riddles, puzzles, or even inside jokes that only the two of you would understand.

Select Meaningful Locations. When planning your scavenger hunt, think about locations that are special to you and your partner. Maybe it’s the place where you had your first date or a spot where you shared a particularly memorable moment. Including these meaningful locations in your hunt will make the experience even more romantic and personal.

Prepare a Surprise Ending. No scavenger hunt is complete without a surprise ending! Consider ending your hunt with a special surprise, like a picnic in the park or a romantic dinner at your favorite restaurant. This will be the perfect way to cap off a fun and memorable Valentine’s Day adventure.

3. Personalize a Movie Night

Thinking an evening at home might be better suited for you and your love? Why not try a movie night that’s tailored to your relationship? Here are a few tips to help you create a customized and memorable experience.

Select Films with Significance. Choose movies that hold special meaning for both of you. It could be the first movie you watched together, a favorite romantic comedy, or a film that relates to a shared interest. Take turns picking movies and enjoy reminiscing about past memories and creating new ones.

Prepare Movie-Themed Snacks. Make the movie night even more special by preparing snacks related to the films you’re watching. For example, if you’re watching a romantic comedy set in Paris, serve croissants and coffee. Or if you’re watching a movie set in the Wild West, try serving popcorn in a cowboy hat. Use your imagination and have fun with it.

Set the Scene. Create a cozy and romantic atmosphere for your movie night. Dim the lights, light some candles, and add some comfortable pillows and blankets.

4. Make a Relationship Scrapbook or Photobook

Looking for a unique way to celebrate your love this Valentine’s Day? Consider making a relationship scrapbook together! This project is a great way to reminisce about all the wonderful memories you’ve shared over the years.

Gather your supplies. You’ll need a photobook, patterned paper, scissors, tape, stickers, and of course, printed photos of the two of you together. 

Personalize it. Once you have everything you need, start by selecting your favorite photos and arranging them in a way that tells the story of your relationship. You can add captions, journal entries, or other special touches to make the book more meaningful.

Spend time reminiscing. One of the great things about making a relationship scrapbook is that it’s a project you can work on together. Spend an afternoon or evening going through old photos and reminiscing about the good times you’ve shared.

5. Let First Things First Plan For You!

You and your love are invited to an exclusive date night experience on February 10th, 2024 – the perfect Valentine’s Day celebration! Our new Heart to Heart Date Nights are designed to strengthen your relationship while also strengthening the mission of First Things First. Proceeds from each ticket go directly to providing a low-income or at-risk couple access to relationship-strengthening resources from First Things First.

This romantic evening includes:

  • A four-course meal for 2
  • Live music by local Harpist
  • An intimate marriage experience led by speaker, author, and Psychologist Dr. David Banks
  • A personalized Valentine’s Day gift!

Get your tickets by January 31st at Space is limited.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at [email protected].

Since January 1, 2023, more than 5,000 people have visited the First Things First (FTF) website in search of help against “resentment in marriage.” Terms such as how to overcome resentment, moving past resentment, letting go of resentment, and what to do when my spouse resents me have flooded the search bar. 

Resentment in marriage isn’t new

But, I wondered what was causing the spike in searches and if there were any other queries seeing a similar increase. After a little more review of Google trends and analytics, I found the term “self-care” also saw a significant spike over the last 3 months. While this could be a wild coincidence and have no correlation, this exercise gave me an “aha” moment about resentment.

When couples initially feel resentment in their marriage, they often correlate it with anger. But, resentment is not a function of anger; it’s a function of envy. 

Let’s break this down a little more through an example. Your spouse is watching TV and relaxing on the couch when you get home from work. However, the house is dirty, there’s no food to be eaten, and the laundry baskets are spilling over. You feel mad. Heat surges through your body. You may say something like, “Don’t you see all this stuff that needs to be done?” “Why are you just sitting there?” And if you’re not careful, you may become accusatory and use language such as “lazy,” “I do everything,” “you never help,” and the list goes on. 

A closer look at anger

In this example, you feel angry because of everything your spouse didn’t do, but here’s why that anger is actually envy: In your mind, your spouse has become the culprit for putting more work on your plate. The consequence of having more work to do is not being able to relax or do other things you wanted. On an even deeper note, you can’t help but notice everything that needs to be done around the house, and it’s hard for you to relax until it IS done. But, your spouse is obviously capable of relaxing, even when there’s a list of things to do. How is that possible? Why are they able to do this, and you’re not? This is envy. 

With this example in mind, the correlation between the increase in searches for “self-care” and “resentment” makes more sense. Spouses may feel resentment toward each other because self-care has become an obstacle in their marriage. This could look like one spouse receiving more time or having more energy for self-care or even one spouse just not needing as much self-care as the other.

Regardless of the circumstance, the key to walk away with is this: Resentment is a function of envy, not anger. This knowledge allows you to go one step deeper in overcoming resentment in your relationship. If you feel resentment toward your spouse for any reason, ask yourself these questions before giving in to anger:

  • How am I comparing myself to them in this situation?
  • Is there something my spouse is doing or receiving that I’m envious of?
  • Have I communicated my needs and desires to my spouse and explained why they matter to me? (e.g., I need you to do the laundry while I’m gone because I’d really like to relax when I get home, and I just can’t if the laundry is piled high.)

Understanding that resentment is a function of envy gives you a solid solution for how to handle it. Envy often comes from an unmet need or desire. Before turning to anger and blame, take a deeper dive within yourself. Over time, doing this can also change the way you see your spouse and your marriage.

Our world is filled with technological devices and relationships. With technology always (or nearly always) with us, we can be more productive and fill in the gaps in our day. Isn’t that a good thing? Maybe.

Let’s look at how technology impacts your relationship with your significant other. Remember: Technology is a tool. It can be used positively or negatively.

Technology Gaps

Let’s look at those “gaps” technology often fills up. There are many opportunities in the day for “small talk” that isn’t small at all. These may not be times when you’re doing heavy relationship work. But these moments build “connective tissue” that can strengthen your relationship. (If you can put technology in its place.)

  • When you wake up.
  • Car rides.
  • Meals.
  • Leisure time.
  • Before you fall asleep.

Those may look like ordinary parts of your daily routine, but they are chances to connect. They’re also opportunities for technology to steal your attention. “Technoference” describes when technology interrupts face-to-face interaction.

Interruptions and Distractions

Technoference affects most couples in some way. Consider these findings from a recent survey of married/partnered women by the University of Pennsylvania. The women surveyed indicated that the following distractions and interruptions happened daily.

  • 62% said technology interferes with their leisure time together. 
  • 40% said their partner gets distracted by the TV during a conversation. 
  • 35% said their partner will pull out his phone if he receives a notification, even if they are in the middle of a conversation.
  • 33% said their partner checks his phone during mealtimes together.
  • 25% said their partner texts other people during the couple’s face-to-face conversations.

The goal isn’t to assign blame. The goal is to be actively present with the love of your life. Technology isn’t the problem. Technology presents a wealth of opportunities to do positive relationship things. 

Have A Talk

The only reliable way to measure the technoference in your relationship is to talk with your spouse about it. 

Feeling up to some relationship work? Carve out some uninterrupted time to talk about the impact of technology on your relationship. Here are some questions to get you started. 

Please keep in mind that technology is so ingrained in our lives that we aren’t always conscious of how we use it or the habits we’ve formed. You both probably have some blindspots. Approach this conversation in a positive, constructive way.

  1. Do you ever feel like you’re competing with technology for my attention? What are some examples?
  1. Even when we’re together, do you ever feel like I’m not fully “present” with you because of technology? Do you mind sharing some examples?
  1. Do I have any phone/television/social media/gaming/online shopping habits that are a source of tension with you? Let’s talk about them.
  1. What sensible boundaries for technology can we put in place to ensure our relationship is our first priority?

These conversations can be a revelation. They can also bring up sensitive topics like mutual account access, over-sharing on social media, passwords, and other thorny couple issues. Trustworthy spouses can have strong, differing opinions. 

If the technoference conversation is shifting toward past problems, insecurity, control, or trust, technology probably isn’t the real issue. You may need to bring in some professional advice to work through difficult areas where you can’t reach an agreement.

Don’t forget to be creative and discuss using technology to enhance your relationship. Stay connected through texts, Facetime, and apps that prompt conversations or help you track your couple goals.


McDaniel & Drouin Parker. (2019). Daily Technology Interruptions and Emotional and Relational Well-Being.