There are plenty of people to go to for marriage advice. Counselors, couples who’ve been together for decades, trusted family and friends. Each of these folks usually has some hard-earned wisdom to share. But a surprising well of worthwhile relationship advice comes from professionals who are rarely tapped for advice on love and happiness. Namely, home organizers, hotel concierges, car dealers, coaches, financial advisors, jewelers, and real estate agents. What do they have in common? They interact with couples, lots of couples, often at their most stressed out. Whether they’re helping someone with a big purchase or to find their way in an unfamiliar city, these folks have seen couples through it all — and know what behaviors, arguments, and communication works, and what leads to fights and strife.
That’s why we reached out to a variety of surprising professionals for their observations about what makes a marriage work. The insight they shared covered companionship, teamwork, staying together through tough times, and defining habits of happy couples — and proves that some of the best marriage advice can come from some of the more unexpected sources.
1. Be Each Other’s Cheerleader
“I owned and operated a successful gym for more than 20 years, and a lot of my clients were couples. These people came to our gym with different individual goals, and the ones who achieved them effectively were the ones who were motivated by someone other than the trainers. When couples came in for their sessions, they rarely did the same routines or circuits together. Sometimes they were on opposite ends of the gym. But they would call out to each other, or stop by to give a high five or a pat on the back. They were on the fitness journey together, and they took every chance to remind each other — and themselves — of that fact. We preach teamwork in the gym all the time. But seeing these couples support each other emphasized exactly how important it is to strengthen your body and your relationship.” — Chris, Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, California
2. Forgive Quickly
“Couples that last, understand the power of forgiveness. They choose not to allow disappointments or frustrations tied to a single or temporary circumstance define the totality of their relationship. They understand seasons, and offer a degree of grace for human error. They provide space and time for correction, rather than using the circumstance as a dagger to constantly remind their partner of the error of their ways. Successful couples listen to their partner and avoid criticism and blame. They realize the value of being heard and offering a safe space for their partner to verbalize their thoughts and feelings without minimizing them or immediately responding in a defensive manner.” — Zahara, Couples Therapist, Texas
3. Fight Like You Mean It.
“I deal with very specific legal cases, and I’ve run across many couples who are going through a tough time with bed bugs. What I’ve noticed about the couples that I would call healthy or successful is that they fought. In public. If a husband and wife fight in public, to me that indicates that they are genuine. They are genuine to each other, and they are genuine to the public. When they are genuine, they feel close to each other. They have respect for each other. They have so much respect for each other that they are willing to talk out their differences and come to an amicable resolution, instead of letting anger pile up inside. Now, when I say they fought, I mean they disagreed with each other and there was some yelling. But here is the important part: The goal of the argument was to come to an amicable resolution that suited them both. In my experience, one sign of a healthy couple is that they’re able to productively argue.” — Kevin, Bed Bug Lawyer, California
4. Healthy Boundaries Help Everything Run Smoother
“Training dogs revolves around setting and enforcing boundaries. In meeting new couples, it’s always immediately clear which of them understand that concept, and which don’t. With dogs, it’s usually something like one partner trying to be strict while the other partner is wrapped around the dog’s paw. Like a good cop/bad cop thing. But seeing these same couples interact with each other, with their kids, and even with other family members who happen to be there when I go over, it’s clear that healthy boundaries help things run more smoothly. When a couple isn’t on the same page about training their dog, they’re usually not on the same page about a lot of other things. Obviously, different things work for different couples, but I know consistency is something that makes things easier before, during, and after my visits.” — Beth, Dog Trainer, Maryland
5. Put Everything In Perspective
“I’ve seen couples literally lose everything except each other. In those moments, it’s impossible not to observe how they act, and I’ve seen some very inspiring things.
During a disaster like a fire, adrenaline is pumping and instincts kick in. For couples and families that usually means trying to make sure they’re safe. After physical safety is ensured, the rebuilding process begins almost immediately. Not the rebuilding of a new home or apartment, but relying on each other for support and assurance.
The couples I’ve seen make it through these tragedies don’t blame each other or feel sorry for themselves. Instead, they recognize that they still have each other, despite losing so much. Obviously, these incidents aren’t ideal, but the silver linings are real. These types of couples remind me that you can lose quite a bit before you know it. They’re an inspiration for anyone who needs a reality check about what really matters.” — Al, Firefighter/EMT, Colorado
6. Always Act Like A Team
“I have noticed that my clients who seem to be most successful tend to be constant communicators when it comes to finances. When we sit down to talk about investments, financial abilities and budgets, and goals, there are no surprises between the two because they’ve discussed things with each other already. This is especially helpful for couples who are dealing with financial struggles. Even when faced with financial hardship, the strongest couples I’ve seen are in it together. They’re looking for solutions, not magic tricks. They’re realistic about their finances and approach everything with a sense of teamwork. They listen to each other and value each other’s input. I’ve learned that a good marriage is a team, and successful couples need to commit to being part of a team when dealing with important financial decisions.” — Michael, Financial Advisor, London
7. Be Patient, Play, And Fight Fair
“I spent years as a concierge for the St. Regis hotel on Kauai. I met hundreds and hundreds of honeymooners and anniversary celebrations, from one year to 50 years. In asking these people what their secret was, it boiled down to patience, play, and fairness. Patience was the first thing most couples said. It was instinctual. The long-term married couples would share that they found time to play and enjoy activities and life together, laughing and having fun. And many couples told me to fight fair. It was worded differently from couple to couple, but this is the verbiage that stuck with me the most. The biggest lovebirds would tell me there’s never a reason to yell, and to treat the other person with love even while you disagree.” — Bridget, Former Concierge, Hawaii
8. Find A Shared Vision.
“I work with people going through infertility, which is a unique challenge for many couples. I’ve noticed that a pattern in healthy couples seems to revolve around keeping the passion alive despite setbacks, and common purpose and vision. When the desire for a baby is shared within the couple, for example, it helps them to prioritize the love between them. When that shared vision is not present, the relationships become tenuous. Even if their shared vision isn’t a baby, but rather a mutual purpose beyond themselves, it generally leads to a stronger relationship.” — Dr. Aumatma, Holistic Fertility Specialist, Texas
9. Keep One Another Grounded
“For many couples, buying a car is a very emotional purchase. Unlike common use purchases, like a home, cars tend to be more individual purchases but still exist within the same family unit. Sure your spouse may use your vehicle sometimes but it’s typically driven daily by one or the other. I’ve noticed that one trait of couples who enjoy the experience is the fact that one partner helps to keep the other grounded. An extra $25 or $50 a month may not seem like a big deal because the main driver is so excited. But the other partner can keep the situation realistic. These types of couples communicate respectfully through the process and focus more on being a team than fulfilling their own wishes. And they always walk out happy.” — Stan, Automotive Finance Manager, Ohio
10. Have a Game Plan. And Don’t Pull Punches.
“It’s so cliché but, as a realtor, the couples that communicate are so much easier to work with. You can tell within the first few steps inside a house if this couple has planned and calculated their decision, or if they just watched a lot of HGTV and got pre-approved on a whim. Buying a home is a linchpin event for any couple, and it only works if you communicate. No matter how hard I try to bring them up to speed, they’re always two or three steps behind because they’ve failed to discuss the issues. Sometimes those discussions lead to opposing views which lead to larger disagreement. My best advice to home buyers is always to map out what you want, and don’t pull punches on items that are important to you. For couples, specifically, those little things can add up and create tension before, during, and after the closing. That’s why my most successful clients treat home buying like their relationship — with open and honest communication.” — Ed, Realtor, Ohio
11. Listen And Accept
“Couples I’ve seen that seem the most healthy and productive accept each other. Many couples act certain ways around other people, so it’s hard to know if you’re seeing them as authentically as possible. As a third-party observer, the couples I’ve seen work are the ones who are willing to listen to their partner’s thoughts and feelings, even if they don’t necessarily agree. Showing acceptance is difficult, especially when one person feels strongly about something. Focusing on the positive qualities of their partners — what they love about them, what they admire about them — seems to help couples I meet remember that it’s okay to accept their differences.” — Andrew, Physical Therapist, Illinois
12. Know What’s The Icing, And What’s The Cake
“I’ve been in the jewelry business for decades, so I’ve seen the gamut of couples. From engagement rings to anniversary gifts, I’ve seen people come in and fret, argue, and agonize over picking out the perfect ring, necklace, or whatever. But the couples that keep coming back? The ones who’ve made it for years and years? They seem to know that this stuff is the icing, not the cake. They like to give each other nice things, which is what pays my bills, but the recipients are always more taken with their partners than the actual gift. That’s what’s kept me in business. In short, both the gesture and the token can be lovely and beautiful. But it’s no secret that couples who invest in amazing, flamboyant jewelry aren’t guaranteed to make it, just like couples who keep things basic, simple and true can stand the test of time. That’s why the latter have always been my favorite clients.” — Chuck, Jeweler, Florida
13. Act Like You Just Met
“Couples can get into the pattern of habitually living day in and day out, doing the same thing over and over and over again. They wake up, get ready for work, drop the kids off, head to work, pick the kids up, rotate soccer practice drop offs, and so on. In my experience, while the habits tend to stay the same, people naturally evolve over time — as couples, and as individuals. Couples who thrive don’t let themselves look up one day and not know who they’re married to. They avoid that rut. They try new things together. They ask questions with genuine curiosity. They surprise each other. Even if they think they know the answer, they still pretend that they don’t to keep the relationship fresh and exciting.” — Charelle, Intimacy Coach, Illinois
14. Get Naked…Financially
“I tell this to couples as a way of emphasizing the importance of having uncomfortable conversations before they take big steps. Many people aren’t comfortable revealing their finances to their partner. The couples I’ve seen succeed believe the exact opposite. They pull credit reports and walk through them together. They look at credit scores to see how they view risk management, savings, and debt. They create a budget, no matter how much money they make, so they can make spending, saving, and investing decisions with good information. Communication is a key part of building a strong relationship, and financial conversations are no different. And every couple will have a financial conversation at some point: either up front and together, or later with divorce professionals when it is too late.” — Todd, Divorce Finance Expert, Colorado
15. Stop Being So Damn Stubborn
“In my profession, I regularly see couples sit in my office and argue over each other’s heads. They talk, but are so busy formulating their own responses that they don’t actually listen. They don’t pause and pay attention. The couples who didn’t act this way — the ones that were able to understand and compromise with each other — sometimes got back together. If not, their divorces were usually amicable and agreeable. The stubborn ones, though, just ended up with long, stressful, expensive court proceedings.” — Vered, Former Family Lawyer, Washington D.C.
16. Ask Instead Of Assuming
“Unsure why your partner didn’t communicate something to you? Ask them why before assuming they were trying to hide something. Wondering why your partner chose to tackle a problem from that angle? Ask them for their thought process before sharing the “correct” way to do it. Unsure what’s bothering your partner and why they’re upset? Ask them. I work with stepparents and their partners — someone who shares a child with someone other than the stepparent/current partner — and the old saying about what happens when you assume is true. Healthy relationships emerge when partners ask instead of assuming. They gain insight into who they are, what makes them tick, and what is important to them.” — Kristen, Stepparent Coach, Texas
17. Accept What You Can’t Change
“I help couples get their house in order through decluttering and organization. Throughout this process, I’ve come to learn a lot about human nature and different styles of living. Thriving couples spend quality time together envisioning their ideal space, and having conversations with each other about what’s important in their home. What’s the level of cleanliness and organization they hope to maintain? What makes them each happy? Similarly, what triggers them? It may seem like a silly exercise, but without doing it, our partners may never know our preferences until things aren’t the way they like them to be, and then we lash out. You can’t expect your partner to maintain the same level of organization or cleanliness you have. Instead, focus on what you can change and allow their drawers, cupboards, or half of the closet to be their problem. Your positive example might just rub off on them.” — Sarah, Professional Organizer, California
18. Laugh Together Often
“My favorite couples are the ones who come up to my register laughing with each other. You can always tell when they walk around the store that they just enjoy being together. I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen two couples cracking up at each other near where I’m working, only to have them lean in and say, ‘Sorry, inside joke.’ I’m not married, but those types of moments give me hope for that silliness and humor with a partner in the future. Those couples are in their own worlds together, and they just seem to be having the best time with each other.” — Ramy, Retail Worker, Michigan
19. Always Remember to Respect One Another
“My favorite patient base has always been families. Throughout the years, the one constant dynamic I have noticed with seemingly happy and cohesive couples is their ability to communicate effectively with each other on a level playing field. They consistently show mutual respect toward each other, and they genuinely like each other. I’ve also seen couples who seem to just put up with one another, but don’t enjoy each other’s company. After more than 20 years seeing patients, the best advice that I can give is that there will always be ups and downs, but respecting each other, liking each other, and communicating effectively will make your marriage’s chance for survival limitless.” — Dr. Poulain, Chiropractor, Ohio
20. Cultivate A Spiritual Habit
“I have seen couples on the brink of divorce. Helping them return to their faith almost always leads to a change of heart. There’s a softening that leads to apologies, lasting change, and restoration. My advice is to cultivate spiritual habits in an effort to fortify the marriage bond. There’s a saying that a couple who prays together stays together. Prayer is very intimate. Two people open up their souls and pour out their hearts. This shared commitment to worship together can help struggling couples set a family rhythm and bring meaning through spiritual growth. Also, raising kids with a foundation of knowing that they are deeply loved is a shared purpose and very rewarding. Having a similar worldview promotes consistency and alignment with meaningful decisions that can help couples thrive.” — Jesse, Pastor, Washington
21. Accept Your Partner’s Help
“I’ve seen senior couples struggle because one spouse won’t accept the help of the other, even when they obviously need it. There’s something about aging that makes people strive to be independent. But marriage is about learning to live in unison with someone else. For spouses who consider acts of service as their love language, rejecting their help can be a blow to your relationship. Embrace the fact that you have someone to support you. There will be times when you don’t really need their assistance, and you might not always understand why it’s such a big deal to them to help. But consider this: including your spouse in even the most mundane tasks might make them feel more engaged or connected to you. Give them the opportunity to feel needed or dependable every once in a while because it may just be what you need to strengthen your bond.” — Stephan, Senior Living Expert, Georgia
22. When The Going Gets Tough, Communicate.
“There are many factors that are present when law enforcement intervention is required in a home. In almost all of these situations, though, a lack of communication is usually the main problem. Many times officers act as mediators between spouses. These are situations where emotions are running high, and the communication skills that might have been present for the couple have gone completely out of the window. Typically, it’s just that one person wants to be heard and isn’t able to communicate their wants and needs while removing the emotional undertones. With that emotion comes resistance to listening and understanding. In every conflict — verbal, emotional, and even physical — poor communication is always the starting point. Couples who can communicate during these times of heightened emotion are doing pretty well.” — Eric, Police Chief, Ohio
23. Always Show Empathy (Even If It Means Getting Uncomfortable)
“Dealing with parents is a huge part of my job as a special education teacher. And the families that always make my job easy are the ones who show empathy. Toward each other, toward us teachers and, most importantly, toward their children. There’s a big difference between kindness and empathy. Kindness can be shown without thinking. But empathy requires thought, which can be uncomfortable. The couples I’ve seen aren’t afraid of that discomfort. They don’t love it, but they face it knowing that they’ll get through it. It’s a unique combination of hope and understanding that strengthens their partnerships and their families. And it’s something that all teachers love to see.” — M.J., Intervention Specialist, Connecticut
24. Give Each Other Space to Be Yourselves
“I love the couples who come in for advice designing their own spaces. Whether it’s a man cave or a reading room, the couples who come in with these ideas are so relaxed and supportive of each other. They want each other to be happy. They’re practical about their choices, but they realize that they need their own spaces in order to be the best versions of themselves. The vibe I get is that they love spending time together, but aren’t afraid to admit that it can be suffocating. Believe it or not, that’s a rare thing. So many couples just seem to feel like they have to do everything together, and lose their individuality in the process. You can’t be a good partner if you can’t be yourself. I think any healthy couple embraces and encourages that idea.” — Rick, Interior Decorator, New York
25. Always Try New Things
“Where I work, I see regular couples every week. And I’ve been there long enough to see formerly regular couples break up and move on, which is sad. One thing I’ve noticed about the couples who keep coming is that they’re always eager to try new foods. We have a revolving menu, in addition to our staples, and the couples who come in excited to see what’s new are always so energized and fun. They order, they eat, they talk about the food, and they leave having shared an experience rather than just a meal. I think that’s what keeps them coming back.” — Kate, Server, North Carolina
26. Touch Often
“I have 25 years of experience working with couples in the art of massage, and it’s taught me that even the simplest touch is a great way to communicate affection and support. Partners should never underestimate the magic of a loving embrace, touch, or caress. Without words, and without sexual motivation, I’ve learned that couples who explore these new avenues experience joy, healing, ease, and deeper bonding in their relationships.” — Jazmin, Couples Massage Therapist, Florida