What is the No. 1 ingredient for a successful marriage?

By Liz Paul, Psychotherapist & Counsellor

What makes a successful partnership?

Sure, you need love, passion, chemistry, mutual respect and a genuine commitment to the marriage from both people.  They are all important.

But when I am asked by clients what is the one crucial ingredient, the one thing that keeps the marriage alive even when other ingredients are flagging, I say it is that you need to be best friends.

Let me unpack what I mean by ‘best friends’:

  • Paying attention to your partner

Best friends are interested in what the other person is saying.  Because they are interested.  This means you really listen to your partner so you really understand what they are saying.  You are ‘present’ so they can see you are taking them seriously.  You push your own problems to one side so you can fully focus on what your partner is saying.  You ask questions to check you are understanding them correctly.  And you do not allow yourself to be distracted while they are talking (for example, by looking at your watch, TV or mobile).

  • Spending free time together

Best friends do things together because they have common interests and enjoy doing them together – like sport, the arts, restaurants, travel, cooking and so on.  This gives the couple shared experiences, the opportunity to laugh together, things to talk about and, usually, it promotes an extra level of closeness.

  • Sharing your thoughts and feelings

Best friends are emotionally available to each other… because they trust each other.  They share with their partner intimate details of their lives, their hopes and dreams.  Doing this shows your partner that you absolutely trust them to accept who you are, and that they won’t ridicule your vulnerability.  Instead, they will treasure it.

  • Being Supportive

Best friends are there for each other in good times and bad. Because they care.  And they are supportive for their partner in the way their partner needs them to be.  So if they just need to be held or listened to, that’s what you do.  If they need you to just agree with them (e.g. if they have had an argument with someone at work), that’s what you do.  If they want advice, that’s what you do.  If they need you to do something, that’s what you do.  There is plenty of time later on, if necessary, to let them know you think they could have handled a particular situation in a different way.  Just don’t be tempted to rush in with your (unsolicited) advice.


What are the issues for which most people seek assistance?

  • Relationship break-ups
  • Constantly fighting with your partner
  • Loss of intimacy with your partner
  • Communication problems with your partner or child
  • Difficulty parenting toddlers or teens
  • Pre-marriage counselling
  • A child misbehaving
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Family counselling
  • Wanting to separate from their partner amicably
  • Helping the children cope after a relationship break-up
  • Trouble staying in relationships
  • HSC stress for students and their families
  • Relationship commitment issues
  • Problems at work
  • Couple counselling
  • Difficulties with step-children
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Problems with in-laws
  • Substance addiction
  • Facing major life changes
  • Making new life choices
  • Relationship counselling