If you thought that people were driving you crazy with their well-intended (but likely unsolicited) advice during the wedding planning process, just wait until they start offering their opinions about your marriage. When it comes to the best ways to forge a successful, lasting relationship, it seems everyone has a secret to success to share — and while we certainly want all the help we can get in order to avoid being one of the many adults who divorce, the seemingly endless stream of tips and tricks can often feel overwhelming. Plus, as amazing as your friends and family are (and we’re sure they are), they aren’t professionals! To help you keep your eye on that wedded-bliss prize, we’ve sought out expert advice on how to keep your marriage happy and healthy. Keep reading to learn the details behind these seven proven suggestions.
1. Keep dating. Just because you’ve put a ring on it doesn’t mean that you should give up dating forever… as long as it happens with your spouse! David Ezell, CEO and Clinical Director of counseling and mental wellness group Darien Wellness, urges marrieds to keep that spark alive with regular, intentional quality time. “When couples come to my clinic for help, I always ask when is the last time they had a date,” Ezell reveals. “Dates aren’t with other couples and dates are never with kids in tow.” Research shows that making a routine of focused, one-on-one time is the best way to sustain the kind of connection that is bound to keep a marriage going strong.
2. Set shared goals. Signing up to run a race together or committing to a collective monthly saving plan that will allow you to take the vacation you’ve been dreaming of is a great way to strengthen your relationship with your partner. In particular, certified counselor Jonathan Bennett cites an academic study that demonstrates the romantic benefits of training for endurance events (e.g., a marathon, triathlon, or bike race) with a loved one. “Shared goals that a couple can work toward help give a relationship greater purpose,” Bennett notes. “Also, the time spent achieving those goals helps the couple strengthen their bond.”
3. Practice daily acts of kindness. “Past studies have shown that people who take the time to consistently give and support someone actually care for this person more,” shares Steve McGough, director of research and development at Women & Couples Wellness. Make it your personal mission to do something special or unexpected for your spouse every day (or at least almost every day). Establishing a kindness habit will make you fall in love with your S.O. even more — and we bet you didn’t even think that was possible, right?
4. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Maybe keeping a gratitude journal isn’t quite your thing, but expressing your appreciation to your partner on a regular basis is key to the success of your marriage. Reminding your spouse of how happy they make you will keep them engaged in your relationship (and, naturally, they should do the same for you!). “The reason why most of us get into relationships is because we want to make someone happy,” reminds Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in all things love. “When we feel that our partner is unhappy, we start feeling helpless and give up on trying to please them. We naturally turn away from nurturing our relationships.” Work gratitude into your daily routine by setting aside a time every morning or evening to trade words of appreciation. A simple “you really made me laugh today” or “I appreciated your help with the dishes” really goes a long way.
5. Map your spouse’s day. Have you ever caught yourself wondering what your significant other is doing at any given moment? Well, wonder no more! Dr. James Córdova — who researches and writes about relationships and serves as a professor of psychology at Clark University — urges couples to check in at the beginning of each day and to establish a “love map” for the other person. Keep that schedule in mind and check in with your partner regularly, wishing them luck in big meetings or asking specific questions about their travels. “This will help you stay connected and let your partner know that you are thinking of them and holding them in your heart throughout the day,” Dr. Córdova encourages.
6. Choose your battles wisely. “Decide carefully what issues you will get into and what you will let go of,” recommends licensed counselor Julienne Derichs. “Arguing about everything leads to a conflict-filled relationship. Never arguing leads to built-up resentments and a lack of the learned skills needed to manage conflicts.” If you can live with the mess your partner leaves in the sink or overlook their annoying texting habits, then commit to biting your tongue about those issues. Save up your frustrations for some fair fighting around a bigger problem later on. Who wants to be constantly engaged in conflict?
7. Get out of town. While kids and jobs can easily make regular couple’s trips a challenge, it’s important to make vacations — even short or inexpensive ones — a priority. Relationship and etiquette expert April Masini encourages spouses to set aside this quality time at least once a year, if possible. “It’s easy to get washed away in the other pulls of life,” she explains. “When you plan a vacation together, take it together, and remember it afterward together, you’re building strength in your marriage.”
What are your other tips for a successful marriage? Tweet us @BritandCo!
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