10 tips to a happy marriage

happy marriageMy husband and I have been married for 20 years. We dated for 5 years.That means we have been together for 25 years. I have to say it just astounds me that we have been together that long. I don’t feel like I should be 25 years old, let alone be in a relationship for that many years.

What does it take to make a marriage last? I can honestly say that I haven’t really given it that much thought. In the United States, couples marrying for the first time have approximately a 50% chance of divorcing. What are the other 50% doing that makes them stick it out?

Here are some tips to creating a happy marriage:

Plan for the long haul
When my husband and I got married, we both knew it was forever. We talked about the fact that divorce would never be an option. I think once you take that choice off the table, it’s much easier to plan for the long haul. I have friends who threaten divorce on a regular basis. I always think: Be careful what you wish for. A happy marriage is a committed marriage. Each party knows that the only option is to create a long, memorable life together.

Be best friends
While I believe it was love at first sight for my husband and me, I also feel that we are best friends. We trust each other. We are willing to do dumb and embarrassing stuff in front of each other. We have each other’s backs. When you’re best friends, you truly enjoying spending time together. You have a shared history and inside jokes. You can communicate without talking. You may even annoy the people around you (which is part of the fun). You may also annoy each other from time to time, but underneath it all you still value and respect your spouse.

Keep the spark alive
In any good relationship, sex is more than just a physical act. It’s a vital part of the health and emotional well-being of a marriage. It’s a connection that only the two of you share. Obviously, over the years, your sexual relationship will evolve. The sparks may fly when you first meet, but when you add jobs, a mortgage, kids, sleep deprivation, and a few decades, it can be harder to keep the romance burning. You have to discover ways to fan the flames and nurture your relationship with each other.

Share a dream
To be happy, you and your spouse need to create shared dreams. You should have the same vision. For instance, it may be buying a house, taking a certain vacation or starting a family. Obviously, the shared dream will change and evolve over time as your current dream is realized. You can also have separate dreams. For instance, one partner may want to switch jobs or go back to school. It’s important for couples to be supportive of each other’s dreams as well.

Accept your differences
Even the most in tune couples have differences. That’s what makes us individuals, and frankly, more interesting. My husband is Catholic, and I grew up Methodist. I am about as liberal as you can get, and he is conservative. He goes hunting, and I can’t squish a spider because I worry that its spider babies will be orphans. I love shoes, and he loves power tools. (It works out – he can build shelves for my shoes.) We have learned to accept that we are different. In fact, I think the differences are what makes us more compatible. And it definitely keeps things exciting.

Put each other first
Your spouse comes before your parents, your friends or your siblings. When you are first married, it’s easy to go crying to Mom or Dad when things get tough. However, it’s important to talk to your spouse when you have problems, rather than talking about them to your family or friends. My husband and I moved 250 miles away from home right after we got married. I actually think it was good for our marriage because we didn’t have friends or family nearby. We had to face the good and the bad together.

At the same time, you should stay connected to your parents. In recent years, my husband and I have moved back home and live within a few miles of our families. I talk on the phone with my mom every few days. My husband helps his dad with household repairs. We are close to our families, but we also maintain our own relationship.

Fight fair
There’s fighting that means having a heated discussion or bickering about trivial things. And then there is fighting as in screaming, yelling and throwing things. My husband and I both grew up in households where our parents discussed issues, argued their points of view and then came to a compromise. We argued more when we were first married, but now we rarely have serious disagreements. We have learned it’s less stressful and less time consuming if we just work it out.

Happy couples learn how to fight fair. They learn how to talk things over constructively. You listen to each other and don’t try to find a solution until both sides have had their say. You may need to table the discussion so each person can think about it. There is no blame. No one is called names or belittled. It’s not a power struggle. It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about what is best for you as a family. You give and you compromise.

Find balance
My husband and I have learned that we can’t spend every waking moment together. We get on each other’s nerves. We enjoy spending time together, but we also like to be away from each other. There should be a healthy balance of family time, spouse time and alone time. You may think you’re spending time with your spouse, but it may actually be time with your kids or other family members. You and your spouse should find time to have a conversation that doesn’t involve kids, work or household chores. Happy couples find the time to strengthen their connection. And they do things on their own that make them happy, too.

Face it together
At some point, your relationship will be tested. There may be a serious illness, job loss or a death in the family. The tough times will put the biggest strain on your relationship. The stress can pull a couple apart. But, if you stick together when things get rough, you will come out on the other side with a stronger marriage than ever.

Laugh about it
Laughter is the best medicine. It’s good to laugh together or at your current situation. Humor can help diffuse an argument or lighten the mood. Good marriages keep the humor alive. My husband can even make me laugh while I’m in the middle of a teary breakdown. He knows when I need to take myself less seriously. That is true love.

And, don’t forget, being married might help you live longer, so that’s another reason to stick with it. How long have you been married? Do you have tips to creating a happy marriage?

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