For many married couples, falling in love and saying “I do” was the easy part. Living happily ever after is the part that takes a whole lot of work.
My family history doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to the vow “until death do us part.” My parents divorced when I was 18, and on my mom’s side alone, not one single marriage has lasted (keep in mind, she’s one of eight siblings). One might think this would make me a cynic when it comes to marriage — but for some unexplainable reason, that’s not the case. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I think you can fall in love with your best friend, grow old together, and even live happily ever after.
I sought out some honest advice from real people who might have insight as to what makes a marriage stand the distance. I reached out to all the married couples and divorcées I knew and asked them the burning question, “What’s the secret to making a marriage successful?” Read their words of wisdom below:
Share everything with each other. Most importantly, everything you are feeling. There is no way to be on common ground if you don’t communicate how you’re feeling.
Whatever bad stuff happens, remember this, too, will pass.Affection breeds more affection. Touch each other, kiss each other good morning, and have plenty of sex (even when you’re old!).
It’s too easy to get out of the habit, which makes you feel distant. Intimacy and physical affection really help keep you connected.
Children can be stressful, but they, too, will grow up.
Let the little things go and think big picture. Since you’re in it for the long haul, are you really going to care who did or didn’t run the dishwasher when you look back in 10 years? Remind yourself that your relationship is much, much bigger than any one minor incident.
Fill the fridge with his favorites — it’s easy to do, so just do it.
Take time for yourself to do what you love, what makes you happy and gives you energy — being successful as a couple will only work if each of you is strong and fulfilled as an individual.
Avoid giving the silent treatment. Talk about things that bother you as soon as possible; don’t let your emotions build up, because you’ll likely explode.
Let go of hurts more easily, and try not to dwell on things that annoy you.
Don’t be afraid to compromise. It sounds like a bad word and like you are giving up on your “ideals,” but in reality it’s about the push and pull of a relationship. Try rating how much you want something on a scale from one to 10 and have your partner do the same. So if eating out is a five for you and staying in is a nine for him, then you should stay in that night.
Don’t take each other for granted. You have to work at it all the time.
Be spontaneous. Change things up every once in a while, whether that means a last-minute vacation or a card for no special occasion. Grand gifts and the smallest gestures can go a long way when you’re with someone for a very long time.
Be nice! This can be harder than it seems sometimes, but remember that you (hopefully) love the person more than anyone else on the planet and you chose to marry them, so treat them with kindness.
Be patient. You both might grow together at different times and in different ways, so you need to give and take to make it last forever.
Celebrate when good things happen, and be expressive about it.
Find new things, new hobbies to do together like road biking, a cooking class, or starting a garden. It’s just another reason to spend time together building your bond, and it keeps the excitement going.
Marry someone you like killing time with.
Tell them what you need. As much as you want them to, they can’t read minds. Tell them that you feel disconnected and that you want a day alone together or date night.
Speaking of date nights, go on them and have fun! It’s important to set time alone regardless of how busy either gets — especially when you have kids. Even if you’re overworked, overtired, or low on funds, it doesn’t take much time or money to reconnect. It can be as simple as going for a walk or cooking dinner together.
Make a budget together. It’s a great way to talk about your plans and dreams for the future and how to make them happen.
Surprise each other like you used to do when dating with special notes, small gifts, baking them a favorite recipe, or planning a weekend away. It lets the other person know you’re still in love with them, and it makes you feel the love, too.
On the other end, when your spouse does do something special for you, show appreciation. They may know that you think all those positive things, but it’s nice to hear them out loud.
Build your partner up and support them to be all they can or want to be.
Take time to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes before judging. You want to avoid unnecessary criticism or negativity as much as you can.Make each other laugh. Try not to take everything so seriously.
Communication is key. When your marriage hits certain speed bumps, remind yourself that when you come out on the other side, your relationship should be better and more evolved. Make sure the tough times lead to improvement, and if you keep making the same mistakes, reevaluate why.
Have couple friends but also your own friends who you hang out with on a regular basis, without your spouse.
Be more generous with time and money.
Be happy yourself. If you’re in a slump, there’s a tendency to take it out on your spouse or want them to fix it. You have to fix yourself.
Don’t get defensive. Try to come at things from a place of love and kindness, and don’t assume you’re being attacked.
Trust and be trustworthy.
Try to always remember why you fell in love with your partner. Whether it was their sense of humor or ambition — always remind yourself.Say “I love you,” and tell your partner they look attractive.
Appreciate what you have and realize that marriages at times can be fragile and need to be taken care of.
Enjoy the NOW. Add a house, kids, etc. to the plate, and things just keep getting more complicated. Whatever phase you’re in, embrace it and enjoy it.