Every relationship is unique, but there are some challenges that crop up in couples no matter the circumstances. Therapists, psychologists, relationship experts, and others who have seen and heard it all gave these 16 tips for keeping things happy and healthy through the years – so why not benefit from the wisdom of their experience?
Marriage is no joke, but there’s something to be said for spending your life alongside someone else, right?
16. Pick a safe word for outside of the bedroom and use it during arguments that are spinning out of control.
“No questions, we have to stop — or leave.”
15. It’s okay to leave the kids at home.
“Too many parents buy into the idea that children have to be involved in every activity open to them or they show interest in. This can be costly in terms of time and money. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to some things. It’s okay for your children to be disappointed sometimes. It prepares them for the real world.” – Leslie Doares, couples counselor
14. Get on the same page, and stay there.
“In my experience, the most important thing parents should do to maintain a happy marriage while raising children is to schedule regular time to discuss issues, practicing effective communication techniques. Of course parents need to work out logistics of who’s going to pick up whom when, but they also need time to discuss the bigger issues that can tear a couple apart like ‘What constitutes a discipline problem and how should discipline problems be dealt with?’ or ‘What is the right balance between warmth and connection and maintaining high expectations?’” – Elisabeth Stitt, parenting coach
13. Let sleeping dogs lie.
“It doesn’t matter if you argue, because all couples do, it’s about coming back to the table afterwards and talking about what happened and owning your part. It’s important so issues don’t get stored away. It allows a couple to share deeply how they feel without being angry or frustrated during an argument.” – Melissa Davis Thompson, marriage and family therapist
12. Remember you’re in this together.
“When there is a foundation of caring and love, then you can trust at all times that you will get through whatever difficulties you are facing. Commitment means you can gently lay your head on your partner’s shoulder because you know he or she is there for you when you’re vulnerable or simply tired. It’s a basic shared intimacy, and a necessary ingredient to a healthy, happy marriage.” – Janet Zinn, couples therapist
11. Be respectful at all times.
It’s normal and expected and even healthy to fight, but make sure you’re attacking the issue at hand and not your partner.
10. Try not to be defensive.
“It’s a combination of defending yourself and poking holes in the other person’s perspective so that when you’re trying to communicate, you’re constantly in this defensive pattern. If you find yourself playing tennis, I always tell couples that’s the wrong game. You really want to be playing a catch because it’s a much slower game. You’re taking the ball and you’re trying to toss it so that your partner can easily receive it. They catch it. They look at the ball in their mitt and pick it up and toss it back to their partner. It’s a much more intentional form of communication in this game.” – Anthony Chambers Ph.D.
9. Make time for sex.
“Much like other self-care activities (e.g. going to the gym) if you don’t block time out in your schedule, it’s not going to happen. Couples tell me that when they schedule sex, they actually get a bit excited as they anticipate their alone time. They find themselves fantasizing about their partner and planning fun ways to pleasure each other. So in reality, it’s not as un-sexy as it sounds.” – Melody Li, couples counselor
8. Laugh together.
“The best thing parents can do to maintain a happy marriage is laugh together every day. I’ve worked with couples and families in all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, cultures, genders, and personalities. If parents can laugh together, even when they may want to cry of frustration, they can get through anything.” – Katie Ziskind, marriage and family therapist
7. Remember you’re on the same team.
“If you assume your partner is doing their best, it is less likely there will be blaming and disappointment. And there will be an active engagement to resolve issues as they arise since you know you both have each other’s best interests in mind.” – Janet Zinn
6. Roll with the punches.
“Unexpected events, expenses, and situations come up in relationships. If we are too rigid, we resist facing the unexpected. A couple’s ability to ‘go with the flow’ – especially when it’s dramatically different from what they expected – gives them the opportunity to learn new skills and, more importantly, get to know each other in ways they might never have known before.” – Janet Zinn
5. Never stonewall during an argument – it looks like you don’t care.
“The stonewaller is right to try to calm things down but the way he’s doing it is very destructive.” –Donald Cole, clinical director.
If you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed and need to shut down, communicate that fact before taking a short walk.
4. You have to talk about money.
“Otherwise I think you leave the window open for a lot of distrust to seep in, and that’s never good for any relationship, whether it’s triggered by finances or anything else.” – Jacquette Timmons, financial advisor.
3. Go on dates.
“It’s so important to have evenings where you don’t worry about diaper-changes, spilled popcorn, or public tantrums. Go have unencumbered fun.” – Andrea Amour, dating coach
2. Don’t stop trying – and don’t expect to be thrilled with your life all the time.
“Being happy comes with pressure. It makes it sound like it’s the partner’s job.” – Dr. Pat Love, relationship expert.
1. Never stop learning.
“If we are willing to learn from our mistakes as they relate to our partner’s needs and desires, we will thrive – personally, and in the relationship. The willingness to admit mistakes, and apologize sincerely, is an important key in creating a deeper bond with our partner.” – Janet Zinn
I know I’m going to take these to heart – on those bad days, they certainly couldn’t hurt!
Do you have a favorite piece of marriage advice? What is it? Where did it come from? Please share!