9 Rules for a Happy Marriage, According to Someone Who Studies Them

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Marriage is the ultimate team in life. We look everywhere to find that special someone and make a commitment to stay together for better or worse. But, as any married person knows, the “better” is the best, while the “worse” can be…well, the worst.

So, marriage isn’t always easy or fun. Yet, if you are with the right person, someone you love and who loves you, it is always worth fighting for. If only couples could be given some kind of marriage playbook.

For that, we can look to Carrie Cole, Master Trainer and director of Seattle’s Gottman Institute. Cole has made a career of researching the traits that make a long, happy marriage.  Studying thousands of couples, she has come up with these 9 rules for a successful marriage.

1. Stay positive.

No matter the circumstances, believe your partner has only your best interests at heart.

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2. Be a support system for each other.

Happy couples talk through their stress and problems. They listen to each other with judgement or comment.

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3. Learn from conflict.

Conflict in marriage is unavoidable. But happy couples use conflict to grow closer together by listening to and validating each other.

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4. Be grateful for what you have.

Even when money or time is scarce, happy couples make the most of what they do have and learn to appreciate the little things.

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5. Accept each others’ differences.

Differences make us who we are.

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6. Work through every crisis.

A crisis doesn’t have to end a marriage. Working through a problem means expressing feelings in a healthy way and validating each other.

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7. Don’t criticize.

Attacking your partner constantly is unnecessary and creates strife. Gently pointing out when your partner is acting in an  inconsiderate way works better.

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8. Don’t accuse.

Accusing your partner shows contempt and sets up future conflict. Remain positive and express your needs directly with statements like, “I need you to be fully honest with me,” instead of, “You are lying.”

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9. Stay engaged during an argument.

Couples together for the long haul avoid shutting down or giving silent treatments during arguments. They take breaks to calm down and then explain what is so upsetting.

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The most important takeaway from Cole’s list is that couples should make their marriage a priority. Taking steps to make each other feel loved and appreciated is key to a long and happy partnership.