6 Ways To Make Your Relationship Happier, Starting Today

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The honeymoon period in most marriages has a shelf life. But does that mean you can’t bring back those fluttery butterfly feelings of excitement and anticipation everyone experiences at the beginning of a relationship? Absolutely not. All relationships maneuver through rough patches. Some don’t survive long enough to come out the other side unscathed. But many do. Here are 11 ways to keep your marriage fresh.

1. Remind your partner (and yourself) that you appreciate them.

After you’ve been married for many, many years, that passionate kiss when your partner walks in the door can easily morph into a peck on the check that can then morph into an inability even to look up from your computer. Over the course of my 23-year marriage, there are times when I’ve felt my own husband and I were starting to become so familiar with each other that we were settling into a stultifying — albeit comfortable — routine. But there’s a real danger in that. Studies show that nearly half of men who have cheated say it was because of emotional dissatisfaction — and not sex. When men don’t feel connected or appreciated by their wives, they are vulnerable to the advances of any attractive woman who casts a lustful glance their way. And fellows, it works the other way as well.

2. Say thank you for the little things.

I’ve been guilty of keeping score, constantly calculating who had done what. “I cleaned out the kids’ closets, so you have to clean the basement.” “I moved for your job when we first got married, so now you need to move for mine.” “I initiated sex last time, so now it’s your turn.” But playing tit for tat is childish and will do nothing but chip away at the trust and connection you’ve built with your spouse. If you are so inclined, keep score of all the positive things your partner does in a day — and then thank them. Hopefully they’ll get the hint and do the same for you.

3. Practice honesty, even when you’re ashamed.

If you have maxed out a credit card or two and find yourself hiding the bills each month, you can bet it’s going to come back to bite you. Eventually, whether you’re applying for a home loan or simply talking about the costs of summer vacation, these kinds of money issues will either be brought to light by a credit report or by the simple fact you can’t afford a trip away. Although infidelity usually happens in bed, it also can happen with money. And it will be a tough road gaining back your spouse’s trust if you’ve lied about overspending.

Along that same vein, if you feel you aren’t connecting with your partner the way you used to, you need to say something — now. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. I once let communication issues fester for months on end, failing to verbalize my displeasure, and my husband and I wound up in marriage counseling for nearly a year. It took a third party — and a real investment on our part — to get us back on track. If I had not kept telling myself that things would get better on their own, we might not have reached what I call the danger zone.

With many years and a few kids under your belt, it’s easy to let your appearance slide. Think about when you first met your partner. Would you have walked around in stained sweatpants and without brushing your teeth? My guess is no. I’m not saying you have to look like Julianne Moore every time you settle in for a night of TV. But I’ve seen too many couples transform from Cliff and Clair Huxtable into Dan and Roseanne Connor — with disastrous repercussions.

Sometimes my husband will say “wow, you look nice” as I’m walking out the door for a girls’ night out. At least pay your spouse the same courtesy you do your friends by fixing yourself up for him or her every once in awhile.

5. Watch your words.

There are many things you should never say to a longtime spouse, the first being: “Don’t you think our new neighbor is attractive?” That’s a question you just think you want to know the answer to. It’s also never a good idea to start a sentence with: “You know it’s always been your problem that…” Who wants to hear that from their partner? We hopefully all have a pretty good sense of ourselves at this point and having someone you love point out a failing in this way does little to engender a loving relationship.

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“You always…” or “You never…” Think about it. Neither of these is true. If you start a sentence with these words your mate is certain to shut down or start a fight. Stop for a minute and think about what you really mean to say — and then say that instead.

6. Maintain intimacy and passion, both inside and outside the bedroom.

Intimacy isn’t just sex and passion isn’t just doing it on the kitchen counter. Bedroom habits age along with the marriage. There may be no stronger aphrodisiac than a moonlight walk on the beach that ends in a kiss. There may be no greater display of passion than the zeal of a partner in a hospital room trying to get the nurse’s attention for an ailing wife. Don’t let others define what is a “normal” or “healthy” amount of sex for your marriage. Know that things change, but that doesn’t make them less exciting or fun. And intimacy comes in many shapes, including conversation and cuddling.

Mature couple cuddling

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