What makes a good, happy marriage? Is it love? Dedication?
It's a question we're constantly asking, and yet no two people will give you the same answer. And with the divorce rates debate, the question only gets more puzzling.
Whether you're a newlywed or you've been married for years, everyone could use a bit of advice on keeping things fresh. It's so important to build a strong marriage, but where do you begin?
We bring 7 Tips for a Happy Marriage:
1. Practice Active Listening
Everyone wants to feel heard. How many times have you had a conversation where your mind just drifted away? Or you're in an argument and before your spouse is even finishing their thought you're crafting a rebuttal?
We're all guilty of it. The trick is to practice what's known as active listening. Active listening is one of the best communication tools to have in your marriage toolbox.
With active listening, you're not only listening to your spouse, you're hearing what they're really saying. You're focusing on the intention and inflection as much as the words themselves.
Here's the trick: Listening is a skill.
That means that in order to become a better listener, you'll have to practice. While it may sound silly, it makes a lot of sense when you stop to think about it.
To practice this skill, concentrate on at least one aspect of conversation with your partner each day (and preferably something boring or an issue you may not be particularly interested in to really develop this ability). And then make a relevant comment back to show you were an active participant.
You may even shock your spouse in the process and make them feel extra special for a moment that you truly took an interest.
2. Pick Your Battles
It doesn't matter how long you've been together, there's likely one thing that your spouse does that annoys the heck out of you. And chances are they feel the same way about some of your habits.
But before you blow up at him or her about not putting those dishes away (again), take a moment to calm down. It's important to understand when and how to pick your battles.
Next time you're about to get mad, ask yourself, is it really worth fighting for?
Sometimes the answer might be yes. In more extreme cases, it's understandable to be upset with your spouse. But for the smaller things, try and keep a sense of understanding.
Only argue when it's absolutely necessary. Learning to let go is a surefire way to a better marriage and a more relaxed you.
And here is another tip on this one - when you ask yourself, is it really worth fighting for, follow up with the question to yourself, is there something really important I need, or have been waiting to address with my partner? If yes, let this current issue go and bide your time until the moment is right to bring up something you have been waiting for.
3. It's Okay to Have Separate Interests
There are going to be nights where you're both actively engaged in the same activity.
And then there will be nights where you're each sitting on separate ends of the couch. He's watching TV or playing video games and you're reading a book or messing around on your tablet.
This may sound boring, or like a recipe for disaster, but it's actually quite healthy. Couples who foster each other's different interests are ultimately much happier.
So whether your spouse wants to go out and you want to stay in or vice versa, it's all okay. You're both right and you both deserve to do what you want to do.
Sometimes just being physically in the same place is enough for a cosy evening. And in fact, it is really special that the two of you can hang out comfortably with each other in silence as you each focus on your own thing.
As they say, opposites attract.
4. Remember Why You Fell in Love
Relationships may be complicated, but there's one thread that runs through each and every one: Love.
This isn't always so easy, especially if your marriage is going through a rough patch. But always try and remember what brought you two together in the first place.
It's important to keep those memories alive. Keep a photo album or make a joint diary. Within it, store your favourite photos or memories and keep the book in a safe place.
That way, when things get tough, you'll have the comfort of your old memories to help you through the moment.
Try and remember what it was that drew you to your spouse. Most of those same traits are likely still present!
5. Show Your Appreciation
Life gets stressful, even if you've got a great marriage. Between kids, work, and social engagements, there isn't a whole lot of time for you and your spouse.
Accordingly, you'll need to make the little moments count. Take some time out of your day to really show how much you appreciate him or her.
Never forget how important the words 'thank you' can be and how much they can mean to someone.
And if you want to go above and beyond, think of other ways to show your appreciation for your spouse. Cook a romantic meal or complete a menial chore so they don't have to.
Your spouse will love this and the appreciation will likely be reciprocated.
6. Understand That Marriage Isn't Always Easy
This is a big one, so we'll say it again: Marriage isn't always easy. In fact, marital conflicts have increasing day by day. This may not sound like great marriage guidance, but stick with us.
If you love something, it's important to fight for it. There are going to be times when you're both exhausted and angry with each other. And then there will be times when you're blissfully in love and can't imagine your life without them.
This is all normal and perfectly acceptable. If you're going through a rough patch, don't beat yourself up over it. There's considerable ebb and flow with every single relationship.
7. Stay Romantic
Here's the marriage guidance bow that ties everything together: Stay romantic.
Plan a romantic getaway for just the two of you. Dress up in a fancy or sexy outfit. Or just surprise your spouse in some way.
Think back to when your relationship was first starting out. You likely went all out and did everything you could to impress him or her. You may have bought them flowers or snagged a unique anniversary gift for them.
Why let the fun stop?
It's easy to get into a familiar routine now that you're married. But don't forget that your relationship matters. Stay romantic and keep your partner head over heels.
Authored by Dr Carissa Coulston is a clinical psychologist