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What Keeps a Marriage Together

4 Fail-Safe Secrets to a Long and Happy Romance

If you Google “rules for a successful marriage,” tread with caution.

Some of the advice tidbits out there are just silly, others downright dangerous.

You’ll come across things like a wife suggesting, “Whenever we’re working on something, we make it a point to ask the other person ‘Can I help?’”

Screeeeech.

If you’ve tried this one out, you may have noticed scratches in the romantic record you were hoping to play.

Being “helpful” is actually one of the biggest mistakes wives make. Most are as clueless as I was that “helpful” in wife language means “controlling” in husband language. Then she’s baffled as to why he’s inexplicably annoyed when she’s trying to be such a helpful, good wife!

Instituting a date night is another horrible idea if what you want is for him to actually want to spend time with you.

Ditto with going to marriage counseling, which is all too often the death knell of an already fading marriage.

These recommendations are from seemingly reputable sources. I know! I was surprised too.

In my quest to fix my failing marriage, I tried all the conventional “wisdom” out there. It only drove my husband farther away, leaving me feeling even lonelier and more dejected.

If you’re ready for marriage tips from the trenches that actually work, you’re in the right place!

These are the secrets not only to keep a marriage alive after 20 years or more but also to keep your relationship spicy. For lasting peace and passion, ditch the old rulebook and try these 4 simple methods I use every day.

1) Be a Free Spirit

connection in marriage

Forget for a minute about making your man happy. What makes you happy?

Writing, gardening, meditation–how can you express yourself creatively and spiritually to bring back the vibrant woman who attracted him in the first place?

One mom takes a solo mini-vacation and checks herself into a hotel for the weekend on a regular basis. She comes back refreshed and magnetic to her husband!

Another woman takes a two-hour break every afternoon, when the kids know not to disturb mama. Somehow the mess and her husband’s shortcomings don’t bother her so much anymore.

Self-care is not just a solo event, of course. Social self-care is crucial to a happy marriage.

Turning my one-and-only into my end-all be-all is just too much pressure on one person.

As you’ve probably heard, studies show that women use a lot more words than men. It makes sense I’d need more listeners. And the more connected I am with everyone I love besides my husband, the more easily love seems to flow between him and me.

As much as I know he loves me, my husband doesn’t alway hang breathlessly on every last detail about my day. Sometimes he’s just trying to decompress from his day by staring at his phone. Which is why I’m grateful to have besties I can chat and gossip with, too.

2) Have Deep Conversations

husband won't talk to me

Not to say that my husband and I don’t have deep conversations. We do!

This is where all those words we have stored up as women should come in handy, right?

Well, not so much.

If deep conversations have become a thing of the past in your relationship, chances are all those words have actually gotten in the way. They sure did for me.

Asking how he’s feeling, for example, is anathema to male culture. Trying to get him to tell you why he’s being so quiet is controlling and even disrespectful, as is trying to fix it if he were to tell you.

And disrespect has a way of pushing away the long talks you were hoping to have.

The problem, at least for me, is that I thought I was being a respectful wife. I had no idea all the forms disrespect could take. I had no idea why my husband didn’t want to spend time with me or make love to me anymore.

Fortunately, I was baffled and desperate enough to try a new tack. I started talking less and listening more–a lot more.

Three little words that helped me immensely were “I hear you.”

It was not easy!

I had to bite my tongue because I was itching to give advice or make a “helpful” suggestion.

Instead, I stuck with saying “I hear you”–not agreeing or disagreeing, just listening.

The results were mindblowing.

My husband started opening up to me a lot more. Soon enough, we were having those long talks I’d been craving. And he was scooching up to me on the sofa (and in bed too).

Turns out, less is more when communicating with men. More on this in “4 Ways to Have Deep Conversations with Your Man.”

3) Keep the Spark Alive

build romance

Even if you never had the spark of early love in your relationship, this tip is just as critical. If you did have it, I’m sure you remember the butterflies and googly eyes.

It’s no wonder then that the newlywed go-to Brides.com got this one right: To keep the spark alive, keep dating!

Now, I am not talking about instituting a date night, which is actually one of 3 Common Relationship Tips that will Destroy Your Marriage. Nothing more exciting than adding that to your husband’s to-do list:

  • Clean the garage
  • Scrub the toilets
  • Go out with the wife

Kissing, snuggling, hand-holding, and making out all helped build the romance. It’s time to bring them back! Yes, even if you’ve been married for 20 years.

Maybe you’ve already been trying to do this but not getting anywhere. A woman’s desire for romance can be a hotbed of control. You may have noticed that trying to make your man do something is the last way to get him to do it. (How long has that dead lightbulb been on your honey-do list?)

So I’m not suggesting telling him “Let’s take a bath together” or asking him “Do you want to watch a movie tonight” or even saying “We should get away for the weekend.”

Instead, say what you want without necessarily including him at all, like “I’d love to watch an episode of Sex Life,” with no expectations attached.

Note that you’re not trying to get him to do anything. If he’s not feeling it, you can still honor that desire and watch it yourself.

There’s something very sexy about a woman who knows what she wants (and doesn’t make a pouty face when her husband doesn’t want the same thing–another control alert!).

Soon enough, he will be feeling it. Don’t be surprised when he climbs into the tub with you or joins you for that steamy show…then gets steamy himself.

4) Use These Magic Words

expressing gratitude husband

When was the last time you said or heard, “I’m blessed to have you in my life”? After years of marriage, this can become a forgotten sentiment. If you’ve been taking your man for granted, watch him light up when you say these words.

A little gratitude goes a long way. Imagine if you started saying things like:

“Thank you for working so hard for our family.”

“Thank you for installing that security cam. You make me feel so safe.”

“Thank you for bringing me coffee this morning–you are so thoughtful!”

…All in one day!

That’s right–students around here list everything they’re grateful for about their husband and express at least three gratitudes to him every day with the magic words “Thank you.”

And somehow the list keeps getting longer and longer.

Gratitude is the most powerful Intimacy Skill™ of all because it does double duty. What you focus on increases, so it changes your perspective and also changes the way people respond to you.

That’s what happened with Isabella. She was not enthusiastic when I suggested that she express gratitude to her fiancé at least three times each day. She said, “I do all the cooking and all the laundry, and he never thanks me for that, so why should I thank him?”

The point of this exercise is to remind yourself just how fortunate you are. If you have a good man who works hard, runs to the store when you’re out of milk and wears snore strips so he doesn’t keep you awake at night, then you have plenty to be grateful for.

Expressing gratitude means letting your man know that you appreciate him. Thank him for doing his job, even if it’s not exactly what you had in mind.

Isabella finally agreed to do this, and halfway through the week her fiancé completely surprised her by saying, “You’ve really taught me that we need to appreciate each other more, and I wanted to thank you for making dinner tonight.”

Whaaaat?!

Instead of focusing on how her fiancé didn’t appreciate her, which she couldn’t do anything about, Isabella looked at her own actions. When she became willing to change her behavior, she brought the entire relationship to higher ground.

Becoming her best self also helped her realize that she did appreciate her man.

What are your successful marriage tips, and which new ones here will you try today?


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