If you want your marriage to make it, then you need to devote time, effort, and energy to your spouse, no matter how new or old your partnership is. Even stable marriages require regular maintenance and management. To help you keep your promise to live happily ever after, we talked to therapists, relationship experts, marriage counselors, and consulted tons of research to gather the best pieces of marriage advice we could find. With these marriage tips, you will be setting yourself up for a happy and healthy relationship for years to come.

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Don’t forget to give your spouse a hug and a kiss before you leave for work. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds and can make a big difference in your relationship. “Affection keeps the juices flowing and the romance alive,” explains psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, PhD, author of How to Be Happy Partners.

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When your spouse confides in you, that’s not something to take lightly. And even if the secret they shared with you seems small and trivial, it’s not something you should tell friends and family members—no matter what.

“What may seem insignificant, trivial, or cute to you may be serious to your partner,” Tessina says. “Recognize what is important to your partner and don’t discuss it with your friends or family.”

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Everyone gets annoyed with their significant other sometimes, and that’s fine. However, a good spouse never, ever airs their grievances publicly.

“Even when it sounds like a joke, our partners are hurt, embarrassed, and shamed when we discuss private matters with family or friends,” says dating and relationship coach Rosalind Sedacca. “As tempting as it may be to bring up those incidents with others, resist. It’s disrespectful and won’t lead to a positive resolution.”

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Nobody enjoys hearing about the things they’re doing wrong, even when it’s necessary. That’s why Sedacca says that “when you need to express criticisms or frustrations with your partner, start with a compliment first. It’s also smart to end with a reminder of something else you like about them.” Doing so, she says, “puts the negative statements in perspective”

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Even in tense situations, sometimes all you need is a moment of levity to change the tone of the conversation. “If something frustrating is happening, try easing the tension with a bit of humor,” suggests Tessina. “Don’t poke fun at your mate, but use shared humor as a way to say, ‘I know this is tough, but we’ll get through it.’ Your partner will think of you as someone soothing and helpful to have around when problems happen.”

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Make sure that it’s not just you or just your spouse who is taking care of your household. One 2013 study published in the Journal of Family Issues found that couples were happier when they shared household and child-rearing duties.

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No relationship is perfect and there will always be minor things your spouse does that irk you, but that doesn’t mean they warrant a serious discussion. “You can let his/her bad habits bother you to distraction—or you can accept them and work around them,” Tessina says. “Does she leave the cap off the toothpaste? Buy separate tubes. Does he leave clothes laying around? Ignore them, or pick them up, remembering just how much he does for you in other ways.”

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It’s natural to get angry sometimes. But having a discussion with your spouse, instead of an argument, is healthier in the long run. A 2012 UCLA study found that those who argued angrily were more likely to be divorced 10 years later than those who hashed things out conflict civilly.

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So, how do you avoid things escalating to the point of fighting angrily? When you and your spouse are frustrated, “take a few minutes to walk around the block, lay down, [or] just get away from each other so you can regroup,” says Tessina. “A short break will allow you both to stay on track and discuss what’s bothering you instead of accidentally making personal insults that you will regret later.”

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Conflict isn’t the only thing that can make your marriage turn sour. According to a 2009 University of Michigan study, boredom is a serious issue for married couples, too. So you should do your best to pepper your routine with some moments of unpredictability. Go on surprise day trips; take a class or do an activity together; plan a vacation abroad—whatever you do, just make sure things remain exciting, a throwback to the beginning of your relationship.

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“Never stop dating,” says certified emotional intelligence coach Bradley K. Ward, PCC. He notes that you can easily keep your relationship as fun and as loving as it was at the start simply by treating it exactly like you did then.

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When you have kids, it can be nearly impossible to find alone time. So, when you do make it out, use the “BEWIK” rule to establish topics that are off-limits: bills, exes, work, in-laws, and kids. “This helps couples remember why they fell in love in the first place,” says Michael Bloomberg, whose program, Date-night-ology, is designed to help couples reconnect.

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During date night, make an effort to keep your cell phone in your pocket. “Give your date the priority of your time and your full attention they—and your relationship—deserve,” says Los Angeles-based licensed marriage and family therapist David Strah. If you have kids, he suggests giving the babysitter a special ringtone in case of an emergency.

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“Make an effort for your partner [on date night],” suggests Strah. “Wear something that shows you care about how you look. Dress as if you are trying to catch their eye and reel them in again.” A little effort goes a long way in rekindling that spark!

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Your spouse should always be your first priority—no matter what. Strah notes that you can show them that they are No. 1 by “being extra nurturing or by doing things you might not want to do—within healthy boundaries.”

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The average couple waits six years after having a relationship problem to seek help, according to Bloomberg. Instead of letting things escalate, talk things out with your spouse and address the issue directly.

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There is a huge difference between supporting your spouse as they work on making healthy changes and asking them to be someone they’re not. “It’s not that your partner will never change. It’s that you cannot change your partner,” Karl Pillemer, PhD, head researcher behind the Cornell Marriage Advice Project, explains in his book 30 Lessons for Living.

“You may support your partner in an attempt to make a change, and you may change together. But what’s misguided is the idea that you can push your husband or wife to change in the direction you have chosen for him or her,” Pillemer writes. “People who finally accept their mate for who and what they are, rather than seeing them as a do-it-yourself project, find the experience liberating—and are much more likely to have happy and satisfying relationships for decades.”

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We’re schooled early on to think of friendship and romantic love as different. However, what makes friendships work are the same things that make a marriage work.

“We look forward to being with friends, we relish their company, we relax with them, we share common interests, and we talk openly,” Pillemer writes in his book. During his research for the Cornell Marriage Advice Project, one 87-year-old told him, “Think back to the playground when you were a child. Your spouse should be that other kid you would most like to play with!”

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The next time you want to make your spouse smile, remind them of a time when the two of you were happy as ever. “”Remember when…’ is a great beginning to a loving conversation. It creates so much good feeling to remember how you were when you were dating, when you got married, when you first bought your house, when you had your first child, etc.,” says Tessina. “Reminding yourselves of your solid history together is a way to increase your bond.”

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The way you feel about your spouse is bound to change over time as you both evolve as people. And if you want your marriage to last, you need to embrace this change rather than try to turn back time.

“Quality relationships include the understanding that the definition and conceptualization of love constantly changes,” explains clinical psychologist Stephanie J. Wong, PhD. “Many people associate love with the ‘butterflies’ that occur when first dating someone. As time goes on, you may still get butterflies, but it can also evolve to mutual respect, an advanced understanding of each other’s likes and dislikes, and appreciating a partner’s strengths.”

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“Never use the worn-out saying, ‘We are just growing apart,”” warns Stacey Greene, author of Stronger Than Broken: One Couple’s Decision to Move Through an Affair. “All of humankind is constantly growing, changing, and evolving. You can choose to grow together by changing, growing, and evolving as a couple.”

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People love to feel appreciated. And if you want to make your spouse feel extra special, an easy way to do so is with little love notes scattered around the house.

“Whether you write ‘I love you’ in a lipstick heart on the bathroom mirror, leave a bright pink Post-It note on their car window, or handwrite a real love letter that you cover in heart stickers and spray with perfume, it is nice for your partner to receive something sweet that they can keep as a memento,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA. “Give your partner something meaningful to keep when you are old and gray, and they’ll be happy to grow older with you!”

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Texting shouldn’t be the preferred method of communication in any relationship. However, when it comes to your marriage, it pays to send sweet nothings via SMS every now and again. In fact, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Couples & Relationship Therapy showed that texting affectionate messages was positively associated with relationship satisfaction.

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Mood swings and angry outbursts happen to the best of us. However, what differentiates a good spouse from a bad one is owning up to those not-so-great days and learning from them.

“If you have a bad day, don’t blame it on your partner, your boss, or traffic. Remember that your moods and feelings are your responsibility,” says Scott-Hudson. “In healthy marriages, each partner owns their own feelings, behaviors, and moods. They don’t blame anyone else for their own bad moods—they take ownership instead.”

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“One thing that can stop a fight in its tracks is to remember that you are on the same team,” says Scott-Hudson. “Don’t go for the low blow or say the inflammatory thing that will only further serve to upset and hurt your partner. You love them. You are a team. Act like it. Think, ‘What would resolve this as a win for both of us?””

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Your spouse fully expects any conversation they have with you, their partner, to be judgement-free. When your significant other comes to you for advice or even just for a venting session, it’s vital that you listen to them not just attentively, but also openly. “Communication involves being empathetic, nonjudgmental, and selfless when your partner needs your help,” says Tiffany C. Brown, PsyD, owner of mental health clinic Family First Counseling.

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If you want your marriage to last, then you need to learn how to apologize and actually mean it. “An apology signifies that you have insight into your behaviors and that you see your role in the situation,” says Brown. And make sure that it’s not always you or always your spouse having to say sorry. “If one partner is always the person apologizing, this is an imbalance in the relationship and will lead to problems in the marriage,” she explains.

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Marriage counselors are only there to help you and your relationship. So going to therapy hardly makes you a failure. In fact, one 2010 study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that marriage counseling can help even the most distressed of couples, so long as both you and your spouse are willing to change and improve.

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You and your spouse don’t have to have everything in common in order to make your marriage work. As your relationship progresses, though, Janet and Steven Hall, authors of 15 Rules for a Loving, Lasting, and Satisfying Relationship, suggest taking up new activities with your spouse so that the two of you have something to bond over.

“It’s those new interests and new experiences—discovered while on a vacation, for instance—that help to add a spark to a relationship,” they explain. “In those experiences, a couple may rediscover why they fell in love in the first place and, more importantly, learn how to have fun together.”

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If you want your marriage to be successful, you have to understand the need for time apart. According to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, having hobbies and friends outside of one’s marriage is key to having high satisfaction inside the marriage as well.

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Your spouse might be your best friend, but that doesn’t mean that they should be your only friend. On the contrary, one 2017 study from the University of Texas at Austin found that spouses who had strong support systems were better able to distract themselves when their marriages became too stressful. In other words, your other close friendships could translate into less serious fights with your spouse!

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Having friendships with other couples isn’t just good for date night. According to research out of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, couples who actively seek out friendships with other couples tend to be happier and more closely connected.

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“Take time to zoom out of the relationship together and…


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