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Seven Tips for a Happy Marriage
- Toby Neal, LCSW, Author and Therapist

Seven Tips for a Happy Marriage is the product of twenty-seven years of research and development, three rounds of  marriage counseling with different counselors, two bachelors’ degrees in Human Services, one Master’s in Social Work, and a hell of a lot of stubbornness.
Yes, you read it right. Twenty-seven years came and went at the beginning of February for my husband and I. Both personally and professionally, these tips will be handy for long term marriage success.

1.Choose wisely before you get hitched. This one’s kind of a cheater, but many of the couples I see in counseling are mismatched in a lot of areas, and that inevitably takes overcoming. Mike and I had some strikes against us: an eleven year age difference, and both firstborns of four, leader type personalities. Otherwise, everything else was top rated for compatibility: same faith practice, similar intelligence, same basic socioeconomic status of family of origin, similar geographical area we lived/grew up in, similar interests, and same race. (Just check eHarmony (dot) com, they make those profiles for a reason. Everything I listed can, and probably will, become a source of friction with time. Nothing can’t be overcome, though…but put too many in there, and it’s bound to get challenging.)

2. Practice passion and make it a priority. Sex is the glue that keeps couples together when everything else falls apart. If you’ve got problems in this area, get some professional help. (Why get married if you want a friend or a roommate? Isn’t sex a primary motivator? And don’t say you’re too old. They have fixes for that.)

3. Accept each other. When you got married, you probably thought your spouse would change, adapt, learn, be moldable. Good luck with that. Whatever they were when you married them, they just become more so with age. Acceptance of the other, and working on yourself, is the only way to live so closely with another.

4. Work on yourself. When you’re tempted to criticize, critique, complain… look down at your own pot belly and go do something about it. It’s the other side of accepting them. Distract yourself from negative thoughts about your spouse with some self care and working on your own goals.

5. Find out about the Five Love Languages and become fluent in all of them. This book saved our marriage at one point and I turn everyone I can onto it. It’s the secret to a love-filled marriage and home http://www.amazon.com/The-Five-Love-Languages-ebook/dp/B0032CVAQQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1373237961&sr=1-1&keywords=the+five+love+languages

6. Develop some interests to talk about. One of the tough things about a long term marriage is the monotony. Yeah, you’ve heard all their jokes, they’ve seen you with and without makeup, and the excitement of variety is gone—even if you’re Brad and she’s Angelina (not likely.) So, get out and learn something. A new language, sport, art, scuba diving, cooking, martial arts. . . Hopefully you do it together, but even if not, when you go out on Date Night you actually have something interesting to say, and your self-esteem is good because you are working on yourself.

7. Have mutual time away. This doesn’t work for every couple but we swear by it. We take separate vacations ourselves since we have different interests, and one together where we plan carefully so we have fun and connect. Time away makes us more interesting to each other. We are thrilled to see each other again, and for us, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” This way, we never feel like our spouse held us back from anything we wanted to do—Mike wanted to sail the Mentawai Islands on a sailboat surf junket. Sounded like hell to me, so he went, and came back all happy, tan, and fit. I wanted to go to Europe—that sounded like hell to him, so I went, and came back fashionable, chubby, and speaking Italian. We were working on ourselves, and interesting to each other.

Check out the Love Languages book—it’s my favorite resource to recommend to couples in therapy and can transform all of your closest relationships.

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