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5 Ways to Preserve a Happy Marriage


If there's one thing I'm great at, prior divorce notwithstanding, it's being married.

I know a lot of people say marriage requires a lot of work, but I'm not one of them. Maintenance, maybe, but "work" makes it sound like an endless stream of constant drudgery, when in fact research suggests that a solid marriage is actually only 5% drudgery and 80% awesomeness, with a 15% margin of error to allow for how I feel about it when I'm PMSing.

So, as a long-awaited public service, I've collected my top Maintenance Tips For A Happy Marriage.  Follow these five guidelines, and chances are at least 50/50 (or some other fraction) that your relationship will never require any of that pesky "work."

1. Marry the right person
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's astonishing how many people skip this step.

2. Communication
It's all too easy to lose touch with our loved ones, especially if they're not on Twitter for some reason or if the kids are making so much noise you can't hear yourself think. If you're feeling distant from your spouse, even after checking their latest Facebook status updates, I encourage you to address the issue right away.

For example, my husband and I were sitting on the couch one day, each silently absorbed in our Smart Phone screens. Suddenly my phone beeped, letting me know he'd added a photo to Facebook, which was news to me even though he was only about two inches from my hip.
Me: I don't like it very much that my phone knows more about you than I do.
Gerry: Like what? What does your phone know?
Me: It knows...what you're doing on your phone.
Then he laughed at me. But the important thing was that I let him know I felt we were drifting apart, and, if someone happened to be watching through the window, it would have appeared that we were engaged in a pleasant conversation. That's half the battle.


3. Body Language and Thoughtful Gestures
On the subject of communication, let's face it—sometimes it can be easy to get your feelings hurt if you listen to the actual words that someone says.  Or you might go through a dry spell where it seems like ages since your spouse last paid you a compliment.

At these times, remember that the love in your relationship is often unspoken. When he comes home with four gallons of ice cream, it's his way of saying, "Baby, I think those extra 20 pounds are super sexy—don't you change a thing." When he plops down on the couch and unceremoniously changes the channel from HGTV to ESPN, he's saying, "Honey, you don't need these decorating tips—the house looks great!" And when she subsequently cuts him the side eyes and leaves the room in an apparent huff, what she's really thinking is, "That's okay, dearest, I'll use this bit of free time to eat some ice cream. And then I'll help you combine your passions for athletics and recycled mulch by tossing all your sports equipment in the chipper shredder."

If you look for it, the love is there.

4. Say Thank You
Also, look for reasons to be grateful for your spouse, and make sure to let them know they're appreciated. This makes them feel good, and inspires them to do more of the things you appreciate, which creates a self-perpetuating cycle of positive vibes.

If your spouse isn't doing anything particularly noteworthy, you might have to dig for things to be grateful for at first. Try these words of praise to get started:
  • Thanks a lot for mouth-breathing less than usual.
  • It's impressive how high you can get the trash to pile up without toppling before you take it outside.
  • Your efforts to get your filthy clothes within a five-foot radius of the hamper make doing your laundry a real treat.
  • I appreciate how you only belched audibly twice while we were out to dinner with my parents.
With encouragement like this, it won't take your spouse long to get an idea of how much you cherish his or her contribution to the partnership.

5. Hygiene
Sadly, it's common for people to let themselves go after the wedding vows are wrapped up, especially once children enter the equation.  I urge you to avoid this if at all possible—being married doesn't give you a free pass to become utterly repulsive. Refrain from clipping your toenails on the couch. Take the time to spritz on some body spray when you hit day four of being too exhausted to take a shower. Shaving is a nice touch, just try not to leave the entire bathroom peppered with your stubble. The extra effort will go a long way toward keeping the spark in your marriage alive, or should at least reduce your spouse's urge to smother you in your sleep.


If you can manage to keep all five of these tips in mind, or at least one or two of them if you're on an long car trip with the children or you're working on a home improvement project together (nobody expects you to be a saint), you have an excellent chance* of still liking each other by the time the kids move out and you eventually get to spend time as a couple again.
*Actual results may vary. Please be advised that I have no idea what I'm talking about.


This article was originally written for Naked Girl in a Dress

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