Young newlywed

1Be open about money matters

You may think that keeping the odd money-related issue from your spouse is alright but finances have a way of wreaking havoc on even the closest bonds. When happy couples in the Early Years of Marriage (EYM) study were asked if their spouses were completely open and honest about money, their answers differed significantly from those of the unhappy couples. Nearly eight out of ten happy couples said they never feel their spouse tells them things that aren’t completely true about money, compared with only 54 percent of the other couples.

Why it’s important: Keeping secrets about money or lying about financial concerns or other money matters can take a heavy toll on marital happiness over time.

2Discuss the small things

Getting stressed about the small stuff (socks on the floor, forgetting to take out the trash) isn’t a good idea, but letting small things grow into bigger things is even worse. “My study found that couples who failed to talk about the small things that bothered them, letting those pet peeves grow into big resentments, were more likely to be unhappy in their marriages down the road,” Orbuch says. Whatever has you heated, make sure to discuss it in a nice way (one that doesn’t put your partner on the defensive), so ideally it ceases to be an issue.

Why it’s important: If you ignore small annoyances, they add up to major discontent over time meaning that eventually you’re going blow up at your man in a major way for doing something fairly insignificant.

3Show appreciation every day

Orbuch’s research shows that the accumulation of small acts of kindness is more essential for building a strong marital bond than occasional grand gestures and big pronouncements. We’re not saying you wouldn’t be thrilled with that surprise trip to Paris (yes please!), but there must be smaller gestures between the big ones for love to last. At least once a day, make your spouse feel loved and appreciated. Give him a surprise kiss, ask his advice or give him a complemint on something he’s done.

Why it’s important: Regularly doing nice things for each other is a great way to make sure your relationship stays strong. The more appreciated you feel, the more love you’ll want to show in return – its win-win.

4Have fun together

The happiest couples in the EYM study described their spouse as someone they enjoyed spending time with. On the flipside, Orbuch says that often, as marriages mature, partners tend to look outside the marriage for friends and entertainment – not the best way to stay connected. “Seek out fun activities to do with your spouse,” she suggests, adding that studies also show that doing an activity that’s new to both of you re-stimulates the feel-good excitement associated with dating.

Why it’s important: Avoid relationship ruts by actively seeking out fun things you can do together. New experiences help keep you close and boost your bond over time.

5Expand your circle

Close ties with your hubby’s friends and family is good for your marriage, Orbuch explains. “My research found that husbands, in particular, are happier when their wives have good relationships with their extended family,” she says. “Also, the couples in my EYM study who made an effort to get to know – but not necessarily share – their spouse’s friends were more likely to be happy in the long term than couples who maintained separate friends.”

Why it’s important: The closer you and your spouse are to each other’s families and friends, the more support you’ll have, which makes any bumps in the road or setbacks easier to deal with.

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