By Talia Lakritz
Everyday life as a married couple takes a bit of work. The INSIDER Summary:
• Take time to appreciate your partner by saying “thank you.”
• Fight fair, with honesty and open communication.
• Keep things fresh with regular date nights.
What’s the secret to a long, strong, and happy marriage? There are probably endless answers, but the fact remains that any committed relationship takes work.
The good news is that not all of that work has to be difficult. Relationship expert and bestselling author Susan Winter spoke to INSIDER about six easy things you can do to help your marriage thrive.
Take up a new hobby or project together
Maybe you’ve been meaning to turn that boring patch of grass by your front door into a garden. Maybe you want to take up salsa dancing. Whatever it is, trying something new together strengthens your bond. “You don’t want to be the couple that has nothing to say at the table for dinner because they’ve said everything for the last 20 years,” said Winter. “You want to have fresh conversation — what you learned in art class or what you’re learning in the business that you’re starting.“
Disagreeing is fine, even healthy. It’s how you work your way out of a squabble that matters. According to Winter, honesty and open communication are crucial ingredients to a productive argument. “When something comes up, you and your mate will be able to come to some form of clear, tangible resolution,” she said.
It doesn’t have to take an international flight or an exotic locale for a couple fall for each other all over again. Even a day trip to an unfamiliar neighborhood or an afternoon hike on a new trail can serve as a welcome change from routine outings. “Oftentimes you hear couples talk about how they do the same things, and they have the same married friends that they go out with,” said Winter. “Anything that breaks the pattern of the habits that we get into as a couple or as a family is going to add excitement.”
Say “thank you”
According to Winter, the best way to say “I love you” is to say “thank you.” “A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way,” she said. “Taking time to notice something our mate has done for us gives them a sense of reward. Kindness creates more kindness.” Making a conscious effort to appreciate your spouse will be the glue that keeps you together.
Another way to show you care is by giving your partner the gift of your time and attention. Active listening means not just hearing what they have to say, but trying to fully understand what they’re saying by blocking out distractions and staying focused. “Actively listening to our mate share the story of their day can do a world of wonder for a mutual sense of connection,” said Winter. “We all need to feel valued and appreciated, especially by the one we’ve chosen to be our mate.”
Keep dating each other
Being married to someone can remove some of the mystery and allure that drew you to them while you were dating. In her practice, Winter has seen regular date nights help revive some of that initial passion. “After the first year, do you really run to the door in a negligee?” she said. “You just stop that little stuff, and that’s exactly what we need to put back into it. It’s normal to have that dampened a little bit. It’s work to reinitiate it.”