Ashley Davis Bush, a psychotherapist and coauthor of "75 Habits for a Happy Marriage: Advice to Recharge and Reconnect Every Day," sees a successful long-term relationship as being similar to a plant — it requires lots of constant attention, care and pruning to stay healthy. Every marriage is different and brings together your and your spouse's unique character traits. Despite these differences, psychologists and other relationship experts offer simple commandments that, if implemented regularly, can help any marriage to grow and flourish like the healthiest of plants.
Put in Some Face Time
Texting is great. Phone calls are nice. But for a healthy, happy marriage, you need some private face-to-face time where you can give each other all of your attention and talk about how your day went, unresolved issues and other things pertaining to your marriage. Relationship author and psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith recommends having this type of uninterrupted time at least once a week.
Say Something Nice About Each Other
At least once a day, compliment your spouse. For example, thank your wife for driving the kids to soccer practice, or tell your husband how much you appreciate him for making dinner. Daily compliments help boost marital satisfaction and counter the feelings of under-appreciation that ruin many relationships.
Upgrade to the Newest Version of Life
Don't let your marriage fall into a boring rut. Allow yourself to be open to new experiences and new ways of doing things instead of trying to stay in a safe, tried-and-true routine. This keeps your marriage feeling fresh and exciting.
Pass Over the Past
Don't hold onto the mistakes that your spouse did in the past. This can create bitterness and division. Most importantly, don't bring up the past or old grudges when you're fighting about a present problem, as that creates unfair conflict.
Let the Little Things Go
When you're married, there are countless things that can come up in your day-to-day life that you and your spouse can fight about. Choose your battles and save your energy for important issues instead of fighting about all of the little things. A successful relationship is often about compromise. If you and your spouse are fighting about an issue, try having both of you give it a rating on a 1-to-10 scale, with "10" being the most important. The person who rates the issue lower on the importance scale may want to compromise and let the entire matter go, suggests Goldsmith.
If you practice courtesy and kindness, it can help improve your relationship and turn potentially negative situations into opportunities to cooperate and communicate. One of the most basic ways to do this is using a pleasant tone when speaking with each other, even if you're tired or grumpy.
Set Realistic Expectations
Your spouse isn't perfect. You aren't perfect, either. Understanding this simple truth and having realistic expectations about each other and what your relationship can give you helps avoid the conflict and bitterness created when one person can't meet the other person's high expectations.
Know That Honesty Is the Best Policy
Being honest helps your partner trust you, and vice versa. Trust and honesty are core foundations to a strong and healthy marriage. Vow that you and your spouse will be honest with each other on all issues.
Flick On Your "Open" Sign
You're not a store with set business hours. For a happy and successful long-term relationship, you must be ready to be available to your spouse whenever he needs you for a hug, a talk or simply for emotional support. This takes a certain level of selflessness, as your partner may sometimes need you the most when you're exhausted or stressed.
Take Proactive Steps, Not Reactive Steps
Don't wait for something bad to happen in your relationship before taking steps to be a good spouse. Even when your marriage is going well, constantly keep an eye out for things you can do to make your spouse happy or to improve your relationship.
- Psychology Today: Ten Actions That Create Relationship Happiness
- Psych Central: 7 Small & Simple Habits for a Happy Marriage
- Psychology Today: The 10 "B's" of a Successful Relationship
- Christian Broadcasting Network: Ten Biblical Rules for a Happy Marriage
- Psychology Today: 7 Keys to Long-Term Relationship Success
- Psychology Today: The Keys to a Successful Relationship
- Psych Central: 5 Steps to a Successful Marriage
- Psych Central: 5 Secrets to a Successful Long-Term Relationship or Marriage
Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.