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5 rules that unlock secrets to a great marriage

Before marriage, your relationship may have seemed effortless. But marriage itself? Maintaining your mutual happiness while you navigate life together is a challenge. Armed with these basic guidelines, you’ll have a head start.
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Right now, your relationship seems effortless. But marriage? Maintaining your mutual happiness while you navigate life together is a challenge. With these five basic rules, you’ll have a head start.

1. Do things together. We’re not just talking dishes. Hobbies stimulate your brain and boost creativity, and by sharing them, you’re also building a connection that will encourage intimacy. A weekly tennis date is fun, but also mix in some new activities. (Wine-tasting class, perhaps?) “New experiences can give you a high that’s similar to sex,” says TODAY contributor Dr. Gail Saltz, author of “The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life” (Rodale).

2. But also do things separately. Don’t give up your book club or Thursday night drinks with the girls just because you’re getting hitched. Devoting time to hobbies and friendships that are solely yours helps you maintain your individuality and express yourself as someone other than “Mark’s wife.” And widening your circle helps guard against feelings of loneliness, which can arise even if you’re with someone. “No marriage is an island,” says Laurie Sue Brockway, a New York interfaith minister and columnist for “Too much time together can make a couple feel isolated from the rest of the world.”

3. Don’t diss. Always show respect for your partner, both publicly and privately. If you’re constantly knocking your husband in front of friends for, say, his tendencies to procrastinate or watch too much football, you’re demeaning both him and your marriage. And when letting off steam, “Don’t reveal intimate details, like sexual problems, to someone who’s friends with both of you,” says Saltz. “Think carefully before you speak.”

4. Maintain a united front. Are your in-laws insisting that you visit every holiday or buy a house close to them? Don’t make any promises until the two of you have talked. “Family pressures can weaken relationships, so you’ve got to talk privately about big decisions, then stand together when filling everyone else in,” says Brockway.

5. Fight fairly. “Disagreeing is a healthy part of any relationship, because it’s actually a way of communicating,” says Saltz. But keep it civil — no name-calling or recounting past offenses. Saltz suggests taking a break (like a walk alone) to cool off before you say something you’ll later regret. Insults tend to stick in our memory, and you don’t want the words “worthless, lazy wuss” lingering in his brain for the next 50 years.

Sexual healingWhy a roll in the hay will keep your relationship healthy:

1. You’ll feel closer. Even hours after sex, couples still feel linked, which translates to a great sense of intimacy.

2. You’ll talk better. Thanks to what she calls, “Happy hormones,” Brockway says, being physically close makes partners more eager to communicate with each other.

3. You’ll gain confidence. “Your sexual self is a vital part of who you are, and if you’re in touch with that, you’ll feel more self-assured in other areas of your lives,” says Saltz.

— Lexi Dwyer

This content originally appeared in Brides magazine.