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8 Tips for a Healthy Marriage

To maintain our physical health and well-being, we exercise, eat right, and generally take care of ourselves (or at least try to). The same logic applies to marriage—to stay healthy, a marriage needs care and attention. Like most things in life, you get out of it only what you're willing to put in. While there's no magic formula for marriage, there are some tips that work for everyone, whether you're just married or celebrating your silver anniversary.

  1. Practice the "three Cs."

    The "three Cs"—commitment, companionship, and communication—are essential to the success of any marriage. Your commitment to the marriage is probably the most important quality you can bring to it, and will help you get through even the most difficult times. Companionship is another way of saying that your spouse should be your best friend, your partner through anything, and someone whose company you sincerely enjoy.

    Communication is something that you should always be working on together. A couple that can talk and resolve differences to achieve a positive outcome, undefensively and without criticism, is likely to have a very healthy marriage. Listening is another vital communication skill, especially in a disagreement—sit back and really focus on what your spouse is saying, and try to understand their perspective. It's also important to be flexible and willing to compromise when necessary.

  2. Always fight fair.

    Arguing can actually strengthen your marriage when done correctly. When you fight—every couple does—make sure you play by the rules. That means not letting little things build up and become larger sources of conflict, sticking to the subject at hand, and keeping it between the two of you. (Don't involve friends, in-laws, children, etc.) Don't dig up the past, place blame or accuse each other, use negative words, or yell, scream, or talk in a threatening manner. Fight to keep your relationship on solid ground, not to win the argument.

  3. Forgive and let go.

    We all make mistakes, but it's how these situations are handled that can define the strength of a marriage. If you've made a mistake, accept responsibility for your actions and commit to not making the same mistake again. If your spouse made the mistake, it's important to let go and move on. Not offering forgiveness can wear on both of you and create distance in your relationship.

  4. Laugh a little.

    It's often said that laughter is the best medicine, and for good reason. Laughing with your partner can go a long way toward improving your relationship physically and emotionally, lifting your spirits and bringing you closer together. It can also reduce stress and tension, and lower your blood pressure. Try to take some time each day to share something humorous, or to remember something funny from your past together.

  5. It's OK to have (or give) some space.

    It's a common misconception that if you want or need space or time alone, there is a problem with your marriage. In fact, spending time by yourself doing something you love can be extremely beneficial. Respect one another's desires to participate in activities alone—this can provide you with a fresh perspective, and give you things to discuss and share ideas about.

  6. Rekindle the romance.

    Remember how you felt when you were dating and first married? There's no reason you can't keep those feelings well into your marriage. It's the little things that matter most...leave love notes, hold hands, dance in your living room, have a picnic. You can do so many simple things to keep the romance in your marriage alive, and you don't need to wait for a special occasion.

    And don't forget that a regular sex life is good for your health, both physically and emotionally, and can bring you closer together. Fifteen to 20 percent of married Americans are estimated to have a sexless marriage (defined as less than 10 times per year). This trend has a variety of causes, and some simple solutions—don't be afraid to communicate about each other's sexual needs, and make sex a priority in your lives. (Make your bedroom a "no-TV" zone, for instance.)

  7. Be healthy together.

    Spend time with the one you love and do something that is good for you. Take a walk, ride your bikes, go for a jog, go bowling, join a gym together...whatever activity you choose, you'll be improving your health while improving your relationship.

  8. Schedule "two" time.

    If you have children (especially young children), it can be challenging to find time for just the two of you. It might sound strange, but try to literally "book" time on the calendar for "date nights." These are wonderful opportunities to reconnect and focus on being alone, catching up on whatever else is going on in your lives and enjoying each other's company.