By Jan Yager, Ph.D.
As a sociologist, as well as the author of many books on relationships —romantic, friendship, and work — I am sometimes asked if I have any suggestions for having a joyful marriage. Based on all the research I have done, as well as my own life experiences — I have been happily married to Fred for 34 years — here are my ten tips:
- Be positive and supportive. Don’t criticize. If you disagree with something your romantic partner is doing, and have to voice your opinion, say it in a way that you are offering feedback rather than being judgmental and negative.
- Eat dinner together and continue to go out on dates with each other on a steady basis, even after you have children. Too often couples will say, “We can’t afford a babysitter,” but you are investing in your romantic relationship, continuing to nurture what is special about your connection, which will have long-term benefits for your marriage and your family.
- Get off the phone or the computer, turn off the TV, or stop texting, as soon as your mate walks in the door or, if you’re the one arriving home from work, let calls or messages go to voicemail or keep it on silent mode except for true emergencies.
- Compromise, compromise, compromise.
- Make physical intimacy a priority and make the time for it, not matter how tired or preoccupied you or your mate are.
- Divide up the necessary domestic chores so neither of you feels the burden is unfairly falling more on one person’s shoulders.
- Make time for what you care about individually, as well as for each other, as well as your friends, as you continue to develop new interests, alone or collectively.
- Keep your sense of humor and the fun in your relationship and life as you continue to be each other’s best friend.
- Avoid badmouthing your romantic partner/spouse to your friends or relatives. If you’re having challenges, deal with them in a constructive way, first with each other or, if you need outside help, turn to someone you trust such as a religious leader, marriage counselor, psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist.
- Actively work to keep the excitement in your relationship by keeping communication open between you and your mate, remembering and making a fuss over birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day, and, whenever possible going away on excursions, weekends, or even trips together.
“When asked to share the top reason for their marital success, the men and women said, ‘My spouse is my best friend.’ When the dust settles from a passionate courtship, what’s left—and what will keep that marriage growing and vital—is friendship.” —Jan Yager (excerpted from Friendshifts and quoted in For My Friend, published by Peter Pauper Press, Inc., 1995, 2001.)
Jan Yager, Ph.D. is the author of 365 Daily Affirmations for Healthy & Nurturing Relationships, with an audiobook narrated by Lindsay Arber; 125 Ways to Meet the Love of Your Life; When Friendship Hurts; and Friendshifts. Dr. Yager, a sociologist, has taught Family at the college level. Her articles have been published in American Baby, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Harper’s, Redbook, and other publications. She has been a columnist for New Woman magazine and Consumeraffairs.com.