Even the strongest marriages are vulnerable to a bit of turbulence. When your relationship is good, it feels like you’re floating on air—but as soon as things turn sour, the wind is stolen from beneath your wings and you land face-first on the ground.
Luckily, any good relationship can be salvaged with enough effort—and, in fact, you may already be doing a long list of things that will help your marriage stand the test of time without even realizing it. For instance, all of those double dates you’ve been going on have been secretly upping the intimacy in your relationship. And did you know that cuddling and looking at cute animal photos can keep the spark alive? For your convenience, we’ve gathered some of the simplest ways to make a marriage work. And for more relationship wisdom, check out these 50 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Fresh.
You Still Go Out For Date Nights
If you’re one of the few couples that still considers date night sacred after years of being together, then you’re already on the path to success. A recent study conducted in the UK found that couples who hit the town once a month were more likely to stay together than those who favored staying in. Looking for somewhere new to take your S.O.? Try these 40 Best Date Ideas If You’re Over 40.
You Look At Pictures of Puppies Together
Do you and your partner sit in bed scrolling through adorable puppy pics together? Aside from this making you squeal with delight, it might also be helping your marriage. One study published in Psychological Science found that when subjects were shown pictures of puppies immediately after pictures of their spouses, they had more positive responses to their partners afterward and improvements in marital relations.
“One ultimate source of our feelings about our relationships can be reduced to how we associate our partners with positive affect,” says lead researcher James K. McNulty. “Those associations can come from our partners, but also from unrelated things like puppies and bunnies.” If you want to take it one step further and get a furry friend of your own, discover these 15 Amazing Benefits of Adopting a Pet.
You’re Friends With Other Couples
It’s human nature to want to spend time with people similar to yourself, so it makes sense that couples tend to befriend other couples. But what most couples probably don’t realize is that these friendships are actually helping their marriage.
In the book Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple Friendships, co-authors Geoffrey Greif, DSW, MSW, and Kathleen Holtz Deal, PhD, MSW, discovered that couples’ friendships benefit a marriage by providing comfort, support, and excitement. “We can talk about anything we want to,” one couple said in the book. “We have shared sad times and good times.”
You Say “Thank You”
You might think that your partner intuitively knows how grateful you are for everything they do, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to let them know. In fact, one study from the University of Georgia found that expressing gratitude toward your spouse is directly correlated with relationship satisfaction.
“Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes,” lead study author Allen Barton told Science Daily. Looking for a gift that screams ‘thank you’? Try these 30 Timeless Style Upgrades Dad Will Love.
You Celebrate Small Victories
Did your spouse recently get a promotion at work, or perhaps even reach their goal weight after months of hard work? These momentous occasions call for a celebration! Your partner will appreciate the support, and the positive praise will work wonders on your marriage.
As author Tara Parker-Pope reported in For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed: “Couples who regularly celebrate the good times have higher levels of commitment, intimacy, trust, and relationship satisfaction. It’s not enough that your partner knows that you take pride in his or her accomplishments—you have to show it.”
You Write Down Your Feelings
When in doubt, journal it out. Researchers at Northwestern University found that couples who partook in a routine journaling exercise about their relationship experienced increased marital satisfaction. However, it’s important that you don’t only write down the things that bother you about your partner—keeping a list of the positives as well will serve you better in the long run.
You Send Sexy Texts
These days, sexting isn’t just for sultry singles looking for a good time. Couples in long-term relationships frequently turn to text to keep the spark alive. And if you’re one of those couples who isn’t afraid to virtually get it on, then pat yourself on the back: A study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that committed couples benefit from steamy messages those in more casual relationships. Half of the respondents reported that sexting “positively influenced their sexual and emotional relationship with a partner.”
Even couples in committed relationships keep things from one another, whether they’re hiding a recent shopping spree or failing to disclose a bit of flirtation with a co-worker. But when you aren’t afraid to be an open book with your spouse, your relationship will reap the benefits. As one report found, couples who openly shared their innermost thoughts were 62 percent more likely to describe their marriage as happy.
You Reminisce About the Good Times
There’s a reason that close couples (and best friends) have so many inside jokes that they love to remind each other of. Laughter is the backbone of any good bond—and remembering good times might be the secret to maintaining a marriage, according to research published in Motivation and Emotion. The study’s authors concluded that couples who reminisced about hilarious moments reported greater relationship satisfaction.
You Help Around the House
It’s scientifically proven that women go nuts for a man in an apron. According to research from the University of Missouri at Columbia, couples were happier when they divided the household responsibilities evenly.
“The more wives perceived that husbands were engaged in routine family work tasks, the better the relationships were for both partners,” according to study author Adam Galovan. Plus, if there are children involved, wives love to see their husbands actively engaging in a relationship with the little ones.
You Have a Good Sense of Humor
It’s hard to fight with someone when they’re putting a smile on your face, which is perhaps why one study found that couples with a shared sense of humor were significantly more satisfied than those who believed their relationship to be no laughing matter. Of course, you shouldn’t be making light of a serious situation, but a little bit of humor at the appropriate time goes a long way. Need to inject some levity into your relationship? Try cracking of these 30 Hilarious Jokes No One Is Too Old to Laugh At.
You Still Go the Extra Mile
Most of us look back on our first date with our spouse and remember getting all dolled up to meet a potential new partner. As a relationship progresses, most people stop putting this same exuberant effort into date night, but those couples that do find the outings to be more enjoyable.
In fact, researchers from the University of British Columbia found that study participants who tried to present themselves well experienced greater happiness after interacting with their partner. Want to pretend it’s your first date again? Try these 40 Irresistible First Date Ideas.
You Hang Out With Your Partner’s Friends
Your willingness to include your partner in football Sundays doesn’t go unnoticed. On the contrary, according to one study, this act of integration is only going to strengthen your bond with your significant other. One great way to strengthen your bond and enjoy the summer is by throwing a backyard barbecue with friends and family. And while you’re at it, you can use these 20 Creative Ways to Turn Your Backyard into an Amazing Party Space.
Your Friends Are a Good Influence
We humans are heavily impacted by the people we surround ourselves with.”Your friend’s actions are actively influencing your marriage, whether you realize it or not,” marriage counselor Laura Heck told the Huffington Post. If our friends are in happy, stable relationships, then their exuberance is going to rub off on us and create bliss in our marriages, too.
You’re Not Afraid to Watch a Rom-Com
Are you one of the rare men who doesn’t sigh when his wife suggests watching Titanic on movie night? Firstly, pat yourself on the back for being a good sport; secondly, congratulate yourself for paving the path toward happily ever after. A three-year study analyzed the success of various couple counseling programs and found that couples who watched romantic flicks and discussed them afterward had a 50 percent lower divorce rate. So pop in a flirty flick, grab some popcorn, and don’t forget to thank Ryan Gosling for a long, loving marriage.
You Aren’t Attached to Your Phone
Too many people let their smartphone become a third partner in their relationship. One study of college couples published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that people who were attached to their smartphones reported less certainty in their relationship; similarly, people whose partners were always on their phones reported being less satisfied. If your partner feels that you have an unhealthy attachment to your phone, they may also worry that something is lacking in the relationship, so try to keep your device in your pocket whenever you’re with your spouse. And if you need some non-electronic ways to stay entertained, you can always try these 20 Genius Ways to Kill Time without a Smartphone.
You Stick It Out—Through the Good and the Bad
The key to a successful marriage is seeing things through, even when the going gets tough. Big changes like having a child can put a serious strain on even the strongest bonds, but one study found that 68 percent of couples who stayed together despite dissatisfaction reported being happy a decade later. Just give it some time.
You Love Your Spouse Just the Way They Are
Unfair though it may be, virtually everyone gets older, grayer, and a little less exciting over time. However, you clearly loved your partner enough to want to make a life together, so don’t ruin that bond by pointing out little things that bother you. Being kind and appreciating the changes in your partner will serve you better in the long run than offering less-than-constructive criticism about how they can change to better suit your wants and needs.
You Consistently Clear the Air
Don’t let your feelings of resentment build up until they all come spilling out in one giant fit of rage. Instead, relationship expert Susan Campbell, PhD, suggested in Redbook that couples should spend time once a week airing their grievances. “Once a week or so, ask your partner, ‘Is there anything I’ve done lately that’s caused distance between us?,'” advised Dr. Campbell. That way, instead of letting those resentful feelings grow, you can address them as they come and avoid a monster of a conflict.
You Fall Asleep in Each Other’s Arms
Nothing brings a couple closer together (literally) than a bit of spooning. One British study found that 94 percent of couples that slept while touching reported relationship satisfaction.
You Splurge on Sexy Lingerie
Whether you’ve been together for ten months or ten years, your partner will appreciate coming home to you clad in new lingerie. And if you plan on breaking out a new pair of undies, marriage expert Grace Stevens suggested teasing your partner by having him pick it out the night before.
“Before you go to bed, ask your husband to choose your lingerie for the next day, then have it lay it out for you,” Stevens told Redbook. “Once he knows what you’re wearing, he’ll think about it the whole next day and will be anxious to get home to see you in it.”
You Work Out Regularly
Exercise has a positive effect on both your muscles and your marriage. Research showed that after couples participated in a physical activity together, they were more satisfied with their relationships and felt more in love. Need more motivation to hit the gym? These 30 Ways That Exercise Boosts Your Sex Life should do the trick.
You’re a Hopeless Romantic
Feel free to get sappy—rose petals and all—when it comes to your significant other. Canadian researchers found that people who believed in romantic notions like soulmates and love at first sight were more satisfied and committed to their relationships than the Debbie Downers who thought love was a farce. Serves them right!
You Let Your Actions Do the Talking
It’s not just a stereotype: Typically, men are more averse to talking things out. Their bodies literally start to fidget when their partners sit them down to talk, and unfortunately, there’s just nothing we can do about it.
So, what do we do when we have a problem we want to discuss? “Everyone—men, women, myself included—needs to learn that before we can communicate with words, we need to connect nonverbally,” relationship expert Patricia Love told O, The Oprah Magazine. “We can do that in simple ways—through tough, sex, doing things together. The deepest moments of intimacy occur when you’re not talking.”
You Understand How Your Partner Feels
A good spouse is someone who can also be a good friend. One study from the American Psychological Association even determined that relationship satisfaction is correlated with each partner’s ability to read their spouse’s emotions. When your husband or wife comes home looking upset or especially ecstatic, it’s your job to ask them why they’re feeling that way.
You Plan Activities Together
Ask your spouse to sign up for a 5K with you. Not only will your bodies benefit from the exercise, but the months of training together will also fortify your fellowship. “Shared goals that a couple can work toward help give a relationship greater purpose,” certified counselor Jonathan Bennett told Brit + Co. “Also, the time spent achieving those goals helps the couple strengthen their bond.”
You Make Sacrifices
A good relationship is all about the give and take. You may not want to go to the grocery store, but as a devoted partner, you’re willing to put your own interests aside for the sake of compromise. “[The willingness] to forgo self-interest and desired activities for the good of a partner or relationship is an important aspect of maintaining relationships,” one study concluded.
You Go on Double Dates
Going on a double date will introduce a new activity into your rotation and improve the intimacy in your relationship. One study showed that couples who engaged in “deeply personal conversations” while out with another couple reported feeling more passionate toward each other than couples who only conversed deeply with one another. Researchers found that couples were more likely to disclose their feelings when they heard other couples doing the same. Monkey see, monkey do!
You Travel Together
Going through the same motions every day can make a relationship feel stale. One way to spice things up? Plan a vacation for just you and your spouse at least once a year. In fact, one survey suggests that the happiness couples feel when planning a vacation actually trumps the joy they felt on their wedding day. Don’t know where to go to get away? Try one of these 7 Best Luxury Fitness Vacations!
You Don’t Rely on Texts to Communicate
We’re all guilty of spending a little too much time on our phones, but it’s a marriage must to interact with our spouses face-to-face. One study from Brigham Young University concluded that women who apologized and communicated important information via text were less satisfied in their relationships. So, when you have the time, give your partner a call or talk to them in person—really anything’s better than a thumbs up and winky face emoji. And when you want to strengthen your bond for good, ditch these 50 Worst Pet Peeves That Grind on Relationships.
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