When asked “What keeps your marriage strong?”, these women had some unconventional answers. But hey, if it works, it works!?
- “When something weird happens, my guy is always the first one I want to text.” — Erin W., Highlands Ranch, CO
Seeing your guy as your person — the one you want to share gossip or funny observations with — is essential, say Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz, psychotherapists and authors of Building a Love That Lasts. “Good couples tend to view their partner as their best friend,” says Charles. “Having inside jokes and stories is part of what builds that bond.” That’s why it’s key to share funny anecdotes about your day, even if they’re as minor as your coworker freaking out because someone stole her Diet Coke from the communal fridge.
- “He and I may not split chores 50/50 all the time, but we know we’re on the same team.” — Amanda K., Federal Way, WA
Surprisingly, you don’t need to divide everything down the middle to be an amazing couple, says Charles J. Orlando, relationship expert and author of The Problem with Women… Is Men. “Keeping a score card makes everyone resentful.” Yes, you both need to pull your weight around the house, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to count changed diapers or scrubbed pans. “Having a relationship in which both of you can speak honestly if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and not just lash out because someone forgot to take out the recycling one night, leads to a much stronger romance.”
- “He still surprises me. At a party, he suddenly jumped up and started singing ‘Ring of Fire.’ I never even knew he had a voice!” — Aurea B., Calabasas, CA
Obviously, major secrets are not okay in a long-term relationship, but keeping little things to yourself — like taking step-dance classes leading up to your cousin’s wedding or stocking up on vacation ideas — can boost your bond, says Shauna Springer, Ph.D., author of Marriage, for Equals. “Overfamiliarity is the enemy of romance, so continuing to engage in some measure of independent growth is critical.”
- “He’s probably the person who can infuriate me the most — even more than my mom — but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” — Becka N, Toronto, ON
Healthy couples know how to push each other’s buttons, and being able to hash it out is ultimately a lot better than holding everything in. Not only that, but couples who experience a steady level of conflict over the years — as opposed to never fighting at first, then constantly being down each other’s throats five years in — are stronger,according to a 2011 study. The trick is not to let resentments fester, says Gilda Carle, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of Don’t Bet on the Prince. “Anger is a perfectly healthy emotion. It’s fine to get into it, as long as you both know how to apologize and move on, fast.”
- “He and I have had our lowest moments together, but have come out on the other side.” — Amina P., Summit, NJ
It says right in the wedding vows that everything won’t be a walk in the park, but that’s easy to overlook in the tulle-and-cake-induced fugue of your big day. In the ensuing years, surviving the tough stuff together is a huge sign you have what it takes to get through anything. A 2011 study found that couples who believe marriage will last forever, no matter what, survive longer than those who don’t fully believe in the concept of till death do us part. Yes, the going will get tough, but knowing you’re both 110% committed to staying the course is essential.
- “When I’m with him, I’m never bored — even on a Saturday spent mulching the backyard.” — Krissy J., Secaucus, NJ
Research shows that couples who do new or different things together — even if it’s as simple as a fresh mulching technique — are happier than those who fall into a same-old routines. “In the beginning of a relationship, you’re going to new places, you both have some insecurity about how the other person feels, and all of that contributes to the butterflies you feel,” says psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of Surviving Infidelity.”But over time, you relax around each other and can get complacent.” You don’t need to go bungee jumping, but keeping things fun, like singing songs in the car or playing Just Dance as cardio, can help keep apathy from creeping into your relationship.