The Happier Marriage

Lifestyle

As you tally the anniversaries of your marriage, there’s no doubt the bond with your partner is even stronger than the day you said, “I do.” At the same time, sweeping your spouse off his or her feet isn’t as easy as it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. 

“Keeping a relationship happy and healthy is all about the simple everyday things that spouses do,” says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D. professor at Oakland University and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. Orbuch has followed more than 370 couples for more than 25 years of marriage to better understand the secrets to strong marriages. “As couples enter retirement and experience an empty nest, these small daily habits are even more important,” says Orbuch.

Follow her tips below to rekindle the spark in your relationship:

  1. Follow the 10-minute rule. Every day, speak to your spouse for at least 10 minutes about something other than family and children, home tasks, work, or your relationship. The topics could be your stress points, your travel plans, or your aspirations. “Over time we think we know each other,” says Orbuch, but her research shows that time changes people. “And we don’t ask the questions to make sure we know.” 
  2. Say something simple to make your partner feel special. Whether it’s “I love you” or “you look great,” Orbuch says it’s important to fulfill your partner’s biological and psychological need to feel wanted and noticed. 
  3. Do something to make your partner feel valued. This may seem similar to the previous tip, but keep in mind there’s a big difference between saying something and doing something. Whether that’s making the morning coffee or doing a task you know your spouse loathes, it’s important to make your partner feel cared for and not taken for granted. 
  4. Touch your spouse. Touch bonds people, no matter what the relationship. Whether a kiss, cuddling on the couch, or sex, touch releases the hormone oxytocin, which builds feelings of emotional closeness. Make time for touch, says Orbuch, even if it’s just holding hands while running an errand or sitting side-by-side at dinner. 
  5. Have fun. “Life gets busy. Life gets serious,” says Orbuch. “We forget our relationships are also about fun.” She said during retirement—which can bring on financial and health concerns—it’s easy to forget to just laugh and try new things. “Boredom eats away at happiness over time,” she adds. Try to do at least one new activity a month, even if it’s just a new restaurant or a food you’ve never tried.
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