Smart Marriage Advice From 8 Rock-Solid Couples

couple on couch
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Real couples’ secrets for keeping the romance alive, the anger at bay and the laughs rolling in.
  1. Take date nights seriously.

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    Lots of couples have regular date nights, but we have rules for ours:
    1) We don’t talk about our (four) kids, but instead about our goals for the future, how things are going at our jobs -- all the things that made us fall in love in the first place. 2) We don’t cancel. My husband has been known to stand up in the middle of a meeting that’s running late at work and walk out for date night. People he works with know about it and respect it.

    -- Nicole and Erik Griffiths, Porters Corners, New York, married 11 years

  2. Meet in the middle.

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    When we started dating, it was supposed to be casual, but I fell for him -- hard. He wasn’t as invested, so I broke it off...but we missed each other. Then he called me and said, “What if I give a little more, and you expect a little less?” I was needy; he was distant. But with that gem, we found a way to understand each other, and it still works today. (And he gives way beyond what I could’ve ever imagined.)

    -- Victoria Maxwell and Gordon Bell, Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia, married 7 years (together 12)

  3. Always be courteous.

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    We just ask politely, and we never forget to say “please” and “thank you” -- even for the most routine tasks -- and never demand anything. This simple wisdom came from my grandparents-in-law, who’ve been married for 51 years. A lot of conflict can be avoided if you feel appreciated.

    -- Kerstin and Jerrod VanZanten, Temecula, California, married 8 years (together 11)

  4. Stay silly.

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    My husband loves to tickle and wrestle with me. One of us will say, “It’s Dani Tickle Time!” and the silliness begins. Sometimes we even list it in our daily agenda: Plan dinner, go to Costco, tickle Dani, watch a movie.

    -- Dani and Jeremy Luffy, Minneapolis, married 3 years

  5. Dream together.

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    We met in a novel-writing workshop, and we both still dream of being best-selling authors. Along the way, we've had other big and small dreams. Some examples: Run a half marathon, quit our day jobs and move to Hawaii, and buy and operate an avocado orchard. Our method of shooting for the stars and ending up on a beach in Hawaii or under an avocado tree keeps things exciting and fun.

    -- Mary and David Putnam, Temecula, California, married 12 years (together 17)

  6. Stick to what you’re good at.

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    He used to be critical of how I cleaned (he thought I slacked on the bathroom scrubbing), and I hated his grocery picks (he bought college-student stuff, like ramen noodles). We had an explosive fight one night, but we learned something: We should each do the chore that we’re “better at.” He cleans, I shop, and we don’t question each other because we’re ultimately on the same page of wanting a nice home together.

    -- Virginia Sole-Smith and Dan Upham, Hudson, New York, married 2 years (together 13)

  7. Make a “kind list.”

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    When my husband does something that upsets me, instead of stewing about it, I think about all the kind and gentle things he’s done. For example, he left work early every day for months when my dad was in the hospital, and he washed and blow-dried my hair for weeks when I broke my hand.

    -- Alison and John Dunham, Brooklyn, New York, married 20 years

  8. Focus on the big stuff.

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    Being grateful is better than being mad. Instead of concentrating on the little things that bug you ("He left his socks on the floor! She didn't call to say she'd be late!"), give thanks for the great big things you love -- out loud. It's easy to get caught up in calling out a spouse's flaws, but I've realized that none of that nitpicky stuff really matters. At the end of the day, I'm grateful to share my life with someone I love, who loves me.

    -- Nicole and Josh Croes, London (from New York City), married 7 years (together 13)