Top 10 Secrets To a Happy Marriage

While we can't get enough of weddings , nothing is more disheartening than hearing about unhappy unions (especially those all-too-common celebrity divorces). To add to the frustration, it seems that after every celeb split , we're forced to read age-old advice on how to ensure we never experience the dreaded “D" word. In need of a fresh take on relationships, we asked psychologist and author Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo for her tips to everlasting love.

1. Consider, “What's In It For Me"
In my practice, I often see spouses focused on “being right." This causes arguments, stress and lots of discontent. When you change your goal from being right to being happy in your marriage, you will gain a whole host of benefits, including better health, less stress and more resiliency.

2. Get Rid of the “There Is No Time" Mentality
You've heard about the importance of carving out time for date nights (if not, then take note!). And yet, I find most of my clients have the mentality “yeah, that sounds good in theory, but I don't have enough time."

Yes, life is busy, but where there is a will, there is a way. The average American watches over 4 hours of TV a day or spends that same amount of time surfing the Internet. Take just ONE hour/day away from that, and you have a glorious 7 hours to share with your hubby each week.

3. Remember (And Be Thankful!) That He Can't Read Your Mind
What is going on in your head is so loud, strong and obvious that it is often hard to even contemplate that not everyone is thinking the same thing. But he is often NOT thinking the same thing as you. Not because he doesn't love you or doesn't want to be helpful. It's simply because he has a different brain–plus we all know men are wired differently.

4. Remember the 5-1 Rule
Research shows that happy couples have a 5-1 ratio when it comes to positive versus negative interactions. This means for every time when you have a less-than-positive interaction (conflict, disappointment), you want to have five expressions of positivity.

Positive interactions can include expressions of gratitude, such as:

  • “I feel so lucky to have you in my life."
  • “I am so proud of what you have done at work."
  • “You look so handsome today."
  • “You are such a terrific father."

5. Stop The Affair…With Your Cell Phone
Texting, playing games, checking Facebook, emailing, using one of the gazillion apps out there… Sure, it can be lots of fun. And there is nothing wrong with that. Until you do it at the expense of your spouse (or children or friends, for that matter). Put the cell phone down when you are spending time with your sweetie. Be present with him by paying close attention to his words and actions. You'll communicate better and feel closer.

6. Brag About Your Spouse
Sharing with others the kind things he does will help you better appreciate them because you are relieving the events as you talk about them and the positive emotions that resulted. It is also a bonus if your bragging happens to get back to him. Think of how he would feel if he found out you were telling others that he is a great husband or father.

7. Let It Go
Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and to your relationship. Unfortunately, the term “forgiveness" is often confused with forgetting, condoning or letting it happen again. However, none of these are true.

Forgiveness means releasing the anger, resentment and pain for what happened. It means accepting what happened, not because you wanted it or deserved it, but because you cannot change the past. You can, however, change your present and future. In order to make things better for your own sake and for the sake of your marriage, forgive both the big and the small things.

8. Address Your Own Happiness
No one can make you happy but yourself. And you need to be happy yourself in order to truly be happy in your marriage. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a client come in, complaining that their spouse refused to come in for couple's counseling and adamant that “I am going to get divorced!" And yet, as they themselves go through my happiness coaching, they not only become happier, but their marriage miraculously improves. Remember, happiness is a SKILL that anyone can improve upon IF they have the right coaching and practice those skills.

9. Stop “Shoulding"
When you “should" yourself, you feel guilty or shameful. When you “should" you spouse, you feel angry and resentful. As if that is not bad enough, “shoulding" also affects your behavior. If you think “He should help more around the house," you are more likely to get into an argument or act in a passive aggressive way (such as “forget" to pick up his dry cleaning).

If instead you think, “I wish he would help more around the house," you are more likely to be assertive, problem solving with him how you can divide up the chore. You are also more likely to be grateful when he does help out.

10. Surprise Him

Life can sometimes feel like you are just going through the motions. So do something to spice things up. Consider sending him a text telling him about a fantasy or flashing some fun lingerie when he least expects it. You can even take a more simple route and leave a love note where only he will find it.

Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D. is a psychologist, wife, mother of 2, and author of the bestselling book “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness."