With the divorce rate holding steady at 50% for more than 30 years now - we asked couples what keeps their relationships humming along?
Many of the answers surprised us in their simplicity. Others are common practices that we all know but - rarely actually put into practice.
In our research we wanted to include couples with and without kids - for those of you who think "these couples are content because they don't have the stress of kids and jobs".
- Mutual Respect
Yes - these seems like a no-brainer but it goes a long way. "We may have a difference of opinion on how to tackle a particular problem" says Christine Isinger from Pawtucket "but we take the time to hear the other out and not make them feel stupid or minimized for offer a countering opinion."
"You may think that you respect your partner but, how may times have you rolled your eyes or mumbled something under your breathe about a comment you thought was truly stupid" Isinger says.
"For us it feels more like brain storming rather than something that is written in concrete".
- Fight Fair
Lynn and Greg Shure have been married for 17 years and have 3 kids, ages 13,11 and 8. "Everyone argues and Greg and I are no different" explains Lynn.
"We take the time to really understand what's upsetting the other person" she says. "It's sometimes hard to appreciate the point of view of another person. Once we understand why the other feels the way they do, we can usually reconcile the conflict with a reasonable conversation that doesn't have to get personal".
Ask yourself...have you every met anyone who admitted that they were angrier after having sex than before having sex? The most likely an obvious answer is probably "no".
The act of sex or intimacy releases Serotonin hormones, which naturally make you feel good.
"Taking the time to be intimate with each other can be a marriage saver" says Joe from Fall River.
"Stress is everywhere and taking the time to caress or enjoy some downtime with my wife keeps me sane and coming back for more" he said.
"Nobody has the time to act like 16 year-olds in the back of a car but, we do make time each week to spend quality time together, even if we're both exhausted. It could be something as simple as spooning after a stress filled day."
- Cook Together
Allan and Joyce have been married for more than 30 years and have 2 kids and 1 grandchild. Joyce has always done the cooking but Allan became more involved in experimenting with cooking after their youngest child moved out.
Allan explains " After our son moved out there was less emphasis on making sure dinner was ready at a certain time and cooking ahead on busy nights". We subscribed to a food service that delivered simple meals that one of us could prepare quickly".
"I started ordering more involved meals and Joyce loved the results". "Pretty soon so the weekends we found ourselves preparing meals together and looking for compatible wines" Joyce chimes in.
"We really look forward to trying new recipes together" Allan says.
- Do the Unexpected
Keeping your partner of their toes with an unexpected gift at an unexpected time scored among the highest in our survey. More surprises was that doing an unexpected task like picking up groceries or cleaning score equally as high as bring home flowers for no particular reason.
Marriage and Family therapist Melinda Burton-Krieg of Pasadena, CA explained "Couples today tend to lead much more hectic lives no matter what their ages or how long they've been married.
Having a partner that can unexpectedly take something off your plate without having to be asked is seen as a major win in the compatibility and love categories."
"Couples want to believe that they chose a partner that reflects their values and strengthens, and that often means anticipating a need without having to communicate it verbally" Burton-Krieg says.
- Up the Foreplay Factor
Many couples make love in the same predictable ways that they always have. Introducing a new element into your love making can usher in a sense of excitement and willingness to change this up a bit.
"Jim surprised me with a sex toy that I never thought I would ever see in our relationship" Val says.
"I won't lie - I was intimidated and a bit put off at first" she admits.
"Then I started to think how much courage it must have taken Jim to buy it - let alone introduce it to our love making. We laughed and learned how to enjoy each other in a totally new way" Val says.
- Love Notes
No you don't have to be Robert Browning but many couples that we talked to savored the occasional card or note that a partner slipped into a lunchbox, handbag, glove compartment or pocket.
Amanda of Seattle told us "Finding a note that says something as simple as "you seduced me in my dream last night!" can make my day!"
"I know that my husband Matt is thinking of me when he's not really thinking of anything" she says.
"I get excited thinking of what I may find and what it might say".
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