Newlywed bliss isn't a myth: Everything seems shiny and full of promise in the months after you say "I do." But how do you keep that happiness going for the rest of your lives? The best way to create a happy life together is to start with good emotional habits. Here, these married couples share their secrets to a lifelong marriage. Practice the tips, below, and you are well on your way to a rock-solid, amazing, lifelong relationship.
Make time to be silly.
"Laughter is the most important part of our relationship. My husband Jeff will will put on oven mitts and make them sing if I am blue. I'll put on a parade for him with our son's stuffed animals," says Caroline Leavitt, married 21 years with a 17-year-old son. The Hoboken, New Jersey-based novelist finds her husband's cheerful efforts especially helpful in dark times. "I was critically ill for a year but we've both always been able to help each other see hope, even if it was only a tiny bright gleam in the sky miles and miles away."
Set goals but be open to changing them.
Before they married nine years ago Naomi Elena Zener and her husband set goals of where they saw themselves in one, five, 10, and 15 years. Naomi, who is a novelist living in Toronto, Canada, and has a blog Satirical Mama, laughs, "Some of the goals have been hit, others not." Their initial plan was to buy a home, collect art, travel, and build their careers. The "curveball" was a baby, followed by a second child. "Evan and I still have goals but things like travel have been reprioritized. Marriage to us was and is a lifelong commitment," Naomi explains.
Stop trying to change one another.
On their tenth anniversary Stephanie and James Freeman put into practice the truism every couple should know: You can't change another person. You can only change your actions and reactions. Stephanie, from Raleigh, North Carolina, shares, "We decided to take action together by making a list. On one side of the paper we wrote down our 'wish list' of things we wanted to change about the other, agreeing beforehand we wouldn't let ourselves be easily offended by what the other wrote." The couple also wrote a second list, which focused on characteristics about the other they would not want to see change.
The first list they exchanged was the "bad" one — discussing each item and doing their best to see the other person's point of view. Afterward they held each other to reestablish a feeling of love and connection. Next they shared the second list elaborating in admiring fashion on each point. "This list exchange was an event — fun, sexy and full of gratitude," Stephanie notes.
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW is a New York City-based marriage therapist and author.