The 10 Habits that Keep Marriages Strong

The key to wedded bliss isn't over-the-top romance, but these surprisingly simple practices you can do to stay - or fall back - in love with your partner. By Holly Corbett, REDBOOK.  With additional commentary by Reverend Charles E. Million

Not trying to change each other
 Maybe you wish he folded his socks, or that he would chat it up with your friends without prompting. But, his inability to notice hair in the sink may stem from the laid-back personality that drew you to him in the first place. "One of the things we see with happy couples is that they know their partner's differences, and have pretty much stopped trying to change the other person," says Darren Wilk, a certified Gottman Couples Therapist with a private practice in Vancouver, British Columbia. "Rather than trying to fight their partner's personality style, they instead focus on each other's strengths." To better understand how to tap into both of your best qualities, take this quick relationship personality quiz.
From our work at The Relationship Centers and Relationship Counseling Associates we understand how important this really is.  We even offer testing and counseling sessions to help couples understand the differences in their temperament and personality type and how to communicate so that your "better half" will have a better understanding.  We also look at the 12 areas of importance that cause the most issues with couples and help you learn about your differences in these areas and talk through them.

Framing your demands as favors
 Whether you want him to unload the dishwasher more often or pay closer attention to the kids, your partner will be more likely to change his behavior if he feels like he'll get relationship brownie points. "Throw it out there like a favor. Present it like 'here is the recipe for what will make me happy,' because everyone wants to make their partner feel happy," says Wilk. "When you present your needs, present them as what you do want rather than what you don't want." Instead of saying, "I hate when you have to have everything scheduled," try saying, "I would love to have a day where we can just be spontaneous."
Presentation and perception are so important. Perception is reality for most of us. That we perceive a statement is what it means to us...even though it may not be what the person communicating with us meant at all. So, we must communicate in such a way that they perceive it in the way we mean it.

Vocalizing your apprecation
 Giving your partner positive reinforcement sounds like a no-brainer, but couples often forget to do it. "Relationship expert Gottman's research found that in everyday life, happy couples have 20 positive moments - such as a shared look, compliment, or affectionate touch - to every negative moment," says Wilk. Tell him something positive three times a day, and be specific. Instead of saying, "You're a good dad," tell him why. "You're a good dad because you helped our daughter with that puzzle, which I never would have had the patience to do." 
Commenting on what we appreciate is harder to do than you think. We take so much for granted. But it is important to praise our partner with specifics.

Focusing on the positive
"Unhappy couples are stuck in a negative state of mind," says Wilk. "You will always find what you look for. If you look for stuff that bugs you and that your partner is doing wrong, you will find it every day. If you look at what your partner is doing it right, you'll find it everyday." It's a choice to flip your mindset, so when you find yourself getting annoyed, visualize something he does that makes your heart flutter to halt the negative thought circuit.
Unfortunately most of us comment on the negative things not the positive. When we do that our partner builds up a lot of resentment and feels that we don't see the good things. And guess what.... many of us don't....we focus on the things that annoy or anger us.

Taking trips down memory lane
 "Happy couples tend to rewrite history by glossing over the bad stuff and focusing on the happy times," says Wilk. By reliving memories out loud to your partner, it actually changes your mindset, and how you view him and think about your relationship. Try this exercise whenever your feel your relationship needs a boost: Go over the highlights of when you were first dating, or rehearse the best moments of your relationship (such as the day you had an impromptu picnic in the park during your lunch hour, or that surprise anniversary date he took you on) to uncover buried memories. 
This is so important. We all have good and bad memories in our relationships.  If we only concentrate on the negative then our relationship will be a negative one.

Never siding with the enemy
 "Sometimes what affair-proofs relationships is simply being there when your partner needs to vent, and having their back without trying to fix the problem," says Wilk. "People want someone to listen to them." The key is to be supportive, and never take the side of the person he's venting about - even if you can see where that person is coming from. For example, if he is upset that his boss took away a contract and gave it to someone else in the office, now is not the time to say, "Well, maybe you didn't put your best effort in." Right now he needs his feelings validated, and to hear you say, "That must have been really hard." Happy couples know when to bite their tongues. 

Not getting too comfortable
Trust, security, and commitment are key elements in any relationship, but having them doesn't mean you can treat your relationship as rock-solid, and stop trying. "Relationships are a fragile ecosystem, and that's why there is a 50 percent divorce rate," says Wilk. "Happy couples keep dating, telling each other they look great, and doing things together."   
Most of us our guilty of this.  Our relationships only stay healthy when we keep working on them.

Having rituals of connection
"It's not only about having a date night, but happy couples seem to do a lot of mundane things together," says Wilk. "They have little habits that they decide to do together, whether it be sitting down to pay the bills once a month or folding laundry." We say, anything to make that pile of dirty clothes feel more manageable.

Knowing your partner's calls for attention
Happy couples are mindful of those little moves their partners do for attention. When Gottman's team studied 120 newlyweds in his Love Lab, they discovered that couples who stayed married six years later were paying attention to these bids for connection 86 percent of the time, compared to only 33 percent of the time for those who later divorced. So look out for the little things, and respond to his need to connect. Like if you're grocery shopping and he casually mentions that he hasn't had Fruit Loops since he was a kid, throw them in the cart for him to show that you care.

Doing the little things
 "When it comes to relationship satisfaction, you can't just ride on the big things like, 'I don't drink, I pay the bills, I don't beat you, we went to Hawaii last year,'" says Wilk. "This stuff is not really what keeps couples happy in their daily lives." What really matters is all the small stuff that adds up, such as being there for each other when one needs to vent, or noticing when he needs a hug, or making him his favorite meal just because. "It's also giving up on the idea that you have to feel in love all the time. Marriage is about trust and commitment and knowing each other," says Wilk. "That's what love is."