By Bethany Kandel
Make Your Own Happiness
“Sustain a strong sense of self apart from the relationship,” says Iris Krasnow, author of The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married (Gotham). That’s the key to maintaining passion, commitment and sanity with one person for the rest of your life. “Women who are engaged in their lives outside of their children and husbands do better in their marriage, especially when the empty nest arrives,” she says.
Tamp Down the Criticism
The habit of criticism is “hazardous to any relationship,” warns Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of the forthcoming book, Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up (Gotham). “No one can survive in a marriage if they feel more judged than appreciated.” Instead, save your criticism until you are both calm and you’re feeling good about your partner—though not on your one night out. Stick to one criticism per discussion and express your beliefs and feelings without judging or attacking your partner’s character. A little humor helps, too, she notes.
Take the Long View
Instead of bailing at the first sign of conflict, take the “long view” in marriage, Harriet Lerner counsels, acknowledging that at times that can be tough. “If you look at the biggest social and political issues of the day it’s hard for people to take the long-range view; people will automatically go for what makes them feel comfortable in the short run.” Beware of that in marriage, she advises. “Don’t treat it like when you watch TV; if you don’t like what’s on the channel, you flip it to find something better.”
Create Technology-Free Time Together
Modern technology, which is meant to keep us connected, can actually create great distance in couples, even when they are not aware of it. “Every couple needs to have technology-free time to experience each other with full, undistracted attention,” says Lerner. If your spouse seems to be tethered to his or her smartphone 24/7 and it bothers you, sit down and make rules for an occasional time-out from electronics, especially during meals or family time, she suggests.
Always Remember: Your Spouse Is Your Beloved Friend
A key aspect of a loving marriage is to continually nurture it. Don’t forget the little gestures and kindnesses of courtship days. “Always remember: My spouse is my beloved best friend,” says Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser of Congregation Bnei Yitzchok in Brooklyn, N.Y., professor of Jewish studies at Touro College and experienced marriage counselor. “Show them how much you love them every day.” They don’t have to be grand gestures. Make a cup of coffee the way they like it in the morning; prepare something special for no reason. Over time, couples forget these simple things that came so easily when they first dated. “We become so familiar with each other that we do away with the extra niceties,” he says.
Bethany Kandel is a former New York City news reporter for USA Today, the Associated Press, and the New York Daily News. Her freelance articles have appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle and Travel & Leisure.
After years of rising divorce rates, the tide has shifted, and more people are choosing to stay married. We talk to author Iris Krasnow and others about what it takes to stay together for the long haul and how marriage is revered in Jewish tradition.
8 Rules of Long-Lasting Marriage
Marriage doesn’t come with a rulebook. But if it did, we’re sure it’d include these tips inspired by Iris Krasnow’s The Secret Lives of Wives (Gotham).