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28 Little Things You Can Do Right Now to Make Your Marriage Happier

It's not diamonds and flowers that make a marriage, but the little things—and taking these small, simple steps over time will yield bigger, happier results.

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Say thank you at least once a day

You thank others for little courtesies, but do you thank your partner? To avoid taking each other for granted, try to show your appreciation at least once a day. Say it like you mean it—even if it’s in response to something that’s his or her “job” (like washing the dishes). If there’s something you appreciate, large or small, speak up!

2 / 28
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Do something for your partner that you did when you were newlyweds

Bake a batch of homemade brownies. Send flowers just because. Tuck little notes into his briefcase or leave private messages on her voice mail. Not only will you generate new emotional connections, but thinking back on your honeymoon period will also help you reconnect to those warm memories. Here’s marriage advice for newlyweds every couple could use.

3 / 28
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Reintroduce meaningful conversation into your relationship

When you were courting, did you talk for hours about current events or the meaning of life? And now all you seem to talk about now is the grocery list or how much to spend on a new sofa? Asking about each other’s day isn’t enough. Try this: One night while you’re in front of the TV or in the car, make a remark about something your partner deeply cares about that’s bigger than the both of you—sports, politics, anything to get the ball rolling. When it comes to your relationships, it might be useful to listen to your mother’s advice.

4 / 28
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Get active together

Have you both packed on a few pounds since your wedding day? Find a physical activity you both enjoy and exercise together to make your bodies and marriage healthier. Play tennis, jump in the pool, or head to the batting cages so you can support each other while you work on your health. These are ways you can even lose weight walking.

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Each morning ask, “What’s on your calendar?”

Does he have a big meeting? Is she dreading a phone call to an important client? Is she having lunch with an old friend? Talking about the daily details of your lives is just as important as sharing hopes, dreams, and fears, so asking about those details is a great way to build understanding and rapport. And don’t forget to ask how that meeting, phone call, or lunch turned out. Your thoughtfulness will make your partner feel loved and cared for. These are other tiny ways to make your spouse feel loved.

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Treat your spouse with respect and admiration in public

Whether you’re at a party, a business meeting, or just strolling down the street, give him or her subtle signals of your connection. Hold his hand. Smile at her. Put your arm around her. And never, ever, make fun of your partner in public.

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Walk out disagreements

When you and your partner are at odds, ask if he’d like to go for a walk to hash things out. Being outdoors and walking at a steady pace can melt away the tension so it’s easier to talk honestly, form compromises, or apologize.

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Learn how to let things go

Wet towel on the floor? Resist the urge to complain. While it’s irritating, it will undoubtedly happen again… and again… and again. Instead, recite a modified Serenity Prayer: “I accept the things I cannot change.” You’ll be amazed at how quickly your resentment melts away. Another tip: Try to air grievances at the same time each week in a formal meeting (no TV or phones). If you discuss what’s bothering you in a structured, formal way, issues won’t come up so often at other times, and if they do, you’ll be able to discuss them more calmly. Here are mental tricks to avoid complaining when you feel annoyed.

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Learn how to ask nicely

You want him to hang a shelf? Mow the lawn? Asking her to throw in a load of laundry? Make sure you ask, rather than demand. We all tend to respond better to requests than orders. For example, instead of saying, “You should…,” say, “Could you…?” And instead of saying, “Why didn’t you…?” say, “Next time it would help me if you could try to…”

10 / 28
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Sneak in a morning snuggle

Cuddling before bed is a nice way to end the day, but it’s an even better routine to start your morning with. Set your alarm five minutes earlier than usual to give yourself time to snuggle close. You don’t have to say a word (this is pre-coffee, after all), but connecting physically before starting your morning will make you feel closer and more secure through the rest of the day.

11 / 28
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Take time for yourself

Go ahead, take that writing class—or any other interest you might have outside of those you share with your partner. It makes you more interesting to your partner and everyone else. Moreover, a little “me time” allows both you and your partner to grow as individuals and reduces the pressure on each of you to fill the other’s every need. Here’s how to make the most of your free time, according to science.

12 / 28
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Be sincere about your love

Write a love letter or e-mail. Don’t worry that you’re not a writer; just be simple and sincere, rather than trying too hard to be romantic. Describe how your partner makes you feel, and mention specific qualities you appreciate or quirks you find endearing. Recall your past times together and describe your hopes for the future.

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Work to improve yourself

Demonstrate your love by working to improve something about yourself that bugs your partner. For instance, if she wants you to be healthier, go to the gym or take up a nightly walk (preferably with her). If he’s a neat freak, stop throwing your dirty socks on the floor and leaving your dishes in the sink. Saying “I love you” is always nice, but showing it is really fundamental.

14 / 28
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Always put your marriage first

This is a golden rule: Of all your relationships, your spouse always comes first. After all, the kids are going to leave someday; hopefully, your partner isn’t. Plus, giving up your life as a couple to indulge your children simply sets an uninspiring example: Grow up, become an adult, then you, too, can subjugate your existence to that of your children. Putting your marriage first means things like deliberately setting aside time for the two of you, whether it’s a weekly date or dinner alone a few nights a week (feed the kids early).

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Volunteer together

Another way to spend meaningful time together is to do service projects together. Giving to others moves you out of yourself and your own problems and supports a broader, more spiritual view of life. Rekindling your spirituality or engaging in a physical activity are also good ways for you two to get closer.

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Keep your word

Breaking a promise can ruin the trust and unity your relationship is based on. It’s better to take time thinking about if can realistically follow through before committing than to let your partner down when you drop the ball.

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Spend a night under the stars

Grab a blanket and stare at the night sky during a clear evening. You don’t even need to talk—just soaking in the beauty together is a great bonding experience.

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Share a hobby

Find an activity both of you enjoy, and participate in it together. Try gardening, attending classes, hiking, or visiting art shows. If your partner hasn’t expressed interest yet, sneakily ask for help watering your plants, or tell your spouse a friend gave you tickets to an event. Once your partner gets involved once, he or she might want to do it more regularly.

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Start monthly movie nights

Even if you have different tastes in genres, you can usually find a common ground. Find a spy film with a love story involved, or a Western movie with an attractive male lead so you both enjoy yourselves.

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Laugh together

Couples who share funny experiences feel significantly less conflict than couples than those who don’t laugh together, one study found. Share a funny story from your day or check out the jokes on RD.com.

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Give credit where it’s due

If you love how your partner makes the perfect scrambled eggs or is doing a great job remodeling the kitchen, voice your admiration. Your praise is a reminder that you love your spouse, and acknowledging that appreciation will make it easier to sort out differences when they arise.

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Go ahead and schedule sex

It might sound unromantic, but penciling in a romp in the sheets will make sure your busy schedules don’t get in the way of the intimacy that’s so crucial to a loving relationship. What you lose in spontaneity will be gained back with the excitement you feel anticipating a night (or morning or afternoon) of lovemaking. Check out these 31 steamy tips to boost libido.

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Escape for the weekend

Spending a weekend out of town can be a romantic adventure. Tell your partner you’d love to get away together for a few days, then start planning together. The two of you can pore over maps, hunt for the best B&Bs, and drool over the restaurants you want to hit.

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Go to bed at the same time

Bedtime is one of those rare moments when the house is quiet and you’re done with the day’s obligations. At least a few nights a week, give up your late-night TV or Internet surf session and head to bed when your partner does. Spend the time talking about your day or cuddling while you read your own books.

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Participate in each other’s hobbies

Once a month, attend a cultural event, alternating who gets to choose. Watching your partner share a passion will be fun for both of you, and you might enjoy a night at the community theater or a dirt bike race more than you’d think.

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Perform small acts of kindness

Not only are small gestures sweet signs of your love, but they’ll also make your partner more inclined to return the favor in the future. Email your spouse a fun or thought-provoking article, bring home dessert from a favorite diner, or give your partner the day off chores without asking anything in return.

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Make your bedroom a fight-free zone

Your bed should be reserved for sleep and romance. If you start associating it with complaints or issues that you’re working through, you’ll think of it as emotionally unsafe and start to avoid each other. Hash out disagreements before turning in, or at least agree to save the discussion until morning.

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Spend time with friends

No matter how much you love your spouse, friends can fill certain needs that your partner can’t. Plan a day (or night) out with friends or relatives.

Originally Published in Stealth Health