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Every marriage is unique. Every marriage will experience problems at some stage. And every couple’s problems will seem like no one else’s. There will, of course, be times when you fight, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, fighting can be done in a way that allows both of you to vent and air your opinions, which is both cathartic and beneficial to your relationship. The keys are not to say things that you do not mean and to resolve issues quickly. The following are an assortment of secrets, dished out by experts and happily married couples, which are sure to put you at an advantage as you head out on this new adventure together:

  • Establish your roles – communicate about what roles you expect the other to take in the marriage and ensure that you are both satisfied with the other’s expectations before saying “I do”. Decide on whether you will both work, who will look after the children (if there are to be children), who will be responsible for the management of the finances, and so on.
  • Ensure that you have realistic expectations – this may involve speaking to other couples and even seeing a counsellor to sort through any fears or unrealistic / unfair demands you may want to make on your future spouse. Couples or individuals that come from complex pasts and less-than-perfect families often experience great difficulty in keeping their expectations reasonable.
  • Be genuinely and sincerely committed – do not enter into a marriage with the reasoning that you can always get a divorce if it does not work out. Rather, be determined to take every step possible to make this union a successful one. If you are not prepared to do that, do not get married.
  • Take responsibility – it is your choice to get married. You choose the person you decide to spend your life with. Own that responsibility and make the success of your union part of your accountability at the end of the day. You cannot blame the other person for every wrong, just as you cannot take credit for everything that goes right.
  • Be happy with yourself – you can only be a happy married person if you were a happy single person. To be truly happy with and for yourself, you need to know yourself. Take steps to achieve this before you wed.
  • Communicate – this word is thrown around liberally. Still, few couples know what it really means to communicate. Effective communication is about knowing our own thoughts, motives and feelings and being able to express them to someone else honestly and with diplomacy. It is also about being able to listen when they reciprocate.
  • Dedicate time to one another – everybody needs love and attention to thrive, even our pets. So, do not assume that your partner is happy just to be sharing a house with you. They need undivided attention, conversation and shared activities, no matter how simple.
  • Spiritual connections – if you share a spiritual connection (i.e. subscribe to the same religious faith and both act in accordance with it), you are far more likely to be happy. Your motivations, goals and ideals will be in line.
  • A time to speak and a time to keep quiet – know your partner well enough to know when speaking will be effective and when you need to give them time to cool off. By not allowing them this dignity, your argument will escalate unnecessarily, which usually leads to hurtful, untrue words.
  • Maintain a measure of independence – although it is vital to spend time together, it is also important to have a social life away from your spouse. Spending time with friends or indulging in a hobby will make you appreciate your time together even more. It will also make you more interesting to one another, and give you something to talk about.
  • Laugh – be committed to laughing heartily at least once every day. This will force you to see the fun and humour in situations and will give you the permission to relax a little.
  • Remember the small things – many couples become ‘comfortable’ with one another, feeling it is no longer necessary to be polite or courteous. This is not true. These things, which may seem small, remind our partner that they are loved and worthy of respect.
  • Being right isn’t that great – if you refuse to apologise because you are determined to prove that you are right, you are going to sacrifice happiness. Being happy is more important that being right. This might mean having to eat a giant slice of humble pie at times, but it is all worth it in the end, when your spouse reciprocates and appreciates your efforts.
  • Never forget the passion – the only thing that sets your relationship with your spouse apart from that you share with friends and family is that it is (or should be) sexual in nature. Therefore, do what you need to do to keep this aspect of your marriage fun, exciting, engaging and full of love for both of you.

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