All the good fairy tales end with the iconic phrase "and they lived happily ever after." Children love listening to those magical stories of love and adventure, but as we grow older, we start to think happily ever afters only exist in books and movies.
While you might not live blissfully the rest of your life, with some work, you can have the happy marriage you've always dreamed of. Here are seven secrets to a happy marriage, according to experts:
1. Take the long way home
One sure way to keep your marriage going strong is to spend time together. Researchers found that married people felt twice as happy when they were around their spouse versus when they weren't. So take the long way home when you're out running errands together or stay up a little while after the kids have gone to bed to talk about your day. Boost your happiness and strengthen your marriage by giving your spouse that much-needed attention.
You can't change your spouse, so love them (flaws and all). The only way both of you can be truly happy is if you accept each other's faults and try to become better each day. Marriage expert Dr. Paul Schoenfeld says when you accept your partner for who they are, your can foster peace and happiness in your relationship.
"You didn't marry a clone of yourself!" he said. "And if you did, you might be divorced already!"
His witty remark is true; you'd probably bore each other if you and your partner were too much alike. Embrace your spouse's quirks - it's part of what makes them who they are.
3. Set your own traditions
There's a difference between routines and rituals. Routines and rituals are both things you do every day, but rituals have meaning. For example, eating dinner is a routine, but you can make it a ritual by taking that time to ask your spouse about their day.
Dr. John Gottman says marriage is more than just raising children and splitting chores. "It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together - a culture rich with rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you, that lead you to understand what it means to be a part of the family you have become," he said.
Continue some of your family traditions and consider creating some of your own to give meaning to the things you do together.
4. Flirt with each other
You might think, "Why flirt? We aren't dating." If you're not, why aren't you? Keep dating your spouse all throughout your marriage. And we all know part of dating is flirting. Making cute remarks to your spouse is an ego-booster and a fun way to let your spouse know you always find them attractive, marriage expert Sheri Stritof says. For a happy marriage, spontaneously wink at your spouse, kiss them on the cheek and tell them how great they look.
5. Create a relationship mission statement
Mission statements aren't only for your job. Marriage expert Ellen Hartson says creating a statement for your relationship can help you focus on what's truly important.
She asks couples, "If you are willing to spend time thinking about your organization's goals and strategies, then shouldn't you be willing to invest time thinking about your relationship?"
6. Find the root of the problem
One day my husband and I were driving through busy interstate traffic - I gasped as our brakes skidded and our car came to a complete stop to what seemed like inches behind the car in front of us. My reaction offended him, and I was confused when he was so upset. What he said next opened my eyes to the real issue: "It makes me feel like you don't trust my driving," he said. I then realized the issue wasn't surface-level.
Experts say "emotions are at the heart of virtually all marital problems." In other words, some issues have underlying meaning. When you notice an argument starting to form, take a step back and ask your spouse to express how they feel and why. This allows you to focus on the real root of the problem.
Do the little things your spouse loves. Rub their shoulders after a long day, hold their hand at the grocery store or clear the dishes after dinner. Author and relationship expert Shaunti Feldhahn says even the simplest actions carry a lot of power. They're so powerful, in fact, that she says it can transform the relationship even if only one person is doing them. If you make an effort to do little things for your spouse, Feldhahn says you'll discover they aren't so little after all.
Whether you believe your marriage is struggling or is doing better than ever, all couples can benefit by continuing to work at their relationship every day. Ask yourself what you can do to make your spouse's day better, and do it. As long as you keep working together, you can have your happily ever after.