What are the tricks to a happy marriage?

Communication is Key

He'll have to whisper more than sweet nothings to make this relationship last.
He'll have to whisper more than sweet nothings to make this relationship last.
© iStockphoto.com/Renphoto

You love learning little things about your spouse -- be it the fact that she once had a stuffed elephant she took everywhere or the slip that he once built a tower out of Coke cans. Learning something like that about your spouse can be a lifelong treasure hunt, though there are times when we might wish we could cut to the chase and know exactly what the other person is thinking. Since no one's a mind reader, you'll have to exercise those communication skills instead. Good communication is one of the most important tricks to a happy marriage.

In the best relationships, good communication starts long before that walk down the aisle; in fact, communication before the wedding has been shown to be one of the best predictors of success in marriage [source: Goleman]. One important topic of conversation before marriage should be money, but this is often the hardest topics for people to discuss. Reconciling a spender and a spendthrift's ways are important so that you aren't hit with a surprise debt down the line. As with any topic, simply ignoring a problem or sweeping it under the rug will only come back to haunt you later.

A constructive conversation, be it about finances, household chores or the children, requires that each party honestly share what's on his or her mind without getting defensive. Avoid generalizations, or phrases that include the words "always" or "never." Be specific as well; instead of telling your spouse that he or she is a slob, point to specific grievances, such as high heels left in the entryway or dirty gym socks stinking up the den. Don't let the conversation descend into one big whine; approach discussions with a sense of compromise so that the problem can be resolved.

As the years go on, it's important to fight a good fight. As you learn more and more about your spouse, it may be tempting to go for the emotional jugular in an attempt to get what you want. Instead, stay focused on the topic at hand. Often, people get angry just to get the reassurance that they are still loved, so rather than presenting your spouse with an impossible puzzle to solve, try one of the other tricks in this article. If you're feeling argumentative, it may just be from a lack of romance or quality time together -- hit the back button if you want to get some ideas on those topics. Hit the "next" button if you want more information on the pursuit of happiness, marital and otherwise.

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