Advice for married couples

Table of Contents

Staying Married for Life

. . .preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight (Proverbs 3:21 NIV).

I kissed my husband Charles good-bye, waved as I backed down the driveway and drove off for a weekend speaking engagement. His last words rolled across my mind.

“Be safe and have fun. I realize when you come home you’ll be a new person. I’m looking forward to the changes I’ll see.”

We had talked the night before about not taking each other for granted–in other words, assuming we knew all there was to know about one another–and about the importance of supporting each other as individuals with ideas, dreams and goals of our own.

Yes, we were one in spirit and flesh as married partners but we were also a man and a woman who had God-given talents and gifts to share with the world. Changes and challenges were inevitable and we wanted to accept rather than resist them. We committed to praying for discernment in our relationship so we would not grow complacent.

I can say today, as my mother often said about her marriage to my father, “We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re on our way, and most important, we’re still together.” She and my dad had walked side by side and climbed over a few boulders, as well, for more than 60 years.

The following suggestions for staying married for life (and happily so) are based on observations, conversations and trial and error in my marriage. They work–thanks to my parents’ example, the advice of people I admire and the counsel and prayer of an older married couple, Rob and Grace, who befriended my husband and me many years ago.

Perhaps they will work for you too as you ask God for discernment, practice it and then experience the rewards and results in your marriage.

Be Available

Being ‘there’ for your spouse is what being married is really about. It takes time to get to know another person. If you’re not available, it can’t happen. Our friends Tom and Lou go out for dinner every Friday night and they have done so for more than 30 years. When their children were young, they hired a sitter. Nothing but a serious illness keeps them from this weekly date where they focus on one another in a relaxed setting.

Russ awakens his wife Jean each morning with a cup of her favorite tea. The two then sit in bed together, talk over their plans for the day and spend a few minutes in prayer. “Our day always goes better when we pray first,” said Russ.

Ginger and Alan work together in real estate—a business with unpredictable hours and lots of driving. One works in the field, the other in the office. “Believe it or not we rarely see each other during the day so we’ve made a point of having lunch together,” said Ginger. “Nothing gets in the way of that one hour when we can talk, plan, laugh and debrief.”

And Sally and Dave bought a hot tub where they spend their special time together each night before going to bed. “The couple that soaks together stays together,” Sally joked.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34 NIV).

Be Attentive

Have you ever walked up to someone at an event, and as you begin talking, he or she nods and makes polite sounds, but is clearly elsewhere in spirit? He scans the crowd while he’s standing with you. Or she peeks around your shoulder as if to say, “I wonder who else is here.” It’s chilling to be on the receiving end of such treatment. It’s bad enough when it occurs at a social or business gathering, but it can be devastating in a marriage.

To be attentive, one must pay attention! Look your spouse in the eye. Listen for your mate’s heart, not just for his or her words. This is an area of challenge for almost everyone. We lead such busy lives that many of us have made a habit of doing more than one thing at the same time. We make phone calls while driving, cook with one hand and scribble a list with the other, cut a child’s hair as we help our mate with the monthly finances.

Later we wonder where the years went and why we don’t feel as connected to our husband or wife as we hoped we would. We long for another hug. We wish we could laugh and play more. We notice a growing distance between us. If this is true for you, take heart. It’s not too late. Regardless of how long you’ve been married, you can learn from those mistakes. Each of us can choose today to start paying attention to the person we vowed to love and cherish for a lifetime.

“His God instructs him and teaches him the right way” (Is. 28:26 NIV).

Be Aware

A friend of mine had a successful restaurant business for 20 years. He credited it to his weekly round-table meetings with his employees. “He knew his people would not be effective if they were carrying around emotional baggage,” said his wife Anne. Each Monday morning Frank invited them to share anything that might interfere with them doing their job. “At the end of the meeting you could feel the change in the air,” she said. “Employees felt closer to one another because they knew they weren’t alone. Other people cared.”

This custom inspired me. I started practicing it with my husband. Instead of assuming I know what’s going on with him, I pray for discernment when I suspect something is upsetting him. Then I ask if he’d like to talk and if so, I try to listen and empathize rather than rush in with a pat answer.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10.

Be Appreciative

“Thank you.”

Two words spouses don’t hear often enough–from one another:

  • “Thank you for being my love.”
  • “Thank you for working so hard for our family.”
  • “Thank you for supporting me.”
  • “Thank you for being you.”

Gratitude is not an option. It’s actually God’s will. As the apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Thes. 5:16-18, “. . . give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The more we express our appreciation toward our mates, the freer we become of negative thoughts and emotions toward one another. Resentment and judgment cannot exist in the same space with appreciation.

“Gratitude is the rosemary of the heart,” wrote 19th century writer Minna Antrim.

How little it would take to sprinkle rosemary into the lives of our spouses. A simple ‘thank you’ every single day would do it!

As we become available, attentive, aware, and appreciative toward our marriage partners, we are building a relationship that will last a lifetime—and happily so.

Authors: Todd and Joy Smith, Founders of Little Things Matter.

We recently celebrated our 30th anniversary on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise. It was a real special time for us to enjoy each other and celebrate our life together.

Of the more than 225 lessons on this blog, the most popular of them all was the post we wrote together five years ago titled 25 tips to staying married 25 years.

We hope you find our updated list just as valuable.

The following points are not listed in any specific order. It is our hope that these tips will help you enjoy a more rewarding marriage.

1. Marry the right person. There is only one way you will know if the person you are dating is the right person to marry and that is by spending time together. We recommend dating at least one year before getting engaged. We dated for four years before getting married. Once we got married, there were no surprises.

2. Make your marriage your top priority. If you are married, there is nothing that should take precedence over your marriage, and that includes your children, hobbies, friends, and career.

3. Understand it takes hard work. Building a marriage of 30 years is not easy. We have had some very difficult periods. We have even had to go to marriage counseling to work through some issues. Know there will be challenging times and when they occur, work through them with a genuine desire to improve your marriage.

4. NEVER say the word divorce. If you are committed to building a long-term healthy marriage, make a vow to each other that you will never say the word divorce or anything else that would leave the other person to believe you are not 100% committed to your marriage.

5. Avoid emotional relationships outside your marriage. Don’t allow yourself to go outside your relationship with your spouse, with the opposite sex, for your emotional needs. Our spouse cannot meet all our needs, but when there is a lack of connection with our spouse and we look elsewhere for our needs to be met, we are likely headed for danger. If you are lacking a connection with your spouse, figure out what is going on, get to the bottom of it and reconnect. It could save your marriage.

6. Don’t use absolutes. This means not saying things like, “You always…” and “You Never…”. We said these types of things early in our marriage and found them destructive. We then made an agreement to never use any of those types of phrases again and neither of us has since.

7. Find at least one 30-minute block of time to spend together each day. It could be in the morning before work or in the evening. During this designated time, discuss what’s going on in each of your lives. We all have a lot going on, but if your marriage is a priority, spending time together should take precedence over all other activities. During this time, avoid distractions by putting your mobile device in the other room.

8. Communicate. Effective communication is critical for any marriage to last. This is especially important during difficult periods. Learn your spouse’s communication style and the way he or she needs to hear what you have to say. If something is really bothering you, make sure you discuss it. If you are the one listening, let your spouse talk without interrupting. Seek to understand his/her position. If you argue, try to defend yourself, or say something negative, your spouse will be less likely to communicate his/her feelings in the future.

9. Don’t argue over petty things. When we first got married we argued over every little ridiculous thing. It made our lives miserable. We then made the decision that we would no longer argue about meaningless things. We now live our lives knowing we don’t need to prove a meaningless point or be right about something that doesn’t matter.

10. Avoid holding grudges. After you work through an issue, move on and don’t harbor ill feelings. We also strongly encourage you to not bring up past challenges. The past is the past. It’s been years since either of us has brought up a negative issue from the past.

11. Serve one another. Be intentional. We are both very thoughtful about the little things we do to serve each other. This is about putting the other person’s needs before your own. The more you serve and meet the needs of your spouse, the more your spouse will serve and meet your needs. Serving your spouse needs to be part of who you are, not something you do when you want something in return.

12. Be considerate. This means everything from cleaning up your mess to avoiding doing or saying things that you know bug or irritate your spouse. If you know something bothers your spouse, be extra intentional and avoid doing it. Don’t even justify doing it occasionally.

13. Be encouraging. When your spouse is going through a difficult period, starting a new endeavor, or working on an important project, be there to encourage and support him or her. You should be your spouse’s number one fan.

14. Show your appreciation. In a marriage, it’s easy to take things for granted. Tell your spouse how much you appreciate the little things he or she does for you. Cleaning the house, picking up the dry cleaning, doing the laundry, cooking dinner for the family, and fixing the leaky faucet are just a few examples. Don’t let one good deed go unnoticed.

15. Be honest with each other. Once trust is lost, it is difficult to regain. This adage is especially true in marriage. Being honest also includes being honest with your feelings.

16. Always show respect to each other. This includes the way you communicate to each other, they way you talk about your spouse to others, and the way you treat your spouse.

17. Be an attractive mate. This includes everything from your physical appearance to the clothes you wear. Put as much effort into being an attractive partner now as you did when you were dating.

18. Love your spouse according to his or love language. Read Joy’s post titled, Loving People the Way They Need to be Loved to learn more about the significance of love languages.

19. Be playful. It may be sending a cute little sexy text message, saying or doing something seductive, or inviting your spouse to join you in the shower. Add a little spontaneity and spice to your marriage and make it fun! Now that we are empty nesters, it’s become part of our daily lives. 🙂

20. Make a weekly date a priority. This is HUGE! Dress up, get out of the house, and enjoy a special time together. During these times together show an interest in the things that are important to each other and avoid talking about subjects that could create tension. Whatever you do, DO NOT look at your mobile device unless your babysitter is texting you. Make your time together your priority. Everything else in life can wait.

21. Freedom in intimacy. Part of our date night isn’t just a night on the town. Even if we aren’t feeling connected on a particular date night, we still enjoy an intimate evening together. Having at least one intimate time together weekly has been our priority for 30 years. If we are feeling disconnected, it connects us! 🙂

22. Take get-a-way trips. While we try to connect during our time together each day and on date night, nothing has helped us connect more than taking short trips together. Often times it’s just a long weekend. These trips don’t need to cost a lot of money. On our last trip we went camping and had an amazing time. Like all the times when you are together, set boundaries on the use of electronic devices.

23. Make family and parenting decisions together. We are a team and we make all family related decisions as a team. We are also intentional in our parenting. Your spouse’s love and respect for you will grow when he or she sees you loving and parenting to the best of your ability.

24. Leave your work at work. When you come home from work, resist the temptation to talk about work, unless your spouse wants to hear about it. Instead, focus your time together on subjects of interest to everyone. If your career requires you to respond to text and email messages when you are home, find blocks of time that don’t interfere with your family time.

25. Give your spouse freedom. We give each other the freedom to do things that give us pleasure independently. Of course, we don’t take advantage of it, but giving your spouse the opportunity to do the things he or she enjoys is important.

26. Don’t let little things bother you. Just as you’re not perfect, your spouse isn’t perfect either. When your spouse does something that bothers you, let it go, unless it’s something so important that you feel it should be discussed. If you choose to discuss it, avoid discussing it when you are upset or when you’ve had alcohol to drink. Also, keep in mind that each time you are critical of your partner, you are driving a little wedge in your relationship. Choose your “times to criticize” wisely.

27. Pursue your own healing. Any time you take two people coming from two different backgrounds and families you are going to have differences. But when you react or respond to a situation in a way that seems irrational or exaggerated you are probably being triggered from a past experience.

If you find yourself responding to a situation in an irrational or exaggerated way, go seek some counseling and get the healing you need. It is our responsibility to pursue our own healing and to understand it’s an ongoing process. Being healed from negative experiences of the past will not only help you, but it will also help improve all your relationships.

28. Stay out of debt. Financial stress is the number one cause of divorce. Sit down together and create a budget that you will both stay committed to and don’t allow yourselves to justify spending more money than you make.

29. Your spouse cannot meet all your needs. I remember when I was a young married woman with little children. When my husband would come home I was so hungry for adult conversation, he probably felt swarmed when he walked in the door. We all need to pursue a life and relationships outside our marriages. Not for a lack of connection with our spouse, but because our spouses can’t meet all our needs.

30. Continue growing as people. We are both committed to learning, growing and achieving our personal best. This includes growing as a spouse, parent and individual. As one of us gets better, it helps the other person get better, just as iron sharpens iron. The more you grow as a person, the more you will experience life’s winds blowing at your back.

For those of you who are married, we want to encourage you to review this list with your spouse and discuss the steps you can both take to make to improve your marriage.

If you are not yet married, we strongly recommend pre-marital counseling. We suggested this to both of our married children and their spouses and they will readily tell you that it was valuable, enlightening, and set the foundation for the marriage they now enjoy.

How long have you been married? Do you have some tips you can share with the LTM community? Please tell us in the comment section below this post.

You can enjoy an amazing marriage, if you will focus on the little things that go into building a successful marriage.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.

Greg and Em Butler have been married fourteen years. They have two daughters, Chloe, who has just started school, and teenage Sophie. Greg is (perhaps overly) content in his management role with Births, Deaths and Marriages and Em has kept things (mostly) together on the home front since the children were born. It’s a good marriage, as marriages go. The children tolerate them, the sex is frequent enough and they have the domestic routine more or less down pat. Greg refers to the partnership as “Team Greg and Em” or “Team Grem” for short.

But change is on its way. With Chloe starting school, Em has decided to go back to work. Greg is initially hesitant to disrupt the status quo, but when redundancies are offered at his job, he starts to wonder whether he’s really happy with things the way they are. When Greg’s brother Brad announces that he’s staying with them – for an unspecified period – after being dumped by his girlfriend, it’s clear there is more upheaval ahead.

HOW TO STAY MARRIED is an eight-part comedy series about staying together when romance has made way for routine and change disturbs the peace inside a marriage. The series takes a refreshingly honest look at the problems that can befall even a good marriage. The characters are magnets for trouble with an endearing ability to dig themselves deeper into the very problems they are trying to avoid. The series mixes big subjects – raising children, boredom, guilt, fertility, temptation, dreams, ambition and the need for purpose – with the funny and recognizable minutiae of married life.

10 Secrets of a Happy Marriage

We tried to save money on our wedding so we did a lot of the work and utilized the skills of family and friends. The day before the wedding, as I took our wedding cake out of the oven (that I had just baked myself), I finally had the thought, “Maybe I’m doing too much work on my wedding.” While weddings can be stressful and take a ton of work, the marriage that comes after takes a lot more. This is especially true if you desire to have a marriage that is lasting and strong.

In his book, Learning to Live with the Love of Your Life, Dr. Neil Clark Warren reveals 10 secrets to a happy marriage based on his interviews with 100 successful couples and his 30 years of counseling work. According to Dr. Warren, the following 10 skills are crucial to a joyful marriage. Here are his 10 secrets of a happy marriage.

1. Dream a Dream.

If you want your marriage to grow and to be its best, you and your husband need to create a vision for it and your life together.

2. Get Tough.

Marriage takes a lot of work, and a couple must be willing to fully commit to making the marriage strong.

3. Maximize the Trust Factor.

Learn how to be truthful and trustworthy for your husband, and how to trust him in return.

4. Get Healthy.

Marriages have a much greater chance of being successful if both people are emotionally healthy. If one or both of you have personal issues or an unhealthy self-concept, consider seeing a counselor.

5. Work on Chemistry.

Keep the romance strong in your marriage. Discover the reasons you fell in love with each other and build on those.

6. Learn to Talk.

Communication is invaluable in a strong marriage. Take the time to learn good communication skills and use them in your relationship.

7. Work it Through.

Even in the best marriages, conflict will happen. The key to getting through the tough times is to learn the skills of conflict resolution and to come up with a strategy in your marriage.

8. Negotiate a Mutually Satisfying Sexual Relationship.

Both you and your husband need to be willing to work on this aspect of your relationship. Dr. Warren makes several recommendations, including buying a book on marital sex, seeking counseling if needed and improving communication.

9. Get Connected.

Although children can be a drain on a marriage relationship, they can also be the source of joy if their role is viewed correctly.

10. Pursue Spirituality.

Spiritual intimacy in marriage is another great step toward marital fulfillment.

This article is based on the book, Learning to Live with the Love of Your Life by Dr. Neil Clark Warren.

Tell us! What is the most challenging thing about your marriage?

Recipe For A Happy Marriage: The 7 Scientific Secrets

New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope pulled together the science behind nuptial bliss in her book For Better.

Here’s the seven point recipe for a happy marriage that she spells out:

1) Celebrate Good News

Turns out divorce isn’t as much about increased negative things as it is about decreased positive things.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

“We’ve found that the positives are more and more important,” says Howard Markman, codirector of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver and one of the nation’s leading marriage researchers. “It turns out that the amount of fun couples have and the strength of their friendships are a strong predictor of their future.”

What to do? Celebrate the good moments more.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

Research shows that couples who regularly celebrate the good times have higher levels of commitment, intimacy, trust, and relationship satisfaction… It’s not enough that your partner knows that you take pride in his or her accomplishments. You have to show it. Making a fuss over the small, good things that happen every day can boost the health of your marriage.

(Here’s the best way to react to your spouse’s good news.)

2) Five To One

How many good moments do you need to make up for the bad ones? Research has a ratio for you: 5 to 1.

You don’t need to count every single positive and negative but if they’re nearly equal, your chance of divorce shoots way up.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

As University of Washington researchers reviewed the data, a striking pattern emerged. In stable marriages, there are at least five times more positive interactions than negative ones. When the ratio starts to drop, the marriage is at high risk for divorce. In real life, no couple can keep a running tally of positive and negative displays. There are hundreds of them that happen in any given day. But in a practical sense, the lesson is that a single “I’m sorry” after bad behavior isn’t enough. For every snide comment or negative outburst in a marriage, a person needs to ramp up the positives so the good-to-bad ratio doesn’t fall to a risky level.

(Here’s more about 5 to 1.)

3) Keep Your Standards High

More and more people are told their expectations for marriage are too high. Research says the reverse: people who expect more, get more.

Don’t settle for a second-rate marriage.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

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Dr. Baucom found that people who have idealistic standards, who really want to be treated well and who want romance and passion from their marriage, end up getting that kind of marriage. Men and women with low standards, who don’t expect good treatment, communication, or romance, end up in relationships that don’t offer those things… Husbands and wives who hold their partners to a reasonably high standard have better marriages. If you expect a better, more satisfying relationship, you improve your chances of having one.

4) Stay Close To Family And Friends

Today marriage has become a two person cocoon that we expect to get all our support and intimacy from. That’s not healthy or realistic.

Keep friends and family in the loop. Your marriage should be your primary relationship — not your only one.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

Dr. Coontz thinks all this togetherness is not necessarily good for couples. The way to strengthen a marriage, she argues, is to put fewer emotional demands on spouses. This doesn’t mean losing emotional intimacy with your husband or wife. It just means that married couples have a lot to gain by fostering their relationships with family members and friends. The happiest couples, she says, are those who have interests and support “beyond the twosome.”

(Here’s how to improve your friendships.)

5) Don’t Expect Your Spouse To Make You Happy

Research shows most people’s happiness eventually returns to their natural baseline, even after very positive events like a wedding.

Happiness lies within the individual and expecting a spouse to change that forever is unrealistic and unfair.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

What is surprising is that research shows happiness is relatively stable. A major life event (like marriage or the birth of a child) may offer a short-term happiness boost, but studies suggest most people return to their own personal happiness “set point.” If you ranked your level of happiness as a 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, research shows that most of the time, the events of your life won’t change that. You’ll pretty much be a 7.5 happy person all your life.

(You can rise above your baseline — but most people don’t do it right. Here’s how to get happier.)

6) Have More Sex

Over the course of a marriage, desire can lessen. Despite this, sex is healthy and has all kinds of biological and emotional benefits that should not be ignored.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

Over time, regular sex can improve your mood, make you more patient, damp down anger, and lead to a better, more contented relationship.

She doesn’t mince words about the best course of action here.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

Put down this book and go have sex with your husband or wife.

(Looking to heat it up? Here’s how to be a good kisser.)

7) Excitement!

Couples don’t need more “pleasant” activities — they need more exciting activities to hold on to the rush they felt when they first fell in love.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

After ten weeks, the couples again took tests to gauge the quality of their relationships. Those who had undertaken the “exciting” date nights showed a significantly greater increase in marital satisfaction than the “pleasant” date night group… Protect your marriage by regularly trying new things and sharing new experiences with your spouse. Make a list of the favorite things you and your spouse do together, and then make a list of the fun things you’d like to try. Avoid old habits and make plans to do something fresh and different once a week.

What’s Next?

Other posts you should read on improving marriage, love and romance:

  • What are the four things that kill relationships?
  • What 6 secrets can the oldest couples teach us about how to have a long, happy relationship?
  • How To Have A Happy Family – 7 Tips Backed By Research
  • What 6 things can improve your relationship?

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Contact us at [email protected]

5 Secrets to a Happier (and Stronger!) Marriage

None By Zach Brittle

My wife and I like to say that we’ve been happily married for 16 out of 17 years. The truth is that year #7 was pretty rough and we almost didn’t make it. But rather than submit to the “seven year itch” we decided to get to work. We got into therapy which forced us to take a sober look at our relationship and do some serious soul searching about when and where and why it went off the rails.

The simplest explanation is that we forgot that we liked each other. We knew that we loved each other, but we’d gotten so caught up in the daily grind that we failed to protect our friendship. We’d gotten really good at taking care of everyone in our lives except each other. We’d become roommates, business partners, It’s a story I hear a lot in my work with couples. The friendship is broken, conflict is escalated (or avoided) and the big dreams you once held are dead. One day you wake up next to a stranger that used to be the love of your life.

It’s not a happy story, but it’s common enough. If this sounds like you, and even if it doesn’t, I want to tell you: There is hope. Dr. John Gottman spent nearly 40 years researching couples and discovering the patterns that exist in both healthy and toxic relationships. His book, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, details a comprehensive and actionable theory for how to strengthen your friendship, manage conflict and create shared meaning together. The seven principles themselves require your attention and intention, but in the meantime, here are five secrets embedded in Dr. Gottman’s research that may help you achieve a happier relationship:

Small Things Often

If marriage is a journey, then it’s important that you’re oriented in the right direction. It’s way easier to make small efforts as you go than a major course correction when it may be too late. Small changes early and often can create big changes over time. Prioritize practical expressions of kindness daily. It’ll help you remember that you like each other.

Process is Everything

I believe that the end of therapy is when the couple can process the relationship without the therapist. This means that couples need to focus on HOW they talk to one another matters far more than WHAT they say. Process basically consists of knowing (a) what you’re feeling (b) why you’re feeling it and (c) what that feeling means. As you develop this skill, you will dramatically shift the quality of conversation in your relationship.

Most Relational Conflict is Not Resolvable

Dr. Gottman’s research revealed that roughly ⅔ of all relationship conflict is perpetual .This can be good news or bad news depending on how you look at it. My bias is that it’s a powerful secret to know that you literally can’t solve most of your issues…and that you’re not alone in that fact. The goal then is to solve your solvable problems and create dialogue around your lasting issues.

Understanding Must Precede Advice

Especially when it comes to perpetual issues, it’s critical to understand that “solving” is a bad strategy. Empathy and understanding is always the first step to resolution. Get really good at saying, “I can appreciate how you’d feel that way because…”. Start by trying to understand. Check if you got it right. Then try to understand some more. Understanding leads to safety. When you and your partner both feel safe enough to discuss your differing views on an issue, it opens up the door to creative problem solving together.

You Don’t Have to Have High Standards

Seven Principles. Five Secrets. It’s a lot to remember. The good news is that you can start anywhere. Anytime. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. But there’s no reason it shouldn’t be today. Try a small act of kindness. Maybe a surprise gift. Maybe just say “thank you”. Dr. Gottman’s research revealed that even the simplest gesture can initiate a positive feedback cycle which builds trust and intimacy and, ultimately, happiness.

My marriage isn’t perfect. But the second half has been way happier and healthier than the first. I think there’s something to be said for struggling together. And I know that we’ve benefitted from working hard on practicing the 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work. I’d encourage you to do the same. You can also try Dr. Gottman’s 4-week Happify track, Make Your Love Last: The Science of Happy Marriages, for research-tested activities to try on your own.

If I can help, don’t hesitate to drop me a note at [email protected] or tweet me @kzbrittle.

Zach Brittle is a couples therapist in Seattle, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He is a Certified Gottman Therapist and works closely with the The Gottman Institute as a regular contributor to the Gottman Relationship Blog. Connect with Zach at or @kzbrittle on Twitter.

You May Also Like:

How to Be Happy in a Relationship: Feel Loved and Appreciated
INFOGRAPHIC: The Science Behind a Happy Relationship
7 Things Researchers Know About the Science of Long-Lasting Love

Columnist: 5 reasons marriage doesn’t work anymore


Editor’s Note: Anthony D’Ambrosio, 29, of Wall, N.J., has built a large following after the success of his relationship columns that regularly appear in The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press. Here, he discusses why marriages just don’t work for people of his generation. D’Ambrosio is now divorced after getting married in 2012.

Marriages today just don’t work.

The million-dollar question? Why not?

It’s a pretty simple concept — fall in love and share your life together. Our great grandparents did it, our grandparents followed suit, and for many of us, our parents did it as well.

Why the hell can’t we?

Many of you will ask what gives me the right to share my advice or opinions.

I’ve been divorced myself. But I’m only one of the many people today that have failed at marriage. And while some of us have gone through a divorce, others stay in their relationships, miserably, and live completely phony lives.

These same people, though, are quick to point the finger and judge others for speaking up.

I’ve spent the better part of the last three years trying to understand the dating scene again. Back when I met my ex-wife in 2004, things were just so different. Social media had yet to explode. I had this desire to ask her about her day simply because I didn’t know.

Texting was just starting to make its way into mainstream society, so if I wanted to speak to her, I had to call her.

If I wanted to see her, I had to drive to her house and knock on her door. Everything required an action on my part, or hers.

Today, things are different though.

Looking back nearly 11 years, I began to wonder how different things were for the older generations.

More importantly, I wonder how different they will be for my children.

Our generation isn’t equipped to handle marriages — and here’s why:

1) Sex becomes almost non-existent.

I don’t know about you, but I am an extremely sexual person. Not only do I believe it’s an important aspect of a relationship, I believe it’s the most important.

Beyond being pleasurable, sex connects two individuals. There’s a reason why it’s referred to as making love.

There’s just something about touching someone, kissing someone, feeling someone that should make your hair stand up.

I’m baffled by couples who neglect having sex, especially younger ones. We all desire physical connection, so how does cutting that off lead you to believe your marriage will be successful? It’s like telling someone you’ll take them out to a restaurant but they can’t order food.

Instead, we have sex once every couple weeks, or when it’s time to get pregnant. It becomes this chore. You no longer look at your partner wanting to rip their clothes off, but rather instead, dread the thought. That’s not crazy to you?

It’s not just boredom that stops sex from happening. Everywhere you look, there’s pictures of men and women we know half naked — some look better than your husband or wife. So it becomes desirable. It’s in your face every single day and changes your mindset.

It’s no wonder why insecurities loom so largely these days. You have to be perfect to keep someone attracted to you. Meanwhile, what your lover should really be attracted to is your heart. Maybe if you felt that connection beyond a physical level, would you realize a sexual attraction you’ve never felt before.

2) Finances cripple us.

Years ago, it didn’t cost upward of $200,000 for an education. It also didn’t cost $300,000-plus for a home.

The cost of living was very different than what it is now. You’d be naive to believe this stress doesn’t cause strain on marriages today.

You need to find a job to pay for student loans, a mortgage, utilities, living expenses and a baby. Problem is, it’s extremely difficult to find a job that can provide an income that will help you live comfortably while paying all of these bills — especially not in your mid 20s.

This strain causes separation between us. It halts us from being able to live life. We’re too busy paying bills to enjoy our youth. Forget going to dinner, you have to pay the mortgage. You’ll have to skip out on an anniversary gift this year because those student loans are due at the end of the month. Vacations? Not happening.

We’re trying to live the way our grandparents and parents did in a world that has put more debt on our plate than ever before. It’s possible, but it puts us in an awful position.

Part of life is being able to live. Not having the finances to do so takes away yet another important aspect of our relationships. It keeps us inside, forced to see the life everyone else is living.

3) We’re more connected than ever before, but completely disconnected at the same time.

Let’s face it, the last time you “spoke” to the person you love, you didn’t even hear their voice.

You could be at work, the gym, maybe with the kids at soccer. You may even be in the same room.

You told your wife you made dinner reservations … through a text message.

Your husband had flowers delivered to your job … through an app on his phone.

You both searched for furnishings for your new home … on Pinterest.

There’s no physical connection attached to anything anymore.

We’ve developed relationships with things, not each other. Ninety-five percent of the personal conversations you have on a daily basis occur through some type of technology. We’ve removed human emotion from our relationships, and we’ve replaced it colorful bubbles.

Somehow, we’ve learned to get offended by text on a screen, accusing others of being “angry” or “sad” when, in fact, we have no idea what they are feeling. We argue about this — at length.

We’ve forgotten how to communicate yet expect healthy marriages. How is it possible to grow and mature together if we barely speak?

Years ago, my grandmother wouldn’t hear from my grandfather all day; he was working down at the piers in Brooklyn. But today, if someone doesn’t text you back within 30 minutes, they’re suddenly cheating on you.

You want to know why your grandmother and grandfather just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary? Because they weren’t scrolling through Instagram worrying about what John ate for dinner. They weren’t on Facebook criticizing others. They weren’t on vacation sending Snapchats to their friends.


They were too preoccupied loving and respecting one another. They were talking to each other at dinner, walking with each other holding hands instead of their phones. They weren’t distracted by everything around them. They had dreams and chased them together.

4) Our desire for attention outweighs our desire to be loved.

Even years ago, people would clamor over celebrities. When I think back, I can imagine young women wanting to be like Marilyn Monroe. She was beautiful, all over magazines, could have any man she wanted and, in fact, did.

But she was a celebrity. And in order to be a successful one, she had to keep all eyes on her. Same holds true for celebrities today. They have to stay in the spotlight or their fame runs out, and they get replaced by the next best thing.

Social media, however, has given everyone an opportunity to be famous. Attention you couldn’t dream of getting unless you were celebrity is now a selfie away. Post a picture, and thousands of strangers will like it. Wear less clothing, and guess what? More likes.

It’s more than that though. What about the life you live? I see pictures of people decked out in designer clothes, posted up in some club with fancy drinks — People that I know are dead broke. But they portray themselves as successful because, well, they can. And they get this gratification from people who like and comment on their statuses or pictures.

If you want to love someone, stop seeking attention from everyone because you’ll never be satisfied with the attention from one person.

Same holds true for love.

Love is supposed to be sacred. You can’t love someone when you’re preoccupied with worrying about what others think of you. Whether it be posting pictures on social media, buying homes to compete with others or going on lavish vacations — none of it matters.

5) Social media just invited a few thousand people into bed with you.

We’ve thrown privacy out the window these days.

Nothing is sacred anymore, in fact, it’s splattered all over the Web for the world to see.

Everywhere we go, everything we do — made public. Instead of enjoying the moment, we get lost in cyberspace, trying to figure out the best status update, or the perfect filter.

Something as simple as enjoying breakfast has become a photo shoot. Vacations are no longer a time to relax, but more a time to post vigorously. You can’t just sit back and soak it all in.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing moments of your life. I do it myself. But where do we draw the line? When does it become too much?

We’ve invited strangers into our homes and brought them on dates with us. We’ve shown them our wardrobe, drove with them in our cars, and we even showed them our bathing suits. Might as well pack them a suitcase, too.

The worst part about all this? It’s only going to get worse.

Immediately, people will assume that my failed marriage is why I am expressing these emotions; that’s not the case. It’s what I see around me every single day that inspired me to write this article.

Marriage is sacred. It is the most beautiful sacrament and has tremendous promise for those fortunate enough to experience it. Divorced or not, I am a believer in true love and building a beautiful life with someone. In fact, it’s been my dream since I was young.

I hope you never experience the demise of your love. It’s painful, and life changing; something nobody should ever feel.

I do fear, however, that the world we live in today has put roadblocks in the way of getting there and living a happy life with someone. Some things are in our control, and unfortunately, others are not.

People can agree or disagree.

I’m perfectly okay with that.

Last week, I read an article published in the Wall Street Journal claiming that marriage was on the decline because of men’s cheap access to sex.

The argument of the article, by sociologist Mark Regnerus, didn’t go much further than the age-old adage: nobody will buy the cow if you’re giving away the milk for free. Regnerus is affiliated with a conservative, Christian thinktank in Texas that local news once dubbed the “no-sex” institute.

“Many women today expect little in return for sex, in terms of time, attention, commitment or fidelity,” Regnerus claims. “Men, in turn, do not feel compelled to supply these goods as they once did. It is the new sexual norm for Americans.”

Women, Regnerus continues, “are hoping to find good men without supporting the sexual norms that would actually make men better”.

More astonishing than seeing this theory published in the Wall Street Journal was seeing the degree of viral popularity the article still enjoyed nine months after it was first published. Do people really believe women are responsible for the decline of marriage because we are having sex too much, and men no longer have any incentive to pair up?

I found the argument dehumanizing to both genders, and decided to explore its veracity.

I made calls to experts on both sides of the Atlantic. My favorite conversation, though, was with an unmarried male friend who loves pursuing women, and who has so far resisted the siren call of marriage. We’ll call him Tim.

“Tim, are you not married because women are providing sex too easily?” I ask.

Tim, who never appears to have a lull in enthusiastic female dating partners – all on a steady, respectful roster – answers carefully.

“No, I don’t agree with that. If I were to agree with that, it would also imply that people only get married to have sex. Yes, they overlap, but you don’t do one to do the other.”

I knew he would give me thoughtful answers.

“I see marriage as a partnership, almost like a business. You want the company to grow and be as big as you want it to be: being able to have kids, to go to this country … The process of that building, that’s what I see marriage being about.”

Tim is a few years shy of 40. He says the fact that he hasn’t married yet doesn’t mean he won’t in the future. For him, however, him being the right kind of partner is just as important as finding the right person to partner with.

The money factor

“Marriage is not in decline, it is in delay,” says historian Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History and director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families.

She points out that the percentage of Americans expected to marry by early middle age – around 80% – is remarkably similar to what it was 50 years ago.

Yet Regnerus claims marriage in the US is in “open retreat”. Focusing on Americans between the ages of 25 and 34, he states that 55% of this age group was married in 2000 but only 40% in 2015.

Coontz explains what I already know to be anecdotally true, having graduated college in 2008, the year the economy collapsed: both women and men want to be economically and educationally set before they marry – an ambition increasingly harder for a generational cohort facing crippling debt, poor healthcare and an economy where stable career ladders have been replaced by part-time freelance gigs.

Watching half of our parents’ generation get divorced was probably not the biggest advertisement for marriage either. But dragging our feet may end up helping us on that front too. If you care about the quality of the marriage you enter into, putting marriage off is good thinking: marrying young heightens the probability of divorce, and the longer people know each other before tying the knot the more likely they are to stay together.

The one group where marriage appears to be in actual decline, rather than delay, is adults who are at the very bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy.

For the working poor, getting married is hardly a guarantee of ascendance, explains Amy Traub, an associate director of policy and research at the thinktank Demos. She highlights the reality of surviving with low wages, no paid sick leave, no paid parental leave, and no subsidized childcare. Traub’s research shows that a married couple will see their income go down by 14% after they have a child.

Coontz adds that studies on groups struggling economically reveal that women, not men, are the ones deferring marriage for the sake of financial stability.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the group most likely to get married? Highly educated women, who are using their economic independence to renegotiate when and how they enter into an institution that previously required their gender subservience.

The sex factor

Regnerus’s argument – which relegates men to brainless automatons whose only on-button for productivity and planning is sex – does little to reinvent or challenge oppressive gender stereotypes.

It also overlooks the fact that millennials, despite dating apps and the moral panic around hookup culture, actually have sex with fewer partners than their elders, not more. Our average number of sexual partners is eight – markedly lower than Gen X (10 partners) or baby boomers (11).

My friend Tim explains that while seduction and the prospect of sex can motivate him into action, it is insulting to think it is the be-all and end-all of male behavior.

Tim also has a hard time grappling with Regnerus’s logic, which has women convincing men to commit using the one tool he allows us: the ability to grant or withhold sexual intercourse.

“Eventually, if you got the cow just for the milk, that milk loses its appeal,” Tim says, challenging part of Regnerus’s premise. “That’s not enough,” Tim exclaims. “The milk is not enough!”

If the framing is insufficient for Tim, now may also be a good moment to point out that women not only seek out sex, but also have growing expectations about quality and pleasure. A male-centric and reductive view of sexuality is painfully outdated.

Research shows that a married couple will see their income go down by 14% after they have a child. Photograph: Hero Images/Getty Images/Hero Images

Caroline Rusterholz, a historian of sexuality at Birkbeck College, University of London, says that the idea of harmonious sex within marriage began in the 1930s – enabled by the publication of pamphlets and the first opening of family clinics, among other factors – but ideas about sex were taught in ways in line with gender expectations of the time.

“The wife is a musical instrument that the husband plays. The husband is the art maker. The wife is the recipient,” says Rusterholz of understandings dating back 80 years.

People believed female orgasms were properly attained through vaginal penetration only, and that the clitoris served only to awaken desire on the path to penetration. This despite studies showing that women mainly attain orgasms by clitoral stimulation, Rusterholz says.

Women started claiming a right to their own bodies and their own sexuality during the feminist liberation movement of the 1970s. But stereotypes and falsehoods about sex didn’t always change accordingly.

Society still expects women to be less sexually active, says Rusterholz. “We expect them to be turned towards maintaining relationships. And only having sex when they are in love.”

But many of us are fed up with double standards. My generation of women have high hopes and loud voices when it comes to challenging the notion of being passive penis recipients – something expressed clearly during the recent #MeToo movement, a continuation of the liberation movement started decades earlier.

The independence factor

I spoke to a female friend – let’s call her Jay – who is in a long-term heterosexual relationship. She wants to establish herself professionally before she considers taking the leap to marriage, even if she has a partner she wants to marry.

When I ask why marriage appeals to her, her language is focused around partnership, egalitarianism, common goals and mutual care.

“I don’t think people realize the extent to which, in the 1950s, marriage was non-voluntary,” says Philip Cohen, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and the author of Enduring Bonds, a book on marriage and inequality.

In the mid-20th century, marriage was close to socially mandatory for both genders: women had few economic survival avenues outside marriage and, paradoxically, unmarried men faced job discrimination. That the institution has become more voluntary is a thing to be celebrated, Cohen says, especially for women.

What is entirely absent from Regnerus’s male-centric argument is the fact that women, having gained power economically and politically, now have a real say in our fate. And for many of us, marriage remains an embodiment of powerlessness.

“Married men gained rights over women’s bodies, property and children,” confirms Clare Cambers, a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Cambridge who wrote a book arguing for an end to state-recognized marriage. “Traditionally has maintained legal gender inequality, and it has done so to the benefit of men.”

Chambers concedes that many formal inequalities tied to marriage have been denounced and revoked. Marital rape was outlawed in the UK in 1991 and in the US in 1993 – hard to believe there was ever an exemption – and same-sex marriage was legalized in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Last fall I wrote a callout for the Guardian, as research for a book on the invisible load of emotional labor many women bear.

One of the women who responded told me: “I married my husband in 1979. He was 24, I was 20. Three times in the first five years of marriage he demanded sex and when I adamantly said no, he basically raped me. That created a negative environment of hatred from me. I ended up dreading sex and being repulsed by men. We stopped having sex when I had early menopause (thank goodness).”

Sexual availability was traditionally understood as a woman’s marital obligation. Although no longer legally enforced, that troubling paradigm is only reinforced by claims that women must restrain their premarital sexual activity if they want to attract a husband.

Women may be equal before the law, but these kinds of deep-seated, disturbing beliefs surrounding marriage roles don’t exactly entice us to rush into marrying.

The chores factor

Sexism within marriage still runs deep – in more ways than one.

Studies consistently show that women perform more unpaid housework than men, and that men are able to devote more time to leisure activities. Stephanie Coontz, the historian, quotes a study which found that getting married adds seven hours a week to a woman’s unpaid labor workload – while decreasing a man’s by one hour.

And that’s not even counting the exhausting and chronic performance of emotional labor, a term describing the invisible work – at home as well as on the job – that women put into being thoughtful, forward-thinking and caring; managing others’ feelings and tempers; and cultivating a functional and happy environment. Since these traits are seen as female, their execution often falls on women’s shoulders.

Reinventing rules and being less stringent around fixed gender roles could prove a win-win for all. Photograph: LWA/Dann Tardif/Getty Images/Blend Images

Following the same emotional labor callout mentioned earlier, another woman wrote to me. A feminist in her 60s with a PhD, she described a home environment where her husband, at least when it came to chores and tasks, pulled his weight.

But what fell to her, on top of her own chores and full-time job, was emotionally supporting her husband and children, managing their moods, scheduling their activities and always being emotionally available. Slammed doors were her fault, she says, and her burden to fix.

“Because, of course, the maintenance of peace was my job too,” she writes.

Emotional labor is one of the last big problems we need to formally fix – but fixing it requires challenging the most rooted of gendered behaviors.

My source, the feminist in her 60s, continues: “Many women live with partners who can be loving, generous and warm one minute and harshly mansplain or lay down the law the next, silencing women with their power. Who have little understanding for the feelings of others because they don’t have to – the woman handles that and covers for them both.”

Reinventing rules and being less stringent around fixed gender roles could prove a win-win for all. Studies reveal that egalitarian couples – those who, for example, divide chores equally – have a better and more prolific sex life.

“Choreplay”, as the Chicago Tribune once put it.

One of the most resilient institutions

Women are far from the only factors in change. Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, one of the bipartisan organizations that successfully campaigned for gay marriage in the United States, has clear views on whether we can blame easy sex for marriage declines.

“Anyone who thinks that marriage is just or primarily about sex knows little about marriage and probably little about sex,” says Wolfson, who has been married for seven years.

For same-sex- couples marriage is going through a boom simply because it is something that was not an option until a few years ago. Photograph: Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Wolfson was in a relationship with his now-husband for 10 years before they were able to marry by law. “We already had the love, the sex, the commitment. And now we have the affirmation and the tangible and intangible commitment that comes with it, with equal dignity before the law.”

For same-sex couples, of course, marriage is going through a boom simply because it is something that was not an option until a few years ago.

Wolfson believes that instead of embracing or rejecting an outmoded understanding of marriage, the solution lies in changing it for the better. “Marriage is one of the absolutely most resilient institutions. Its history is a history of change.”

Romance is certainly not dead. Last month, as 29 million Americans watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle coyly gaze into each other’s eyes as they wed, it became apparent how widespread dreams of love and marriage still are.

But their wedding was also the symbol of an evolution, and a partial break from former rules. That marriage has become more voluntary, that we are hoping to shape it to our own ideals of equality, that we are making up our own minds and own timeline to marriage – these are surely changes to be celebrated. If you want to hurry us along, raise wages, share the mental load as well as the washing load, learn more accurate anatomy and read about consent. And if that still doesn’t work, well, leave us the hell alone.

Did you read ‘5 reasons why marriage doesn’t work?’ Here’s why it does

The following is an editorial by Denver-based producer Kelly Jensen:

A certain article is trending today called ‘5 reasons marriage doesn’t work anymore.’

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I hate it.

In it, the author laments the difficulties of modern-day marriage. He cites his expertise as a divorcee himself, and details the complications texting, narcissism, social media and financial woes place on the union.

READ: ‘5 Reasons why marriage doesn’t work anymore’

Well, sex columnist Anthony D’Ambrosio, I respectfully disagree with your jaded, lazy view of husband and wife.

There, I said it.

I thought this the first time I read your column a year ago, and I thought it again this morning when I re-read your blog on Valentine’s Day. Not because I was feeling overly romantic, but because you can’t blame the institution of marriage for your own faults (or your spouses’).

Marriage works. And we need it now more than ever.

I’ve been married to my spouse for three-and-a-half years. You can go ahead and judge me or disqualify me right now if you think that’s not “long enough” to know anything about marriage.

Before we got married, we reached an agreement.

It was very simple: don’t be selfish.

Each one of us would put the other first. It’s the foundation we built our relationship on. And no, we aren’t perfect. And I won’t claim to be.

Life is full of challenges.

But, if we simply say that text messages, social media and student debt are what’s hindering marriage in our generation, we are doing ourselves a disservice (and our parents and our grandparents).

It’s not marriage that’s broken – it’s us.

The title of the article should be “5 reasons why marriage is difficult.”

Marriage is difficult because it requires you to put someone other than yourself first. Marriage is challenging because you share every part of your life with someone – even the stuff you maybe don’t want to.

It’s not easy because you have to balance each other, kids, work, commitments, and, yes, finances.

Marriage is also worth it.

Some of my fondest memories are living in a small, Midwestern town as a newly-heartbroken young 20-something, going out with my coworkers, sleeping in as long as I wanted, planning my weekends exactly how I desired. Eating breakfast for dinner if I darn well chose to.

It was great to be selfish. I think everyone needs some of that.

Then, rather unexpectedly, I met my (now) husband. And slowly, I realized that the small sacrifice to be married was to put a few of those selfish desires behind me, and to begin to see the value in the both of us against the world instead of just me.

Marriage is difficult because it requires this effort to think beyond ourselves, to take the trash out even when we’re tired and don’t want to, to make a special meal on the weekend and sit down and enjoy it without phones.

It requires us to be thoughtful, to be patient, to be understanding and kind. And those things are challenging in a world with lots of easy distractions. It’s real work to try, day in and day out, to be a good wife or a good husband.

My husband and I didn’t take a honeymoon. We helped pay for our own wedding. Anyone who has gotten married in the last decade knows how expensive it can be. We didn’t spend much and had the most fantastic day.

And we’re still happy, despite not having a honeymoon, despite not taking lavish vacations together, despite living modestly and paying for all of our own bills.

We’re happy despite our home with outdated bathrooms and Broncos’ orange carpet in the bedroom (seriously). I know many others of you reading this are, too.

If you blame your problems on your finances, look deeper.

Don’t take vacations to enjoy each other’s company – do that every day no matter where you happen to be.

My favorite memory with my husband didn’t cost a thing.

Don’t overstretch your budget to buy the perfect dream home right away – enjoy the moments of moving in to your first place, no matter its quirks.

Think more about the foundation on which you build your relationship than where you build it.

This Valentine’s Day, I invite you to think about your perceptions of marriage and love.

This ‘failure’ of marriage is not Pinterest’s fault, it’s not your best friend’s Facebook post’s fault. It’s not the fault of a text message instead of a phone call.

D’Ambrosio is right, marriage will never work – if you balance the success of it on something as trivial as an Instagram post.

Don’t fall victim to thinking you can’t succeed in today’s world – a world plagued by too many distractions and photo filters. You can.

True love can be as happy and magical as a fairy tale, yes. But it’s a fairy tale indeed to think it happens without any sacrifice or effort.

So, Mr. Sex Columnist, marriage is not what does or does not work anymore. The institution of our own marriage is simply as good as the work we are willing to put into it.

Copyright 2017 KUSA

Is 4 years a long time in general?

A professor explained the perception of time’s increasing rate of passing with the following reasoning. When you’re 4 years old, one year is 25% of all the time you’ve ever known and experienced (assuming a human remembers the experience of time passing since birth). But when you’re 10, one year is 10% of what you’ve ever known and experienced. At 20, one year is 5 %. At 100, one year is only 1% of your total life and time-passing experience. Humans have a tendency to measure the part through comparison to the whole.

Regardless, four years does seem like “a long time,” though strangely, if you were to have asked me, “Does 1,459 days (subtract one for leap years) seem like a long time, I would’ve answered “absolutely not.”

Units of measurement such as years disassociates one from time. It’s similar to the effect of using units like millions, billions, and trillions. What’s the difference when you only have ever known hundreds and thousands? The truth is we live by days. When reasoning about time, always translate years into days and ask yourself, “Have I had enough days spent watching sunsets, dancing in the rain, laughing with friends, squeezing my lover’s hand, topping mountains, playing frisbee in the park, laughing so hard milt squirts out your nose?”

There’s a reason the Latin phrase is Carpe diem and not Carpe annum.

Seize the day.

A relationship expert reveals 4 signs that you’re a perfect match

You can spot them easily in the movies — the couple that’s so clearly meant for each other. But in real life, it can be harder to detect a perfect match.

That’s especially true when that “match” involves ourselves. Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our relationships that we don’t even ask ourselves if we’re actually a good fit.

Relationship expert Talia Goldstein, CEO of white glove matchmaking service Three Day Rule, told INSIDER that there are four major signs that a couple is a good match.

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Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

If a relationship demonstrates each of these attributes, Goldstein explained, that’s how you know it’s built to last.

1. You travel the same way.

(Michael Gallagher/Instagram)

One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re a good match with your partner is to plan a trip together.

“A good match is people who are willing and wanting to travel the same way,” Goldstein said.

If one of you wants to hop in a RV and road trip to Mexico, while the other wants to fly first class and stay at a give star resort, that’s a sign that you aren’t a good fit.

“It’s indicative of your lifestyle,” Goldstein said. “It could lead to problems down the road.”

For example, these lifestyle difference could come into play when it’s time to buy a house or pick an education path for your children, the expert explained.

“If you have a really narrow mind about the way that you travel, you probably have that same mindset in other aspects of your life,” she added.

2. You have common interests that you love doing together.

It may seem intuitive, but a great way to tell if you are a good match with a person is to determine whether you have common interests.

That doesn’t mean that you just like the same sort of art or listen to the same sort of music. Instead, good matches not only enjoy similar things — they like doing those things together.

“There should be at least two or three things you really like to do together,” Goldstein said. “It should be about spending time together.”

And so, if you’re a couple who, for instance, enjoys going on long walks together, playing board games together or watching the same sport games together, you’re likely a good match.

3. Your relationship has the right balance.

Most of the successful pairings Goldstein has witnessed involves people that strike a perfect balance, where one of them is “the star” while the other is more of “the rock.”

“I found that the majority of my success stories fall into those categories, where sometimes one of them is outgoing and the life of the party, where the other is more stable and supportive,” Goldstein said.

People with different energies tend to compliment each other, whereas those who are both super outgoing or both extremely introverted don’t always go the distance.

“If you have the yin and the yang, they balance each other out,” the expert explained. “I’ve found that balance works really well in a relationship.”

4. You’re with someone who makes you feel good about yourself.

It seems like common sense — you should be with someone who makes you feel like you’re at your best. But of course, a lot of people end up in relationships where they don’t really feel like themselves.

“Relationships where you truly feel like you’re the best version of yourself — that’s the best way to see if you’re a good match,” Goldstein said.

Being in a relationship where you feel like yourself means that you don’t have to stretch to come up with topics to talk about.

It’s also when you feel at home with their group of friends, or feel comfortable lounging around in your pajamas with the other person.

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Read the original article on Business Insider UK. © 2016. Follow Business Insider UK on Twitter.

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