Recognize and embrace change
People change throughout their lives. The “ultimate key to successful relationships is the ability to grow and adapt together,” says Dr. Steven Craig, a clinical psychologist and author of The 6 Husbands Every Wife Should Have.
This is especially important once couples reach their 50s and 60s and tackle significant life changes like their kids leaving home, careers coming to an end, health changes, and becoming grandparents. Continuously recognizing the changes that are happening, and understanding your partner’s needs and talking about them are important for your relationship to thrive, says Craig.
Successful relationships are not marked by the absence of fights. In fact, you should have arguments with your spouse, says Craig. The way couples fight and what they fight about are more important than not fighting at all. Unhealthy arguments focus on things from the past, Craig says – like bringing up something you’re mad about from 20 years ago.
When you do fight, avoid the following unhealthy behaviors, identified by marriage researcher and psychologist John M. Gottman, Ph.D.: contempt for your partner, defensiveness, refusing to talk, and negative remarks about your partner or name-calling.
Forgive and move on
Bringing up past hurts does nobody any favors in a relationship.
“Be willing to forgive and remember you are not always right. It takes two in a marriage.” — Diana D., Facebook
When photographer Lauren Fleishman interviewed couples who have been together for more than 50 years for her book, The Lovers, Jake Jacobs, who has been married to his wife Mary since April 1948, said: “What I would say is this—in order to have a successful marriage, the man has to be very tolerant. He has to hear and don’t hear if you understand what I mean. And he has to be very versatile, always willing to say sorry.”
Give and take
Compromise is important for any relationship, especially a marriage. “No one can always be right or always get what they want. Marriage is work and both of you must participate for it to be successful!” — Patti W., Facebook
Knowing when to argue (the right way) and when to make a compromise can make for much smoother sailing and a stronger bond with your spouse.
Remember why you love
When the going gets tough, successful couples remember why they want to be with each other.
“We don’t always like each other, but we always love each other.” — Lorraine S., Facebook
Focus on the positives in your relationship, like how you make each other laugh and how supportive you are of each other. Remembering why you fell in love and got married can help you through the inevitable rough patches. “Hubby and I like to turn on the radio to just dance in the living room.” — Teresa B., Facebook
“Always hold hands”
Sometimes the best secrets are the simplest. Many Facebook users we polled cited holding hands as their secret to a happy marriage. They may be on to something — a study published in Psychological Science found that holding hands with a spouse lowered stress levels.