Go ahead, go to bed angry.
That age-old relationship advice passed down from generation to generation may not be as sound as you'd think. Sometimes, it's actually breaking those so-called sacred decrees that keeps couples happy for the long haul.
Here are nine rules you should consider completely forgetting about.
You've heard this one a million times, but "sometimes a good night's sleep will end the fight better than arguing until the wee hours," says Alex, of Tulsa, OK, who has been happily married for 16 years.
Adds Marie, of Minneapolis, who has been with her husband for more than a decade, "While this advice is great on the surface, the ability to calmly and rationally get an argument across diminishes the more tired you get. Sometimes it's best to just sleep on it and tackle the problem the next morning. There's a good chance that whatever you were fighting about the night before won't seem as important. If it is still important, it's easier to treat each other with respect and not say something awful when you're rested."
Rule 2: Don't keep secrets.
Depending on the situation, being totally transparent might do more harm than good. "There are some things that my husband doesn't need to know, and vice versa," says Kristin, of Winooski, VT, who has been married for 26 years. "Like when it comes to our daughters," she says. "Sometimes the girls confide in me because I'm their mom and they'd be embarrassed if my husband knew their 'secret.' I'd rather them share with me and get some guidance or understanding than not trust me. I don't think this hurts my husband at all, nor would he want me to break their trust."
Susan,* of Brooklyn, NY, has been with her husband for 19 years, and adds, "The only secret I'll keep is how much I actually spent on some item like clothes for me or the kids, or some other expense that isn't essential. He knows at this point that I have my own math with this stuff, and it's somewhat of a joke."
Rule 3: Talk it out.
"I'm a proponent of the 'less is more' philosophy," says Kristin. "I think many couples talk things to death and revisit old hurts or betrayals, which is unfair."
Adds Lauren,* of Sharon, MA, who has been married for 15 years, "We both break this rule. If we talked everything through, there would be little time for much else. Sometimes I book vacations or date nights without asking, but we trust one another to make good and fair decisions," she says.
Rule 4: Don't try to change your partner.
If something's driving you nuts, it's better to try to find a solution than silently stew about it. "I try to break my husband's noncleaning habits, and he has gotten remarkably better about it," says Lauren.* "I think you can't break a person, but if you openly discuss your issues and work on them to become a better couple, that works."
Tori, of Los Angeles, who has been with her husband for 4 years, suggests, "Instead of trying to change your partner, explain to him in a loving moment what your needs are. He will want to make you happy if he truly loves you!"
Rule 5: Maintain your own interests.
Hey, some couples just prefer to be together as much as possible. And it works for them. "We don't really do anything completely separately from each other," says Marie. "Though we do have separate interests, we tend to involve each other in them. For example, he doesn't like cooking, but I do, and I have him help me develop recipes and give input on meals."
Rule 6: Divide household duties equally.
Imagine how it might feel if you didn't care that you were shouldering more than your fair share around the house. Liberating, right? For some couples, it's the key to happiness.
"I'm a stay-at-home mom," says Michelle, of Raleigh, NC, who has been with her husband for 17 years, "so I take on the majority of the household duties. I don't really believe in dividing them equally because honestly there is no such thing!"
Adds Tori, "No one wants to live with a nag, and it doesn't feel good to ride someone for household chores, so just do it yourself or pay someone else to do it. Make your relationship happiness a priority, not taking out the garbage."
Rule 7: Have a regular date night.
No energy to schedule a babysitter and make a dinner reservation? Then don't! "We don't have much energy for date nights," says Lauren,* "so yes, this rule has been broken a lot. We know we will get back to it more after our kids are a bit more independent."
Susan* adds, "We don't go on dates regularly because we enjoy spending time with our kids and family and friends, but we do make an effort to watch TV or a movie together at least one or two nights a week."
Rule 8: Make romance a priority.
Candlelit dinners, love letters, sexy lingerie…or not. With work and kids and bills and chores, romance in the traditional sense often gets forgotten—and that's totally fine. "Romance is not a priority at all," says Susan.* "As my husband says, 'It's last on our list.' But I think it's OK because we know we love each other and do little things daily like saying, 'I love you' and kissing morning and night."
Alexa, of Columbus, IN, has a similar outlook. "This one is tough for us," she says. "We live and work together, and having a small business takes its toll on any relationship. But I think we remain happy because we really love one another."
Rule 9: Keep the kids out of your bed.
"We enjoy having our toddlers in our family bed until they are ready to move into a room together," says Marcus, of South Burlington, VT, who has been with his wife for 5 years. "This just means we have to get creative when it comes to sex. Who said you have to do it in your bed, anyway?"
This article was originally published at Prevention. Reprinted with permission from the author.