12 Golden Rules For A Happy Marriage

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happy couple smiling at the camera

One of the most common questions we hear is, "How do we make our relationship work?"

The answers are complicated and varied and, after a while, can start to sound like muddled platitudes.

But these commonplace sayings get repeated because they work! And if you can agree as a couple to abide by them as sacred marriage rules, the chances of your marriage growing stronger and stronger over time increase dramatically.

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With this in mind, we pulled together 12 golden rules that reveal simple, tried-and-true advice for a healthy, happy marriage.

12 golden marriage rules couples who stay happily married follow

1. Mind your manners.

"Please," "thank you," and "you're welcome" can go a long way in helping your partner remember that you respect and love him and don't take him for granted.

2. Variety is the spice of life.

Studies have shown that dullness can lead to dissatisfaction with a relationship. Trying something new can be as simple as visiting an unfamiliar restaurant or as grand as a backpacking trip through Sri Lanka. Discoveries you make together will keep you feeling close.

3. The couple that plays together stays together.

Find a sport or hobby you love (no, watching TV doesn't count) and make it a priority in your relationship. Camping, biking, building model trains — whatever it is, find something you enjoy doing together.

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4. Fight right.

To have productive arguments, keep these rules in mind: Don't call your spouse names. When things get tough, take a break from the argument. Let the other person finish his/her sentences. Don't initiate a discussion when you're angry.

5. I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.

No one likes demands, but everyone can appreciate a compromise. If you want your lover to do something and you're not sure he'll be agreeable, the quickest way to avoid a confrontation is to sweeten the deal. For example: "Sure, I'll watch Monday Night Football if you take me to see the next movie of my choice."

6. Two heads are better than one.

Being in a relationship means merging; you've not only joined assets but inherited the other's problems. Rather than looking at his problems as merely his own, tackle them together.

For example, if he's gaining weight, rather than pushing him to diet on his own, enroll in an exercise program together.

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7. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Maintain your own friendships and occasionally have a night out without your significant other. Doing things without your partner not only makes you miss him or her, but it also keeps you sane. And if the relationship doesn't work out, you'll still have your friends.

8. Sound it out.

In other words: communicate! Talking out the tough subjects — money, religion, fidelity, raising kids — will not be the most fun you've had, but it'll be valuable.

9. Laughter is the best medicine.

Learn to laugh at yourself and your silly mistakes. If he throws your $300 cashmere sweater in the dryer, laughing it off is better than getting angry in the long run. It's just a $300 cashmere sweater, not the end of the world.

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10. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Yes, he forgot your co-worker's name for the tenth time, but it probably doesn't mean he doesn't care about you. If you keep your perspective fixed on the goal — to be in a happy, functioning partnership — you're less likely to get tangled up in every minor annoyance. Remember, you both want the same thing.

11. Quitters never win.

Find a ritual and keep it alive, no matter what. Whether it's always kissing each other good night, renewing your wedding vows every year, sleeping in as late as you want once a month, or committing to having sex once a week, pick something that makes you both feel good and stick to it, even when you're tempted to skip.

12. When the going gets tough, the tough get going... to therapy.

Studies show that couples who seek counseling during rocky periods are more successful in resolving their issues than those who don't.

Whether from a religious figure, counselor, or mental health professional, getting an expert to help sort out strife is as wise as forgoing self-installation and hiring a plumber to put in a new sink.

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Alex Alexander is a frequent contributor to YourTango.