By Sharon Naylor for Bridal Guide
You want to be with the love of your life forever, and he with you, so always make your marriage a top priority (as in every day!). Here are some easy and fun ways to keep improving an already awesome partnership. Even if you're not married yet, you can start practicing these tips to enjoy your relationship even more throughout the wedding-planning process.
Grooms and husbands, hold onto this list as well — these rules apply to you, too!
1. Eat healthfully.
A 2012 British study from the University of Warwick found that people who consume more fruits and vegetables experience higher levels of mental well-being. Include these foods in your diet and you'll have increased energy, sleep better and exhibit a more positive outlook in general. You have to take great care of yourself to be the best "you" in this marriage. Check out these healthy breakfast ideas.
2. Make time for exercise.
It's important to work out — no, not to be a size 0 so your hubby finds you attractive, but so that you feel your best. Newlyweds who exercise have more self-confidence while clothed or naked, enjoy mood-boosting hormones and are less likely to experience depression. Exercise solo and with your partner: Running a 5K together or taking an exercise class is a fun way to bond.
3. Talk about your early days of dating.
Rather than bringing up the past in a wistful sense ("why don't we ever do that anymore..."), express appreciation for all the ways that your spouse has helped you. For example, you could say something like, "I was just thinking about that romantic dinner you planned by the fireplace on our third date. That was really wonderful." It's an ego boost for him and it shows that you value his best efforts. (Note: Making the effort to compliment your husband is especially important if he feels like he's being undervalued at work, since it shows that he's doing something right in this sector of his life.)
4. Bond with each other’s friends.
If you’re not already close with your husband's friends, nor he with yours, plan occasional group outings so that you can all get to know each other better. When you mesh well with each other's social circles, it enhances this important facet of your lives.
5. Give your spouse alone time with their pals.
Even if your husband's friends love you, there are still some events he’ll be invited to — like going to an NBA game — as a guy’s night out. Don't make him feel guilty about leaving you home alone by pouting and checking in with him constantly while he's out (and yes, guys do this too!). Maintaining separate social lives and being supportive of one another boosts your marriage.
6. Bond with each other’s families.
It's a gift to your spouse when you blend in well with his parents and siblings. Befriend them, give compliments, ask how their lives are going and smile. This is a big one, and it can be especially challenging if his relatives gave you a hard time during the wedding planning.
You may not love them (and maybe you will someday), but make an effort to at least be cordial, forgive as much as you can and start fresh with them as a member of the family. If you keep giving your husband a hard time because of a rude comment your mother-in-law made, then he'll become angry at you and it will cause cracks in your marriage, thereby letting her win. Here's how to deal when your in-laws hate you .
7. Touch as often as possible.
Hold hands. Touch your husband on the arm when you’re both making your morning coffee. Place your hand on his cheek when he kisses you good night. Think about these little points of contact as love "marks" that stay with him throughout the day.
At the end of a long day, pamper each other with foot and hand massages while you’re watching your favorite TV shows on the couch. The physical contact creates happy hormone oxytocin, and non-sexual physical contact keeps you feeling adored by each other. You’d be surprised how longtime marrieds whose relationships have grown stale never touch each other anymore in these little adoring ways.
8. Drop your old issues.
We all have scars and damage from our dating days and from our families, but don't use an old fight as a weapon in a new one. It's unfair to throw unresolved issues at one another — drop those sensitivities by avoiding hot button issues that you've already discussed (and hopefully resolved).
If you're still having trouble letting it go, consider journaling or talking to a counselor to prevent these bygones from weakening your marriage.
9. Fight fairly.
Avoid using absolutes like "always" or "never" to accuse your spouse when you’re revved up and kind of irrational during a particularly bad argument (i.e. "You never listen to me"). Within the argument, establish a "take it back" code whenever either of you says something you don't truly mean.
Remind your husband that you love him and stay focused on finding a solution, which opens the door for a compromise. You both need to know when to apologize; love does mean saying "I'm sorry" sometimes. Here's advice for handling your first big fight .
10. Cook together.
Make it an occasional treat to prep a new meal together. The sensory experience of cooking and co-creating a fabulous, romantic dish or snack is way better than popping some toaster tarts in the oven.
11. Have a sense of humor.
Don’t be uptight or overly sensitive, making it impossible for your spouse to playfully tease you if you do something silly. If you’re always a raw nerve, he'll feel like he's walking on eggshells, which makes you a chore. Laugh off a joke (and deliver one right back at your husband) to show him that you're a carefree partner who doesn't make him nervous to kid around with.
12. Know when to listen (without offering advice).
Sometimes, you or your partner just need to vent and spill out all the frustrations of the day. Since your husband loves you and wants you to feel better, he might give suggestions that can produce the opposite effect intended. It's easy to turn your stress against him ("Don't you think I already thought of that?").
Let him know when you just want to be heard and comforted — no crisis intervention necessary — and you've just created a strong tool in your marriage.
13. Carve out quiet time.
Make it a point to decompress each evening. Avoid following your spouse around like a puppy as soon as he gets home from work, telling him about your day or reminding him about things you need to do, like fix the washing machine or attend your niece's birthday party.
Your husband understands that you just miss him, but he might feel bad telling you to chill for a while and let him unwind. Be open and honest whenever you need some alone time, whether it's 15 minutes or an hour, and vice versa. You’re not saying, "Don’t bother me," you’re communicating clearly about an important need you have that you’ll both respect.
14. Be financially responsible.
Money is one of the top marriage stressors, especially in these challenging financial times. You both need the security of knowing that you’re each paying bills on time, and not making unnecessary purchases.
Create a joint account for bills but also keep separate accounts for your own play money, and, of course, make sure you're both socking away some money in your savings to contribute towards shared future goals.
Most importantly, be financially honest with one another, no matter what. No secret spending or hiding it from your spouse if you're having trouble paying a bill on time.
15. Speak well of each other.
If you vent to your friends or family members about a fight you had with your husband, they may not forgive him, even after you've forgiven and forgotten. It's a betrayal to trash-talk your spouse to others, even if he made you really mad. Your personal issues need to stay personal so that you don’t create problems in your social and family circle that will only grow worse over time.
And his family and friends love it when you rave about his awesomeness, just as your loved ones will adore him for speaking highly of you all the time.
16. Be playful.
Even if life is stressful, express your playful and silly side by suggesting (or agreeing to participate in) sports, video games, a round of mini golf, a night at the amusement park, or other spirited activities. Show this side of your personality often, and remind your spouse how much fun you are. Even if you're the worst darts player ever, laughing at your lack of skill (instead of pouting or getting frustrated) lets him see you in this adorable way.
17. Don’t stall on each other’s requests.
Life is hectic, but if your partner asks you to look up something online or find a piece of paperwork for him, make it a high priority to do so as soon as humanly possible. When you show your spouse that his requests are important to you and you value his needs, that makes your partnership even stronger.
On the flip side, if either of you says, "I'll get to it in a few days...I'm kind of busy now," that can cause hurt feelings. Of course, some requests can't be done now, and you may not be able to drop your important work to complete it, but don't make your husband wait for weeks. Just do it as soon as you can.
18. Accept that you’ll both have bratty moments.
Sometimes when we’re stressed, we get snappy. It happens to everyone, and that ultra-bratty response may even be a surprise to you. So if your spouse replies with a terse comment, don’t pull the pin on a big fight grenade. Just accept it as a sign that he’s stressed and not able to respond more maturely at the moment.
And if he blames your bratty remark on PMS, it’s better to walk away than get into a fight over something silly. Apologies can come a little bit later.
19. Divvy up chores.
Division of labor in a marriage is something that marriage counselors handle a lot with couples who are having trouble. You can avoid resentments by simply talking to each other about which household projects you want to take on. Maybe you’re okay with killing the spiders and taking out the trash, and he’s fine with vacuuming.
Make your own plan without any male vs. female labels, and then — this is important — sit down to discuss which household chores are annoying you, which you want to trade, and which you want to hire someone to do...like the dusting and vacuuming. Done!
20. Ask your spouse, "What do you need more of?"
Being this direct, and safe to talk to, lets him (and you) say, “I need some more alone time when I get home from work” or “I need more cuddle time” or “I want to make out more.” Your spouse isn’t a mind reader, and they want to know how to please you better. You get your wish out there, no resentments build, and you have a great tool for your ultra-strong marriage that you can use again and again.
More from Bridal Guide:
10 Marriage Firsts Every Newlywed Experiences
10 Commandments for a Happy Marriage
The Ultimate Sex Advice for Newlyweds
9 Common Marriage Problems (and Solutions!) for Newlyweds