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5 Keys to a Long-Term, Healthy Marriage

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No one expects to have problems in their marriage. In fact, many marriages start off as good marriages. But, over time, some marriages can turn stale or even hostile. At any given time, vast numbers of couples are searching for ways to get their once-healthy marriages back on track. There are five necessary conditions or factors which together can help you maintain (or rebuild) a strong, healthy marriage that lasts.

If you were to explore, you would probably find that virtually every troubled couple has neglected one or more of these key conditions. Of course, there are other things that can cause problems in a marriage, but neglecting these points can really put your marriage at risk.

1. Look after yourself first.

If you place your highest priority on your physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual self care, you won't wake up one morning to realize you have been a household servant or a meal ticket for the past decade.

Encourage each other in self-care from the beginning and in times of greatest need you will be able to really count on each other. If you have neglected self care in your life, you or your partner may not be willing to work on your marriage when the going gets tough.

Your highest priority has to be to take care of yourself at all levels. Do whatever you need to do. Self-care is the ultimate in unselfishness.

2. Do not merge your identities.

Always remember that each of you is a person in your own right. You have an identity.

Women in many cultures are particularly vulnerable to the trap of merging their identities with their partner's, but men fall into it too. We call it "codependency" when identities merge.

If you find yourself already slipping into merger, work on getting out of it. Always defend strongly your partner's right and your own right to be your own persons. Merged identities are incompatible with a healthy marriage.

3. Enjoy the show.

Pay attention to the changes in your partner as he or she evolves throughout life, and enjoy the show. There will often be spurts of personal growth and sometimes periods of stagnation, but the constant is change. That's the flow of life.

It's truly fun to watch our kids grow. Why should watching our partners grow be any different?

There is nothing to be afraid of. In an intimate relationship you have the privilege and opportunity to observe up close the twists and turns your partner will go through as he or she evolves.

Everyone changes; it's just that the changes are more subtle in a 45 year old than in a 15 year old.

Support the growth even if you don't understand it. Expect your partner to support you too as you evolve.

When I hear someone say, "He's not the man (or woman) I married," I know they are missing this crucial point. If they say, "I can't change--that's just the way I am," they are missing the point at an even more fundamental level.

4. Never stop doing things together for fun and laughter.

No matter how difficult and serious life gets at times, never stop doing things together for fun--things that make you laugh. Laughter is a requirement of any satisfying life. Laughter with a partner is part of the cement that can keep you together for a lifetime. Neglect it at your peril!

5. If you want more excitement, take up skiing . . .

Stay deserving of your partner's trust by steadfast fidelity. No matter what, don't have an affair. It offers a very temporary burst of excitement, but it is an assault few marriages can survive. (Many times an affair is staged simply to end a marriage.)

To rebuild trust and commitment after an affair you will probably need professional help, and even then there are no guarantees you will ever regain the level of trust you once had.

If you are an excitement junkie, find a more respectful way to get adventure.

Take time today to remember why you first got married. Most marriages are worth the work for a healthy, satisfying end result.

Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill maintains an active practice on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, with a focus on healthy relationships and life after addictions. He is the author of Living with a Functioning Alcoholic - A Woman’s Survival Guide. Get a copy of his free report "Codependency and Alcohol Addiction" at

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Neill Neill
Alcoholism/Practical Psychology
Neill Neill's web site

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