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The Newlywed’s Guide to a Happy Marriage

Don’t go from lovey dovey to angry birds: Here’s your guide to a having a long, happy marriage right from the start.


What to watch for:

When University of Oklahoma researchers studied newlyweds, they found
that expressions of love and affection between a wife and husband drop by half
in the first two years of marriage, and researchers find that most couples experience a significant drop in happiness about 18 months after the wedding. Perhaps that’s the reason why national
divorce statistics show that most marital splits occur in the first five years—and that couples married for about three years are especially vulnerable.
This early, important stage can
seem scary, marriage experts say, because we see our own shortcomings reflected
in our spouses’ actions now, just as we saw our own sterling qualities
reflected in our partners before. Now:It’s time to make love happen instead of waiting for it to
happen to you.


1. Uncover your hidden marriage expectations.

We all come into marriage with a set of mostly
unconscious ideas about how great things will be—that no human spouse
can meet. “Expectations like ‘Everything will be fabulous, this is my one true
love, this person will make me finally happy, I’ll avoid every mistake I’ve
made in the past’ put a huge burden on ourselves and our spouses and our
marriages,” says Patty Howell, a relationship counselor and author of World
Class Marriage: The Art and Science of Relationship Success
. “We judge
what’s really happening very harshly when we use those standards.”


2. Talk calmly and confidently about your needs and wants.

Your spouse cannot read your mind. Many spouses report that sharing their
feelings, thoughts, desires, and expectations feels scary; others just don’t
know how.

Why it’s vital: Clamming up in order to preserve the status quo will
just leave you resentful and angry and keeps your spouse in the dark. Coming on
too strong will put your partner on the defensive.


3. Listen empathetically to your spouse.

Create a safe haven where your partner can reveal
his or her innermost emotions, thoughts, ideas, and expectations—without your
jumping to conclusions, inadvertently criticizing your partner’s vulnerable
feelings, or trying to fix things when your spouse simply needs a listening
ear. The combination of open, honest talk and empathetic listening fosters
acceptance and deeper understanding—making the two of you feel safer and


4. Be your real, full self and let your spouse be, too.

New research from the University of California, Los
Angeles, finds that newlyweds who act as friends as well as lovers have happier
marriages. Try to be more genuine, more empathetic, and more accepting—friendship skills that go beyond communication techniques to bring your heart,
soul, and whole being into your relationship.


5. Sort out the laundry…and the dishes…and the vacuuming.

Housework can be an early battleground for couples. Think
about how to get past traditional roles and divide the work fairly. Don’t be afraid to talk about it and make plans—it’s not a petty subject.

istock/Goldmund Lukic

6. Become expert money managers.

No subject sparks more couples conflicts than money.
Research shows that newlyweds today face a new challenge: significant debt
brought into marriage from school loans, car payments, credit cards, medical
bills, and the wedding and honeymoon.

Find out how your money personalities can
work for—not against—you as you set a calm, organized course toward meeting
your financial goals and achieving your dreams.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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