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Young and new couples often ask: what is the secret to a healthy, long-lasting marriage? 

Religious folks may tell you to put God in the center of your relationship. Sex therapists may recommend a long list of ways to maintain intimacy in long-term relationships. Business-minded people may suggest being on the same page when it comes to finances. Your friends may suggest spending time and money, traveling together and having occasional date nights. 

While all these are true, it all boils down to one thing: You need to establish a deeper connection with each other, and everything else will follow – like how you would with your best friend. 

So what is the secret to a healthy, long-lasting marriage? You need to be each other’s best friend. 

“Long-term vitality and connection are maintained through moments of intentional friendship, woven throughout your relationship,” says Dr. John Gottman, an American psychological researcher, and clinician. To strengthen the friendship in your marriage, here are 9 tips to keep in mind. 

1. Make small moments into essential experiences

Prioritize emotional connection. 

You don’t need to go on a grand vacation – everyday experiences like doing the laundry, watching Netflix, cooking together, eating together at home, and walking along the crowded streets together can be opportunities for a deeper connection to take place. 

These are those intimate moments when you can share what’s on your mind, talk about your goals, and check in on how they’re feeling.

2. Always compliment your partner

And make it a habit. Do you like your partner’s new hairdo? Or the shade of her new lipstick? Or the buffalo wings she cooked for dinner? Don’t keep it a secret – let them know!

And don’t forget to express gratitude and appreciation whenever he/she does something for you – like when he went out of his way to buy you comfort food and medicines in the middle of the night. 

3. Do something thoughtful

Surprise your partner at work. Make her coffee, with a sweet message on a post-it note. Offer to cook dinner or take her out to her favorite restaurant. A little amount of effort can go a long way. 

4. Intentionally take the time to care

It’s the simple things.

Maintain eye contact. When your partner is asking something, intentionally take the time to look at your partner and respond in a way that makes him/her feel acknowledged instead of shrugging while looking at your phone. Never stop opening the door for her. Keep texting stuff like “how are you?” “have you eaten lunch?” “When are you leaving the office?” “don’t tire yourself too much” and “I’ll hug you tight when I see you.” 

Never stop trying, no matter how repetitive, no matter how bad your day is. Therapists in marriage counseling can’t stress enough: communicate, communicate, communicate! 

5. Spend time together in mutually pleasurable activities

Nurture that common ground which made you compatible in the first place. Discover new dining places together. Visit a museum, an art gallery, or an art fair. Watch a game. See a movie. Attend a concert or a theater performance. Go on a road trip together. Plan a romantic getaway. Visit hiking trails and campsites. 

Running out of things do? The best part is you’ll have the opportunity to try new things together. 

6. Engage in your partner’s interests (and vice versa)

 

And if you don’t have a lot of common interests, you can engage in one of their (or your) favorite hobbies. For example, if you’re not much of an artist but your partner is, you may join her during one of her painting sessions. You may soon realize that through your initiative to do so, these activities become truly enjoyable. 

7. Be transparent with one another

Don’t hide secrets or pretend that everything’s fine when it isn’t just to keep the peace. Communicate how you genuinely feel. 

8. Always take the side of your spouse

Make your partner feel that you have his/her back, especially when they feel like everything’s going against them. When their workplace, their friends, their investments, and even their family members have failed them, be the one to make them feel they’re not alone or significant. 

9. Establish a friendship that’s unbreakable and unconditional

True friends lift each other. They accept each other’s differences and compromise to address and settle disagreements. They don’t keep records of wrongs. And despite all the differences, the fights, and the drama, they continue to love and respect one another. 

Why don’t we bring this mentality into our marriage and see our partners as our beloved best friends? Likewise, marital friendship needs to be nurtured and prioritized. 

Be gentle with one another, and treat your partner with the same unconditional support and understanding. Be each other’s greatest companion when challenges like work stress, issues with family members, money problems, and issues with the kids try to interfere with your marriage.

Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is one of the writers for Relationship Room Couples Counseling, a couples psychology institution specializing in relationship counseling and therapies for couples and families. She may be hopeless romantic but she’s got some straightforward pieces of advice about love, dating, and relationships.

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