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6 Ways to Create a Strong and Healthy Marriage
Use these tips to create a strong and prosperous marriage.

The healthiest and longest-lasting relationships donít just happen because a couple fell in love. The majority of strong and healthy marriages are created by using a formula composed of six vital elementsóand here they are:

1. Good, open, honest communication and a willingness to change. This happens with practice. It means you donít judge or feel judged by your spouse. Youíve developed good listening and speaking skills. Trust each other and know you can talk to each other about anything. It means the willingness to work on your own issues and make changes in yourself, if necessary.

2. Knowledge that a relationship takes work and laughter. A relationship of longevity is made up of hard work, daily nurturing, not taking each other for granted and dealing with both the hard and easy issues together. It takes consciousness and caring about yourself and your spouse. It requires discipline, dedication and determination mixed with fun and laughter. The better the balance between hard work and fun, the better chance that your marriage will last. Take yourself seriously, but not so seriously that you canít also laugh at yourself.

3. Respect one another. The strongest marriages are the ones where each partner remembers that their spouse is a human being whom he/she fell in love with. Itís easy to feel disrespect for your spouse when you disagree and he/she makes you angry. Disagreements donít mean that your spouse suddenly became a "bad" human being. Apply the golden rule in your relationshipórespect yourself enough to respect their feelings, failings and humanness. Most of the time mistakes are made not to hurt another person, but because weíre human. Learn from your mistakes and donít stop respecting yourself or your spouse just because you slip up.

4. Ability to "nip problems in the bud." At the first sign of conflict take immediate steps to resolve the disagreement. Nothing is too small to ignore. If you donít, it will grow bigger each time you fight. Nip the argument in the bud by talking about it so you can understand it. Learn good negotiating and problem-solving skills. The origin of huge conflicts are smaller arguments that never got resolved. Small conflicts can be easy to deal with and can actually create closeness. Huge ones are difficult and can lead to affairs, separation and/or divorce.

5. Cultivate a deep friendship as the foundation for your love to grow. Make your spouse your best friend. Marriages that last are made up of two people who love each other and really like each other. Love needs a strong foundation on which to flourish. Treat your spouse like you would a friend. It is this companionship that deepens a relationship. If you donít know how to respond to your spouse ask yourself, "If this was my best friend, how would I respond?" Youíd probably be supportive, understanding, empathetic, honest and caring. We forget that our counterparts are our friends, tooówe owe it to ourselves, and them, to treat any situation with dignity and compassion.

6. Creative ways to keep the intimacy alive. Intimacy means being close to your spouse, enjoying each otherís company, sharing and figuring out what makes you both happy. If youíre losing sexual desire, rule out any medical issues then get busy educating yourself to find ways to rekindle the flame. Donít ignore the issues! Talk about them and remember that things wonít get better on their own. Most importantly, keep learning and growing as an individual so you stay interested in your own life and in your spouseís life.

The couples whose marriages are the strongest are the ones that put their commitment above all their disagreements, misunderstandings and confusions. They respect themselves and their partner, and through their hard work and continued growth magic really does happen in their marriages!

"Whatís the big deal? All I said was . . ." Sound familiar? Argument/affairs expert and therapist Sharon M. Rivkin helps couples fix their relationships by understanding why they fight. Sharon says, "If you donít get rid of the ghosts that haunt your arguments, youíll never stop fighting!" Read her new book, "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy," to learn the tools of therapy to break the cycle of destructive fighting. Sharon has been featured in "O: The Oprah Magazine," "Readerís Digest," and DrLaura.com, and appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio. http://www.sharonrivkin.com


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