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"The secret of a happy marriage is to only have secrets that, when they're revealed, will make both people smile."
-- Gary S. Felton, PhD, Los Angeles clinical psychologist
"If you're meeting your spouse at a bar, don't worry if you see him or her talking to a member of the opposite sex when you arrive five minutes late. The jealous types tend to bicker about it. The happy couples tend to have a very different response, more like, "Why wouldn't people be talking to my lovely spouse when I'm running late?"
-- Bill Riley, bartender at Resto in New York City
"Make a rule that the children are not allowed in the bedroom without being invited. My husband and I hung a sign from our doorknob that says, 'Mom and Dad off duty. Emergencies only! Emergency is Fire, flood, a lot of blood!' It's amazing how seldom we got a knock on the door."
-- Jeannine Kaiser, author of Cupid's Playbook: How to Play the Dating Game to Win!
"My husband, Charlie Justiz, is a NASA pilot, and we both travel a lot. When we're home together with our three boys in Houston, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know we have to make time for each other. It's the little things that mean the most. Every night Charlie sets the timer on the coffee machine, and each morning I get up first and put out his cup with two scoops of Splenda and a spoon. It's a symbol of our love and caring, and we miss it when we're apart."
-- Dayna Steele, speaker and author
"One couple told me that when they were fighting and wanted to stop, they'd stick their tongue out at each other. They'd start to laugh, and that would break the spell. "
-- Peter Post, a director of the Emily Post Institute and author of Essential Manners for Couples
"As an exercise physiologist and a happily married man of nearly nine years, one thing I've learned is the importance of exercise. Regular workouts can reduce stress and help create a positive body image and self-esteem. When you feel good about yourself, you have more energy to give to the relationship."
-- Pete McCall, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise
"After a major transgression, like infidelity, it's extremely important not to hound the person about it for years. That will slowly poison the marriage. You've got to forgive and forget, or get out of the relationship."
-- Marianne Legato, MD, professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University in New York City
"Only buy a house you can afford. If you stretch too much to make mortgage payments and don't have enough cash to take vacations or go out to dinner, you'll be stressed out and arguing all the time. And for what? A bigger house? Not worth it."
-- Candi Schwartz, real-estate agent in Montclair, New Jersey
Don't be too quick to dismiss your husband's request that you talk dirty to him or dress up in a nurse's costume. Talk about it. If he can say, "Hey, I've got a pretty cool wife who will talk about anything," that brings you closer. And who knows? You might like his suggestion.
-- J.J. Smith, author of Why I Love Men: The Joys of Dating
"Never cut each other down in front of other people. But by all means praise in public. It makes you eager to please each other."
-- Kevin Leman, PhD, author of Have a New Husband by Friday: How to Change His Attitude, Behavior & Communication in 5 Days
"You need to maintain appropriate boundaries. Allow each other a sense of individuality and independence. Support each other's hopes and dreams."
-- Stephen Betchen, sex and marital therapist in Cherry Hill, New Jersey
"For my husband's 40th birthday I gave him the gift of intimacy (okay, sex!) every day for a year. It was such an incredible year -- and I don't mean what happened in the bedroom, but what happened outside the bedroom -- that I wrote a book about it. Certainly sex every day is not a long-term sustainable model, but neither is hardly ever having sex, which can make you physically and emotionally disconnected. Making intimacy a scheduled priority might not seem sexy, but that kind of regular connection can make a good marriage even better."
-- Charla Muller, author of 365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy
"Being a hairstylist is like being a therapist, and I've heard it all from my clients. One thing's clear: The secret to a successful marriage is making the right choice in the first place. Just because he seems hot, sexy, and accomplished doesn't mean it's enough for the long haul. He needs to have himself together and his issues sorted out so you can be in a loving, supportive relationship."
-- Sheree Dunn, hairstylist in New York City
"Don't fall into the trap of thinking about your partner's every little quirk and wondering, 'Can I live with that for the rest of my life?' Decide that this person is fine for now. That has worked for us for 27 years."
-- Ann Leary, wife of actor Denis Leary and author of Outtakes from a Marriage: A Novel
"Hire a financial planner like me. Couples spend too much time fighting about money. They could avoid a lot of those arguments if they got advice from a neutral third party."
-- Bill Galvin, financial planner in Stamford, Connecticut
"Many couples believe their marriage is strong because they don't argue much. But the real silent killer of marriage is avoiding each other. It's easy to recognize you're in fight mode when you snap at your spouse. But it's hard to notice you may be in flight mode when you work late or switch on the TV. Then suddenly years later you wake up next to your mate and realize the flame has slowly died. You've got to learn to spot the distancing pattern and stop it."
-- David Arthur Code, author of To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First
"Some things are better not shared. The secret to staying in love? Separate bathrooms."
-- Tom and Marilyn Herman of New York City, married nearly 29 years
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, February 2010.