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50+: Live Better, Longer

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The Importance of Being -- Married

There are many reasons to choose wisely and carefully when picking a spouse, but here's one you may not know: New research suggests that a good marriage is good for your health -- and that a bad one can be a real heartbreaker.

For Guys, for Better or for Worse Is Mostly for Better continued...

"Women are less prone to risky behavior, more likely to go to doctor when they are sick, and they take care of themselves better," he says. "The other big, big difference is men have lousy social support systems, and women have great support systems."

This just goes to show you how much men get taken care of in a marriage, says David Woodsfellow, PhD, director of the Center for Relationship Therapy in Atlanta.

"While the traditional role has man as the provider, that role is really as the provider of money," he says. "In that traditional role ... the woman is the provider of nurturing comfort, home, and often food, clothing, and furnishings. I think it is those roles and their vestiges that account for the finding that marriage is better for men."

Bridging the Differences

So being married can benefit your health. How can couples get the maximum benefit for both parties involved?

Woodsfellow offers these four tips for bridging the inevitable differences and keeping a marriage healthy and happy.

  1. Talk to each other every day. "Make a point of learning what the other one's day was like," he says. "That becomes one type of quality time: undivided attention."
  2. Say nice things to one another; give one another compliments. "Do this frequently," he says.
  3. Try not to reject each other. "Be aware of the little moments when your partner is reaching out to you and try to respond to them rather than turn your back to them, even if you are busy," says Woodsfellow.
  4. Develop your own little habits, rituals, secret words, or secret signals. "Little, special things become special bonds, special moments of intimacy," he says.

It's All About Commitment

"That's one of the great things about love: When people really love and they make a commitment, they become enormously vulnerable and enormously powerful -- because they care so much and it connects them to the world in such a big way," says Gottman. "That's the amazing thing about all of these benefits: They are conferred by commitment. The commitment is like falling over backward and translates into making you a mensch and a concerned human being -- somebody who is involved in the community of mankind."

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