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Men's Health

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Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Not your parents’ relationship: The keys to a good marriage are different now


"I have studied what people imagine would happen to them if their marriage were to end," says Nock. "If you don't think horrible things will happen, you are a different kind of spouse than if you think they will. In my work, it is a very strong predictor of divorce." In other words, if you can see yourself taking that next step and can visualize yourself as single, you are more likely to be stepping outside the marriage.

A key to happy marriage: Keeping separate lives

While too much independence ― the kind that leads to infidelity or workaholism ― is a marriage breaker, too much dependence isn't the answer either. "Every good marriage is based on an awful lot of separation," Nock says. "People need to have a separate life and existence to feel validated as individuals. They can't live solely as somebody's partner."

Nock also says people have to ask themselves what is going to keep them together when the love fades. The short answer is anything that would be lost to both parties if you split up.

Happy marriage tip: Married sex is better

"If my wife and I split up, I get to keep my own earnings, investments, assets, and toys. And the same is true for her," Nock says. But some things don't fit that category. "I don't know how you quantify that reaction when you and your wife see your child take her first step," Nock says. That is worth something and cannot happen without both partners. And there are countless things like that involving children."

But what if you don't have children? Well, the chances are you have more sex, and, according to Nock, it is still the case that marital sex is better than extramarital sex. "Most research suggests," Nock says, "that couples figure out how to please each other better than strangers do."

Marriage and tradition ― They belong together

It also turns out there is a reason we put stock in anniversaries. Divorces are much more common in the front end of marriage, and the longer you stay married, the less likely it is you will get divorced. When that happens, there are other intangibles at risk.

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