The 7 Steps to Happily Ever After
By Marjorie Ingall
What makes love last a lifetime? Affection? Yep. Respect? Sure. But a great marriage is not just about what you have. It's about what you do to make a relationship stronger, safer, more caring and committed. Here's how to make your "forever" fantastic.
Marriage is a home, a refuge against the outside storms. And like any house, it requires a strong, lasting foundation. To build one, every couple needs to take certain steps — seven, to be precise — that turn the two of you into not just you and me but we. You may not move through all the steps in order, and you may circle back to complete certain steps again (and again and again). But if you make it through them all, you'll be well on your way toward creating a marriage that will be your shelter as long as you both shall live.
Step 1: Find a shared dream for your life together.
It's easy to get caught up in the small stuff of married life: What's for dinner tonight? Whose turn is it to clean the litter box? Did you pay the electric bill? But the best partners never lose sight of the fact that they're working together to achieve the same bigdreams. "Successful couples quickly develop a mindfulness of 'us,' of being coupled," says REDBOOK Love Network expert Jane Greer, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist in New York City. "They have a shared vision, saying things like, 'We want to plan to buy a house, we want to take a vacation to such-and-such a place, we like to do X, we think we want to start a family at Y time.'"
This kind of dream-sharing starts early. "Couples love to tell the story of how they met," points out Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. "It's like telling a fairy tale. But happy couples will go on creating folklore and history, with the meet-cute forming the bedrock of the narrative." As you write and rewrite your love story ("our hardest challenge was X, our dream for retirement is Y"), you continually remind yourselves and each other that you're a team with shared values and goals. And P.S.: When you share a dream, you're a heck of a lot more likely to make that dream come true.