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Marriage Advice: New Rules for a Good Marriage

New rule: Sleep on it. Conflicts are best dealt with when you have calmed down and are well rested.

Rather than stay up to debate the disagreement du jour, Gottman suggests that couples set aside a moment every night to focus on what's good about their marriage. Then, "no matter what — if you're angry, if he's angry, or if you're both exhausted — kiss good night for six seconds," he advises. "Sure, sometimes you'll be so mad or tired that the kiss will last for six nanoseconds. But it will remind you of your enduring affection, and besides — long kisses often lead to something even better than conversation."

That's not to say that conflicts don't have to be dealt with. To make sure disputes don't get swept under the bedsheets, Gottman recommends having a standing, short "State of Our Union" meeting each week (just not at bedtime). "Take turns telling each other something about your marriage or your partner that you appreciated that week, and then afterward each of you gets to bring up one issue."

Next Page: More marriage myths debunked

Myth: One day the two of you will just realize you've grown apart and fallen out of love.

The fable is that some couples just drift apart as their personalities change or their interests diverge. But experts say if you look closely at most happy twosomes, you'll be amazed at how little they actually have in common. She could spend every spare hour crafting, and he might be the world's most ardent sports fan. Yet they've discovered ways to be themselves and together at the same time: That means sometimes she knits on the sofa to keep him company while he watches the Reds battle the Mets. In fact, experts say, shared interests or even similar temperaments are no assurance of marital longevity. "If these factors were truly important," Gottman says, "couples who meet through matchmaking services, which frequently try to pair singles according to hundreds of points of compatibility, would have a better chance of staying married than those who meet randomly. They don't."

New rule: A marriage doesn't run on feelings — it thrives because both spouses work hard on it.

"We need to give long-term partners credit for their marriages," says Diane Sollee, M.S.W., director of smartmarriages.com. "These couples have probably worked their way through hundreds of disagreements, illnesses, financial problems, kids' issues, maybe even an affair. They survive because they understand that they are a team, and they work to find ways to come together, whether in a crisis or in good times."

The truth is, we all change constantly, and that's a blessing. "If you sprayed fixative on people during their wedding ceremony," says Sollee, "life would just be too boring." But make sure you and your husband are checking in regularly with each other, and that all the little marital compromises and negotiations are making you both feel happy and involved in each other's evolving lives. That way, you can grow together, rather than apart, and, if anything, feel more in love than ever.

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