Marriage Advice: New Rules for a Good Marriage
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.
Myth: As you both get older, sex will simply stop mattering to you and your husband.
TV sitcoms notwithstanding, the idea that midlife couples settle into sexual hibernation just isn't true. In fact, many report that intimacy improves as the years go by. After all, once they get through their early-relationship trials and errors, Sollee says, "they find a sexual style that makes them both happy." And for many wives, sex certainly doesn't deteriorate in midlife. On the contrary: In a recent British study, 64 percent of women surveyed attested that after they reached menopause, their sex lives either stayed on course or got even better.
What makes intimacy more satisfying is the comfort married couples develop with talking about what doesn't work for them and — perhaps more important — what does. In fact, psychologists at Dalhousie University in Canada recently found that partners' communication about what they wanted sexually was linked to their being happy with the sex itself.
New rule: There's no reason you won't grow more sexually connected.
Since talking about sex is key to sexual satisfaction itself, make it a priority this weekend — regardless of whether you think your sex life is already OK or not. Naturally, even if you both communicate perfectly well about everything else under the sun, it may feel awkward or even embarrassing to suddenly start giving your husband explicit sexual pointers. So ease into the subject. If it occurs to you that you've done it exactly the same way 33 times in a row, you could say, "I can't remember the last time we made love with the lights on, can you?" Sexual reminiscing may not lead to a romantic interlude, but it will get you talking. And the safer each of you feels in expressing what you like and don't like, the easier it is to make adjustments that can ramp up the sexual satisfaction on both sides of the bed.
Next page: Empty-nest and midlife-crisis myths