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Marriage Advice: New Rules for a Good Marriage

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

Myth: When the kids leave home, there will be nothing left to keep your marriage together.

Most parents have pangs of sadness when the kids are finally gone, moments when the house seems impossibly quiet or they catch themselves having a lengthy chat with the cat. And some couples really do struggle — but many renew their commitment to each other. "With the kids out of the house, marriages can bloom — when there is a sense of shared purpose," Gottman says. That communion can sometimes get pushed aside in the daily round of raising a family and making a living. "Some couples may have let that feeling of togetherness die," he explains. "Then it's not the kids' leaving the nest that somehow makes their marriages seem empty. They've already been empty a long time, and when the children leave home, the couple finally notices."

But for many husbands and wives, "marital satisfaction actually goes up once the kids are gone," says James Bray, Ph.D., a psychologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. After an adjustment period of six to 12 months, spouses often realize that they have more leisure time, more money, and more freedom to reengage with each other. And without children in the house, there's often less cause for conflicts.

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