Never arguing, having 99% of your lives in common, and even having children: these are all myths mixed in with relationship advice about how to stay happily married forever. But studies and conversations with people in marriages of 50+ years show that these things just aren’t true. So, what do they say?

Communication

This is one that crops up the most between happily married couples, and it is key to the survival of any relationship. Secrets and buried feelings are no way to carry on if you expect your marriage to be happy and ever-lasting. Whether it’s a conversation about your day, something making you upset, or simply a joke you want to share, say what’s on your mind. If not with them, then who? This is the person you have chosen to spend your life with, so put faith in your decision and open up.

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Learning how to argue

Following communication, the next one on the list is usually arguing – and specifically, learning how to do it. You may think there isn’t a skill to this, but arguing can be a healthy and productive way of maintaining your relationship, after all you are simply communicating your anger. But there are ways and means. Yelling at one another, storming out, or cutting each other off is just as ineffective as bottling up your anger. Have your say and let your other half have their say. Try and see it from their point of view and compromise. Perhaps it’s a case of agreeing to disagree and letting sleeping dogs lie. Either way, don’t let your argument spoil your day. The older couples get, the less of a big deal their arguments seem to be.

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Appreciate each other

Be nice to each other! Try to appreciate what you have at least once a day. Saying it out loud in a genuine way can really make a difference to your partner’s mood and lets them feel appreciated as well. It can be a compliment about a nice shirt they’re wearing, the way they smell, or them doing the dishes. Let them know it hasn’t gone unnoticed. They say that for every deep insult someone receives, it takes six compliments to boost them back up to happiness…something to bear in mind!

Setting boundaries

Just because you have chosen someone to spend your life with doesn’t mean they have the right to be involved in every part of your life or your body. If you have certain things you like to keep private, or a certain part of the day you want for yourself, lay down some boundaries. It’s just as important for both of you to acknowledge and respect each other’s boundaries, not only to show trust within the relationship, but to set goals and expectations. Communication and respect play key roles in this step and these boundaries will be different for everybody.

Be realistic

Nobody is perfect, and neither is anybody’s marriage. Don’t expect 100% from each other 100% of the time. There will be days when you maybe don’t communicate like you should, you argue for no reason, or you overstep a boundary. Don’t set your expectations sky high; becoming idealistic about the way you see marriage is the fastest way to end it. Whatever the fault may be, remember you are human, which comes with a heap of imperfections.

Be your own person too

While it seems that the longest marriages are between people that are similar, it is okay to have your differences. If you have dissimilar tastes in movies, then go to the cinema on your own. Go out with your friends and keep your social life alive. Learn to love yourself as well as your partner. This means spending some time on your own or with other people every now and then. While the two of you make up one partnership, it can be unhealthy to be reliant on each other all the time.

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How long have you been with your partner? What is the secret to your success? What areas of communication do you need to work on?