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Marriage secrets from real couples

Aly Walansky is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She lives with her two Shorkie-Tzus, Scarlette and Max, and a display of pink polka-dot-themed home decor -- not to mention a selection of flavored vodka. Check out he...

Read advice from married couples

Think you will never make it to the finish line? Behold these secrets to a successful marriage from real-life married couples!

Couple in Embrace

"One personal secret from my 11 years of marriage: make time to 'prioritize' -- and by prioritize, I mean HAVE SEX! 'We've got to prioritize' or 'hug' are our code words for making time for Mom & Dad to get busy. It's amazing the power of prioritizing to reconnect a couple -- no matter what stress, B.S. or stupid fights you may have had during the day." - Kris, Marina Del Rey, California

Gary and Betty Hillery, who were married in 1943 and now live a the Mayflower Retirement Community in Winter Park, Florida, know that extraordinary love is based on mutual respect, understanding and flexibility, emphasizing that each spouse must be willing to give more than they receive. Of course, this means that both partners constantly put the other before themselves -- it's all about give and take.

Setting a good example

For example... during their 65 years together, Gary -- an avid golfer -- would frequently join his friends for a day on the course. Although Betty didn't have much interest in the sport, she eventually tried a few golf lessons and learned more about it. Here are some quotes they shared with me:

"Betty always made an effort to experience my hobbies and interests," says Gary. "Both of us remain open to new things, and that has played a key role in our marriage over the years. It's really paid off because we've experienced wonderful things together. That's what keeps marriage exciting."

As the couple has progressed through their golden years, assisting each other with daily tasks has become very important. When Betty was diagnosed with macular degeneration a few years ago and could longer see or read clearly, Gary was there to help. Now, always by her side, he reads newspapers and magazines aloud to her.

"Every morning, Gary starts with the funnies," Betty says. "It's a wonderful way to start the day together. Some mornings they are funnier than others. Sometimes he'll say, 'Betty, you didn't laugh at that one.'"

She adds, "Couples cannot be expected to keep a romance going full-tilt like it was when we first married, but a good, healthy marriage rests in the ordinary details of life. Also, it's amazing how much having children will bring you together. When you have children and grandchildren, they truly make life worth living. That just makes life so nice."

And Gary says, "Our grandchildren are always in touch -- and that keeps us going. It's so important to have close contact with family."

Kiss kiss kiss

Not quote up to the inspirational path of Gary and Betty yet? "When things get hectic, a busy couple I know does a ten second kiss," says Dr Trina E Read, a noted sex expert. That is, when one or the other of you is in a stressful situation and they start taking their frustration out on their partner, one or the other says, "ten second kiss." They immediately drop everything and kiss for, well, ten seconds.

Why this works: Kissing raises oxytocin levels; our bonding hormone. It also shifts their focus from seeing their partner as the source of their unhappiness to a, "We can get through this together" team effort. Couples who look on the bright side of things are much likely to be successful in their relationship. Plus, this is super easy for any couple to do!

Some more marriage secrets

  • Always put the seat back down... always.
  • A morning kiss should follow brushing and mouthwash first.
  • Resolve anger -- if not issues -- before bedtime.
  • Remember special occasions and places, even if you have to carry the list on a note in your billfold forever.
  • Embrace the "power of yes" as often as possible and sensible. "No" all the time is for control freaks.
  • Enjoy what you have today -- each other, good dishes, sound mind/health, family silverware -- for tomorrow is uncertain.
  • Be as quick with apologies as with appreciation, sometimes even when not warranted, or suffer the consequences.
  • Give thanks daily, knowing that most of the world gets by for less and generally under dire circumstances.
  • Silence can be powerful, healing and/or hurtful.
  • Don't surrender all your opinions to your spouse. Be assertive when it counts.
  • Communicate daily, and that includes real listening, real feedback.
  • No secret accounts or money stashes.
  • Forgive yourself. Ask for forgiveness. Forgive your partner.
  • Remember the good times; try to forget the bad times, or better yet, laugh at them together.
  • And always, always, always... put the seat back down!
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