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Yes you really do need to have rules in your marriage

Malini Bhatia is the founder of Marriage.com, a website dedicated to providing value in every marriage. Marriage.com provides resources, information and a community that supports healthly, happy marriages. Malini has global experience in...

Rules really are the secret to a happy marriage

In marriage, you can make your own rules. Don't worry if you talk to your girlfriends and find out that they have very different way of negotiating in their marriage. No single set of guidelines apply to every relationship, and rules can also change over time and in various circumstances. Provided that both partners can come to an agreement, marriage rules can help strengthen your bond and prevent conflicts.

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1. Agree on the end game

This is a big one and something you need to establish right away in marriage: What's the end game? What's the goal? One goal should be to have a lasting, loving relationship, but it doesn't end there. There are fundamental issues that must be agreed upon, like where you plan to live, how much money you need to have to feel comfortable, whether you want to have children — and how many — and other critical issues. These "end game" rules must be established early on to prevent heartbreak and confusion down the line. Sure, there will be debates, discussions and arguments about big issues throughout marriage, but both partners need to periodically check in with one another and make sure both of you agree on the rules for the big stuff.

2. Be honest about how much intimacy you need — and are willing to give

Showing affection and having a healthy sex life are essential in a good marriage — pretty much everyone can agree on that. The level of intimacy that is right for your marriage may be different than what is right for others. You and your partner need to be honest about what you both want and desire from each other. Couples need to feel comfortable discussing everything from public displays of affection to how often you have sex. Intimacy is a hot topic on marriage.com, and finding common ground and compromising about intimacy is just as as important as every other aspect of your marriage.

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3. Commit to expressing yourself

Self-expression extends into every facet of your relationship. We talk a lot about how to communicate well on marriage.com. How do you and your partner communicate and react during times of sadness, disappointment or grief? What are your rules of self-expression? Agreeing on how you communicate and express your feelings over a wide array of circumstances can help prevent unnecessary conflicts and arguments. All relationships experience ups and downs, so having awareness about how your partner deals with problems and agreeing on your marriage's rules of resolution can protect your marriage during rough patches.

4. Decide how to handle outsiders

"Outsider interference" relationship rules are extremely important. Basing your decisions on what others think can be very risky to a marriage. Whether the outside perspective is from family, friends or society in general, it can cause a severe breakdown of your bond. You and your spouse need to agree that the rules in your relationship should be based on what feels right and works best for both of you, not for others.

The bottom line is that when you make rules for your relationship, you and your spouse must establish and adhere to your own expectations, needs and guidelines for a happy, properly functioning marriage now and in the future.

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Malini Bhatia is the founder and CEO of marriage.com, a website dedicated to providing value in every marriage, including resources, information and a community that supports healthy, happy marriages. Bhatia has global experience in international management and communications. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband of 11 years and two daughters.

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