Want to make your marriage last? Take the advice of people who end them. After all, divorce attorneys spend their days listening to exes bicker over “what went wrong.”
“Divorces aren’t spontaneous combustions,” says attorney Joseph E. Cordell, cofounder and principal partner of Cordell & Cordell family law firm, which almost exclusively heaven. But the majority of divorces are just a result of inertia.”
Follow these seven marriage rules from divorce attorneys to make sure you never end up in any of their offices.
1. Realize You Can Lose Her
“Guys believe that the day they exchanged ‘I do’s,’ the deal was done,” says Cordell.
But that’s not true: “The relationship is still vulnerable. You can’t take her for granted. Once you win her, you have to keep winning her over every day.” (For ideas from married women on how to do that, check out 4 Easy Ways to Show Your Wife You Love Her.)
The hard work isn’t over when you get hitched. It’s just beginning.
2. Bring Back the Little Things
Long before you tied the knot, how did you show her you cared? Did you open her car door? Buy her flowers on her birthday?
Whatever your little traditions and gestures were, stick with them, Cordell advises. During the early stages of a relationship, those seemingly insignificant moves become representations of how you feel about her, he says. If and when they stop, she’ll think your feelings have, too.
3. Have More Sex!
Don’t just be her roommate—be her lover.
“That’s something I see couples struggle with as they work more, have children, and get older,” says attorney Vikki Ziegler, host of Bravo’s Untying the Knot. “The minute closeness dissipates, you have a major problem on your hands. Put your phones down, hold hands, light some candles, and look at each other. It’s a great feeling to know that the flame is still alive and that you spouse is still attracted to you after years.”
Want to make monogamy scorching hot, no matter how long you’ve been together?
4. Be a Good Conversation Partner
Cordell says his clients often cop to having been lousy communicators in their marriages.
“These men never shared or discussed the things going on their lives. It seems to be a guy thing: going home from work and not wanting to talk,” he says.
Silence doesn’t make for a strong marriage. Keeping your mouth shut makes her feel shut out—sometimes personally, says Cordell.
So, when she asks you about your day, give her the rundown—even if it’s boring. And ask about hers.
If you’re not in the mood to chat, it’s okay. Tell her that you really want to talk, but need a few minutes to first decompress. (Try this Technique to De-Stress In Less Than 2 Minutes.)
5. Don’t Expect Her to Be Perfect
“You can’t change anyone but yourself, so stop trying,” Ziegler says. “Accept your partner for who she is—period.”
Likewise, you need to come to terms with the fact that she never was perfect in the first place. “The taller the pedestal on which you place your significant other, the further they will fall when you find out your hero has feet of clay,” says attorney Arkady Bukh, a partner with Bukh Global Law Firm.
“No one can live up to fantasy expectations forever,” Bukh says. “Everyone is a flawed human. The best relationship is between two people who view each other as equals and admire and respect each other.”
6. Know That You Won’t Always Be Happy
The bumps of everyday life can take the glow off of any marriage, says Bukh.
So he advises diving into issues headfirst: “If both people remember that pain in a relationship can produce great people and a great marriage, then the crisis can be a new beginning.”
Research backs him up. A study from the University of Tennessee shows that anticipating some rough relationship patches results in greater satisfaction over the long haul.
7. Be on the Same Team
No matter how much you disagree, it’s important to remember that you aren’t enemies and you shouldn’t be working against each other, Ziegler says.
“Practice forgiveness. Harboring grudges does not serve you. Be open with your feelings of hurt and anger—but don’t point fingers or hurl insults. Try to forgive and move forward.” (Use these 6 Magic Words That Instantly Defuse Any Fight.)