Raise your hand if you’ve been divorced or know of someone who has been divorced? (I’m raising my hand now as a divorcee myself, who has since re-married).

That should cover the majority of us. And the numbers don’t lie. Nearly half of all married couples in the U.S. are the victims of marital divorce or separation, according to the latest statistics.

In fact, marriage and divorce may be a matter of life or death. Literally. As reported in Time, “married people who rated their unions as ‘very happy’ or ‘pretty happy’ had roughly 20 percent lower odds of dying early than people who said their marriages were ‘not too happy.'”

Even Warren Buffett, the third richest man on the planet, gave his shareholders at a 2009 Berkshire annual meeting unusual advice when he declared:

Marry the right person. I’m serious about that. It will make more difference in your life. It will change your aspirations, all kinds of things.

What it takes for a rock-solid marriage

To truly make it an effective marriage or partnership, both parties must have a desire to grow–grow as individuals and grow in the relationship.  

Here are seven ways you can keep your marriage happy long-term.

1. Speak positive things into each other.

Relationship expert Dr. John Gottman of The Gottman Institute finds that happier couples exchange “at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other” as negative ones, especially when discussing problems. He says, “A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity” and advises that we make “regular deposits” to our emotional bank accounts.

2. Stop criticizing each other.

In Gottman’s classic The Marriage Clinic, he identifies criticism as one of the “Four Horsemen” that leads to divorce (along with Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling). While complaining poses no harm, criticism destroys marriages. The difference? Complaining can look or sound like offering a critique or voicing a complaint about a specific issue. Criticizing is an ad hominem attack on your partner at the core of their character. In effect, you are dismantling their whole being when you criticize.

3. Be playful together.

A new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings finds that the social interaction involved in partner and team sports may add more years to your life than solo exercise. When you play, for example, tennis, badminton, or racquetball with your significant other, these activities are better for longevity than standard solo activities like jogging or cycling. “If you’re interested in exercising for health and longevity and well-being, perhaps the most important feature of your exercise regimen is that it should involve a playdate,” study co-author James O’Keefe told Time.

4. Increase your emotional intimacy.

While physical and sexual intimacy is par for the course for a great marriage, you can’t possibly thrive without emotional intimacy. When you’re close to your partner emotionally, you take the relationship to another level, which opens up the door to more sexual intimacy. It involves being open with each other about feelings, thoughts, beliefs, values, hopes, worries, fears, dreams and ambitions. It’s getting to a point where you truly “get” each other–understanding a partner more fully, rather than judging, criticizing, or casting blame bombs at each other.

5. Be objective when arguing.

In social psychology professor Eli Finkel’s book, The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Workhe offers a number of crisis-avoiding strategies, including objectivity. He says partners should get perspective from a third party who sees things from the “outside.” Bringing that objectivity helps to simmer down escalating arguments.

6. Remember your funniest moments.

Ever sat and reminisced about an event that made you and your partner laugh uncontrollably? You should do it more often. One study published in Motivation and Emotion found that couples that remembered laughing together–what researchers call “laughter reminiscence”–reported greater relationship satisfaction. 

7. Seek adventure and excitement together.

If things have gotten stagnant and your marriage is in a rut, stop being boring and try something new, fun, and exciting together. It may just save your marriage and it comes with benefits. In The All or Nothing Marriage, psychologists found that couples who experience new things like ballroom dancing and taking trips together reported experiencing greater sexual desire in — and greater satisfaction with — the relationship. They were also 36 percent more likely to have sex that day.

Originally Published on Inc.

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