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A Maintenance Plan for Your Marriage

Avoid serious breakdowns in your relationship with regular tune-ups, and keep things humming along.

Gauge the romantic output

Commonly, couples forget all the little gestures that thrilled and comforted them long ago. Remember the kiss every time you met, the little touch of hands or knees at a dinner party, the poems sent back and forth? How about the candles in the bathroom and/or bedroom at night, the shared shower where you washed each other's hair? Well, that stuff matters, and its diminution undermines loyalty, attachment and happiness. Think about how often you say I love you, note the number of time you kiss when you meet or leave each other, and calculate the total number of monthly back rubs, foot rubs and affectionate emails. If you are low on any or all of these, replenish the relationship.

Assess your sexual frequency

Aging can make sex problematic: bad knees, an impeded circulatory system, hormone issues and other challenges can cause you to put sex on the back burner — or extinguish the flame altogether. But it's important that you don't neglect this part of your relationship. Making love is a great way to nourish your connection and you should make sure that it's part of your regular routine. If you've got health problems, talk to your doctor about what you need to do to stay sexually active.

Talk about your goals

When is the last time you had a "blue sky" discussion? Relationships need dreams. They might be dreams about the trip of a lifetime, about living somewhere else for a while, or maybe buying that car or country house you've both always wanted. Whatever the goal, the important thing is to dream together and to see if there could possibly, even if it is far in the future, the chance of making that dream come true. It is part of letting each other in to each other's deeper emotions and part of staying a team.

Check your anger meter

This is a really important dipstick! Over time, insults and irritations build up and create sludge in the system. Leaving anger unattended is like leaving a progressive disease alone and untreated. It's unpleasant to deal with but that is what you must do.

Consider extra service

People sometimes change, and the dynamics in a relationship change along with them. If you and your partner feel out of sync with one another — in a way that you have never felt in the past — perhaps one of you has become a different person than you were earlier in the relationship. That can create problems if you don't renegotiate your world together. If that conversation starts to sound destructive, don't hesitate to engage third-party help (a counselor, therapist, minister, etc). A good professional can bring you closer together and convert the tumult caused by change into an asset for each of you, and both of you, together.

You may also like the quiz: How healthy is your marriage?

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