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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.

En español | We all know that neglecting our car's maintenance requirements is a recipe for automotive disaster. Small things, such as a slow oil leak or a worn brake pad, can make the car dangerous, or even inoperable.

See also: 5 secrets of successful couples.

But did you know that you should have exactly the same concerns when it comes to marriage? As time goes by, relationships, just like cars, experience wear and tear. If you ignore the little things that go wrong, you may find yourself dealing with a major breakdown.

Husband and wife in bed with dogs

If cuddling time always includes your pets, it's time for a relationship tune-up. — Susan Sabo/Flickr/Getty Images

Since there is no flashing red warning light to tell us when something needs attention, I've created this maintenance checklist

Ask yourselves, "How are we doing?"

Occasionally you take the relationship's temperature because there are some indications that something's wrong, such as a spouse with a sullen attitude or wife giving you the silent treatment. But other times, even when things seem just fine, the question is necessary. Not infrequently, it can pick up the beginning of a problem and solve it before it deepens into a bigger issue — or a widening gulf of communication.

Check the fun gauge

Things may be fine day to day, but the mood of your relationship may need to be revitalized. We are all so busy these days that we often forget to look at the fun index and see that it's dangerously low. We may be using our weekends for errands and our free time for children, grandchildren, hobbies or work. But what about those things you used to do that produced joy, such as dancing, hiking, camping, wine tasting, picnics, concerts and so on? It's essential to a relationship to find time for fun and plan sexy weekend getaways.

Try something new

Sometimes the old paths are no longer enticing and a new path is necessary. One of the best predictors of relationship closeness is when couples take on something new together: a new hobby, a different kind of vacation, a foreign language — you get the idea. The old activities may be boring and that boredom can settle over a relationship like a gray cloud. If you haven't done anything new for a while together — do it now.

Ponder parallel play

Parallel play is fine for 3-year-olds. But for adults? Not so much. Even though individuals need time to do things alone, it is also vital that you do things as a couple. Sure, it may be more efficient to handle certain things individually, such as going to the supermarket or taking the cat to the vet. But doing them together can make the chores more pleasant. Of course, you don't need to do everything together — that might be downright claustrophobic — but if you find that you are doing very little together except for having dinner or going to an occasional movie, you need to create more easy, shared time.

Next: Is your romance running on empty? »

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