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Recipe for a Healthy Marriage Relationship for Parents

Settling down is just step one. Real wedded bliss takes hard work, time and attention – especially with kids in the mix. Here are key ingredients.

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1 tablespoon (or more) spice

As it turns out, passionate marriages don't hinge on what happens in the bedroom. There are several ways to revive your passionate feelings toward your partner.

First, you can try out something new – whether it's taking a dancing class together or dining at a new Thai restaurant. Mixing up your regular schedule can also trigger romance. Surprise your spouse at her office or offer him breakfast in bed, just because.

One technique that Orbuch has found works well for her clients, which is based on several multiple psychological studies, is helping your brain associate an arousing activity (other than sex!) with your partner, which then in turn can lead to greater physical intimacy. Here's how it works: Say riding a roller coaster revs up your heart rate. Taking that thrill ride with your partner will make your brain associate your partner as the source of the arousing feelings.

Dr. Orbuch explains: "You are, in a sense, fooling your brain chemistry." Not an amusement park fan? From feel-good activities like exercise or hiking to adrenaline-pumping scary movies, by combining the activity with spouse time, you're likely to have more success reconnecting when it comes to physical intimacy.

A pinch of affirmation for all

Even though Orbuch's research found that men shun relationship talk, one of her key findings is that they crave affected affirmation. In other words, simple acts and kind expressions reassure your partner that you care.

But women tend to receive this type of positive feedback on a regular basis whereas men don't. Think of all the positive comments that women exchange daily – "I like your shoes," "Your hair looks great today," "Thanks for bringing that by; you made my day." Men don't tend to receive as much positive feedback, but they still need it.

In happy marriages, both partners offer affected affirmation. Orbuch recalls that when she first came upon this finding, she called her own husband to let him know how much she appreciated him. For couples, she suggests using phrases that go beyond "I love you" – phrases like "You are my best friend," "I would still choose you" and "I've noticed you've been doing such-and-such around the house."

Orbuch says that, according to her study results, men who reported not receiving affected affirmation from their wives were two times less likely to say they were happy and two times more likely to divorce over time.

Mix with care

Any baker knows that the real difference between a successful and unsuccessful outcome is often a result of what goes beyond the recipe. Take cheesecake, for instance. Cracks, dryness are all the signs of overcooked, poorly crafted cake.

To avoid a crack, cooks need to make sure all their ingredients are at room temperature before they begin, that the eggs are beaten for at least five minutes, that the oven door is left ajar after baking for an hour before removing the cake pan. So many small steps go into making the cheesecake a standout dessert. And so it is with marriage. If you overlook small things, you might end up with a crack up.

"You often hear that couples 'shouldn't sweat the small stuff,' when just the opposite is true," says Orbuch. "Serious challenges like the death of a loved one, or job loss, actually brought couples closer together – but small, perceived slights gradually turn a relationship sour.

"'He doesn't put the dishes in the dishwasher' or 'He never visits my mother' can accumulate over time if they're not addressed and become 'He never listens to me,' which then turns into 'He doesn't respect me or our marriage.'"

By talking about issues when they come up, instead of letting them go, chances are your relationship will be a success – sweet, strong and crack-free.

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