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Love Advice: Secrets of a Happy Marriage

Written by Jane Brooks

It takes more than luck to make a relationship work. Learn a few tricks from an unlikely couple with 39 years of wedded bliss under their belt.

Did you ever notice that couples who say a good marriage is "partly luck" are the ones with solid relationships?

That's because being happily married comes naturally to them, according to Dr. Arlene Goldman, a couples and sex therapist in Philadelphia.

Ways for Couples to Raise the Happiness Quotient:
Be good friends — treat your spouse as you would your best friend.
Be silly — you shouldn't have to worry about being embarrassed.
Keep sex lively.
Be able to tell each other what you want and what you see as not right.
Give each other the freedom to be his or her own person and honor boundaries.
Celebrate the presence of each other several times a day — call at work, say "I love you," do something thoughtful.

"Marriages are made in the unconscious. Couples who attribute their successful marriage to luck don't even realize that they knew how to make it work. They were given the ingredients by parents who were happily married."

Secrets To A Happy Marriage

So what is the secret of a happy marriage?

Experts agree that couples who continue to nurture their commitment to each other are the happiest.

Jane Forsythe, a Boston therapist, has been married to husband Rocky for 39 years. They met at summer camp and Rocky proposed on horseback when they were 14. They married eight years later. This unlikely pair--she's Jewish, he's not; she grew up in an East Coast intellectual family, he grew up on a Montana ranch--thrives on their differences.

Says Forsythe, "Everybody said it'd never work, but we clearly had the same values and sense of commitment. And we've always had a friendship that's based on mutual respect for who the other person is in the world."

In working relationships, there's a comfortable exchange of position of power, with each partner leading or following, depending on the task. Sounds simple. But a couple that is competitive may not allow for the ebb and flow that is critical to a happy marriage.

"If we go on a camping trip, Rocky will lead because of his competence.  I'll look for the mosquito netting, he'll take care of the bear. But when it comes to something social, like negotiating theater tickets, he'd take my lead," explains Forsythe.

Physical attraction is also a key component in a good relationship, as is a sense of humor, especially about differences.

Forsythe comments, "That's definitely important for us. My family was intellectual and I so yearned for that physical connection." Rocky often says, "Just keep thinking Jane, that's what you do best." Rocky came from a culture that was physically oriented, where feelings were expressed physically.

"Plus, he's a good kisser. And I like a good kisser," she adds, laughing. After 39 years, clearly, this couple has it down pat.

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