"And they lived happily ever after. The end."

Well, not quite. "Happily ever after" actually takes a lot of work. Marriage is something that needs nourishment, repairing, caring hearts and lots of love. Both partners in a marriage must be fully committed to making the marriage triumphant. Here are some secrets for marriage success.

1. Communication is key

A big part of any relationship is communication. Good communication can help couples avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. It can also help strengthen marriages. It is crucial to discuss important topics, worries, finances, stresses and big decisions. Learning good communications skills will ease some tensions that are often present in any marriage.

2. Don't use the "D-word" - Divorce

Before my husband and I got married, he made the request that we simply do not talk about divorce - especially during disagreements. It can be easy, in a heated discussion, to say things that we don't really mean. Once it is said, you can't take it back. Using "divorce" in arguments puts it "out there" as if it's an option. We choose not to have divorce as an option, but rather seek to work together to solve problems. *There may be extenuating circumstances where divorce is necessary. Use good judgment in these cases.

3. Have regular date nights - weekly, if possible

Before marriage, it seems that couples want to spend time together strengthening their relationship and getting to know each other. It is paramount that this practice of courting one another continues into marriage. People change significantly over time. If time is not spent together, married partners may wake up one day and realize they don't know their spouse very well anymore. Continuing courtship after marriage allows couples to grow together, to stay in love and to have time together without other distractions like children, work or other responsibilities.

4. Think positively about your spouse

Dwelling on any negatives about your spouse is only going to invite more negatives. These thoughts can eat at you, cause fights and undue marital stress. Try looking for the good in your spouse. Compliment him/her on the things you love instead of pointing out annoyances or faults. Focusing on the positives will allow you to see more good things about your spouse.

5. Keep intimacy going strong

Married couples need to be connected emotionally, spiritually and, yes, physically. Physical and emotional intimacy is key to a happy marriage. This includes having date nights. Find out what makes your spouse feel loved and try to "speak" that language. For some, it is physical touch. Others need time or verbal communication. Remember to allow cuddle time, kissing, hugging, touching and having sex. This will strengthen your bond as a couple in a necessary way.

6. Forgive and apologize daily

We all make mistakes or do stupid things. If we are self-aware, we can see where we have wronged others and can let go of our pride and apologize. It is also important to forgive each other. Holding on to negative feelings will only fester and damage not only ourselves, but ultimately our marriage. Forgiving and apologizing frequently will save a lot of heartache and make a better marriage. Ruth Bell Graham said, "A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers."

7. Help and support each other

Marriage is a two person team. Fight together not against each other. If one partner is struggling, the other needs to step up his game and help. You can't cross the finish line alone. It takes 100 percent effort from both team members. Supporting each other means to help around the house, with the kids and other responsibilities. Maybe there is a problem at work that can be solved with the advice of a loving spouse. As the saying goes, "two heads are better than one." Sometimes a listening ear and some comforting words go a long way.

8. You can't change your spouse, but you can change yourself

Going into a marriage thinking you can "fix" or change your spouse is just not possible. However, you can change yourself. Improving your weaknesses and becoming a better person might even inspire your spouse to do the same. Changing the way you think about your spouse may even have a great impact on her.

9. Don't flirt with danger

Whether it's pornography, "innocent" flirting or an affair, safe-guarding a marriage against temptations is necessary. Pornography is a problem that often requires professional help to overcome. Bringing it into a marriage is not a good idea. Additionally, flirting, spending time or any other activities with people of the opposite sex is definitely in the danger zone. Something seemingly innocent can quickly turn into something very inappropriate. It is best to avoid questionable situations and temptations altogether. Sexual and emotional relationships with someone other than your spouse are not OK. Here are the 10 commandments for marriage.

10. Avoid discussing negative feelings or problems about your marriage with friends or family. This is a temptation that is often justified by saying you just need to "vent" or talk to someone about it. The problem with this is it can often make the problem worse rather than better. Others can join in the negative talk or think less of your spouse long after the problem is solved. Communication between husband and wife is more worthwhile. For more serious problems, consider talking with a marriage counselor instead of those who are close to the situation.

Marriage can be wonderful or terrible. Either one takes work, but one leads to much happiness. "Happily ever after" is attainable through loyalty, diligence and work. Both husband and wife must fully commit to each other and the marriage. It takes two giving their all to create a lasting and beautiful marriage.

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