The wedding dress is packed away, the guest book is placed on the shelf and the honeymoon is over. Your wedding was everything you imagined, and now you get to live the rest of your life with your best friend. The start of the best, most exciting adventure has begun, and it seems like life couldn't get any better.

It usually isn't until newlyweds have their first argument that they realize marriage isn't for the faint of heart. After the honeymoon, couples are thrown back into real life. There are bills to pay, a house to clean and dinners to make. Separate jobs and hobbies compete for each spouse's attention, and it becomes hard to find a balance.

Here are seven ways to ensure your marriage lasts:

1. Make your marriage a safe space

Some of the biggest threats to marriage are secrets. When your spouse feels like they have to hide something from you, there is a loss of intimacy. This often happens when bad news or difficult conversations are met with emotional outbursts, blaming, contempt, or a complete shutdown of communication.

Practice creating a climate in your relationship where you can both feel safe bringing up any worries, concerns, or problems with the confidence that you will feel understood and heard before judgement is passed.

2. Practice asking for what you want

When our needs and desires are not being met in marriage, it's easy to become resentful and upset.

It's romantic to think that the person we love most in the world can intuitively anticipate our needs, and sense our innermost desires. Alas, love does not a clairvoyant make.

To save yourself a lot of unnecessary grief and pain, create a habit of simply asking for what you need. Your spouse loves you and wants to make you happy - but he can't read your mind like Professor Xavier from the X-Men" he may not even pick up on all your hints.

By asking for what you need and want, you're setting him up to be a winner by making it easy for him to make you happy.

3. Make and keep your promises

For a marriage to thrive, there must be trust. The best - and perhaps the only way to create trust in your relationship is to constantly make and keep your promises. Trust is essentially promises made and kept over time.

People commit to and sacrifice for the things and people they trust. If you are constantly developing trust in your relationship, there will always be an attitude of selflessness, and a willingness to sacrifice for each other.

4. Take care of yourself

Your spouse can't exercise to burn your calories for you. Your spouse can't brush their teeth to prevent cavities in your mouth. And they can't read a book to put knowledge in your brain.

You are responsible for your own physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social well being. If you're feeling stressed, overwhelmed, depressed or angry, it can be easy to blame your partner, work, school, kids, or just life in general. But more often than not, your problems come from overextending yourself, saying "yes" to too many things, and not making room in your life for your needs.

Your marriage will be happier and your life will be better when you make sure you are responsible for your overall well being"¦ nobody else.

5. Track your progress

If you want to be great at something - including marriage - you only need three things:

  1. Set a measurable goal.

  2. Consistently measure the goal.

  3. Have someone hold you accountable to the goal you're measuring.

This is the magic of Pearson's Law"¦

"That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially."

-Karl Pearson

Set marriage goals. Track your progress. Ask for your partner to hold you accountable. Ask each other the question "On a scale from 1-10, how good of a partner was I today?"

If you didn't hit a 10 today, follow up with the question, "What could I do tomorrow to be a 10?"

6. Learn to disagree

Dr. John Gottman can predict whether or not a couple will get a divorce with over 90% accuracy just by watching them fight. In his studies, he's also found that 69% of marital problems are unresolvable"¦ meaning that these problems don't just go away. They come up over and over and over again.

Regardless of how amazing your chemistry is, or how much you love each other, the way you handle your disagreements might be the biggest indicator of whether or not your relationship will endure the test of time.

Learn to argue in a way that brings you closer together rather than tearing you apart.

7. Be grateful

Gratitude is rocket fuel for love.

I didn't ever seem to notice Volkswagon Beatles on the road"¦ but when I was a kid playing the Punch Buggie game with my brothers, it seemed like these cars were everywhere.

The things you watch for often become magnified. When you're looking for opportunities to be grateful for your partner, you'll find them. And that gratitude and appreciation will inspire your partner to love and serve you even more.

Gratitude perpetuates love.

Bonus tip

A simple way to keep the fire of your love burning is to have a regular date night! After all, dating is just as important after marriage as it is before.

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