You see a lot of amazing couples on our shows, including Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, Bill and Jen, and Theresa and Larry. But whether you've been married for 15 years or just made it official with someone new, relationships can always use a little, well, TLC.
But did you know there are actually proven ways to improve your relationship? Check out the simple (science-backed) things you can do to strengthen your bond.
1. Kiss Them Every Day (or Night)
Don't skimp on lip-locking! A 2013 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior asked more than 900 adults about their attitudes towards kissing. Of those in relationships, those who kissed more had higher levels of relationship satisfaction. This correlation could be chemical: Giving your partner a peck may stimulate the release of happiness-boosting endorphins. But you know what wasn't a predictor of marital bliss? Getting busy! So don't worry if you "have a headache" every once in awhile.
2. Have a Good Attitude
We know this sounds like a no brainer, but happiness is, in fact, contagious. In a 2008 study, researchers found that people's feelings of goodwill extend up to three degrees of separation. That may mean taking time for the activities that make you happy, like yoga or reading the paper each morning. Some of your bliss will rub off on your partner, too!
3. Keep Your Blood Sugar Stable
Ever hear of the term "hangry" (hungry + angry)? Apparently it's a real thing! A recent study found that lower blood sugar levels may make married couples crankier and therefore more likely to lash out at their spouses. Before you decide to pick a fight, make sure both parties are properly fed.
4. Know Their Love Language
According to Gary Chapman's very popular book "The Five Love Languages," each of us expresses and experiences love in five different ways – through gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch. You probably don't have to read the book to identify the ways you show love, but it might be useful to consider to which one your partner responds best. Turns out even divorced couples admit they should have paid more attention to this.
According to a longtiudal study following more than 300 couples through marriage (beginning in 1986), about 15% of divorces said they regretted not giving their spouse more "affective affirmations," which can include everything from to saying "I love you" to complimenting him or her.
5. Take a Cue from Frozen and "Let It Go"
Do you hate his ex-girlfriend, or do you still remember when your mother-in-law referred to you as "a fling"? As hard as it may be, it's time to forget the past and move forward. Holding on to grudges will only make you hostile to your partner, which can lead to the deterioriation of a relationship.
6. Be an Active Listener
Communication is the foundation of any good relationship, and the easiest way to foster conversation is the shut your mouth and open your ears. That also means turning off your phone, focusing on your partner, nodding and actually listening. Refrain from automatically giving advice, too, unless your partner asks for it. Sometimes all they need is a sympathetic ear.
7. Play 20 Questions with Him/Her
A 2012 study of more than 2,000 people tested "relationship competencies" that were predictors of relationship satisfaction. They discovered that behind communication, knowledge of your partner – everything from their favorite meal to their life goals – can positively benefit relationships. This means remembering their extended family member's names as well as being able to recall their position on key issues.
8. Develop Life Skills
OK, we know this sounds archaic, but there's a reason that our great, great, great-grandmothers looked for a strong and stable husbands as opposed to the sensitive types. Stresses from the outside world – layoffs, stock market dips, etc. – can have a detrimental effect on your marriage. Having marketable job skills, money smarts or other life skills can actually make your seem more attractive in the long run. So don't hesitate to develop new talents to better yourself (and your relationship).
9. Say Thank You
You may think that your partner knows how much you appreciate him, but a 2011 study found that feeling and showing gratitude has a positive correlation on relationship satisfaction. Next time your spouse, boyfriend or even first date goes out of their way to do something for you, look them in the eye and say "I really appreciated that." It will go a long way!
What are your tips for a long and happy relationship?
-- Mara Betsch
More on Marriage:
Photos: The "Little Couple" Renews Their Vows
Jim Bob Duggar's Tips for a Happy Marriage
Marriage and Relationship Tips