12 tips for happiness

Makeover your marriage this new year!

Marriage is not for the faint-hearted. It takes hard work and commitment. This year, make sure you keep your relationship in tip-top condition. We've got 12 tips to help you make your marriage over.

  • Always show respect and kindness towards each other. It's normal to have disagreements, but try not to use unkind words towards each other.

  • Learn to communicate effectively and allow your partner to have different views without taking offence or making offensive remarks. Be gentle and tolerant with each other.

  • Ensure that you set goals together and plan ahead – this includes a budget.

  • Newlyweds need to learn to balance their time so that each has individual time as well as couple time.

  • A new baby can really disrupt a relationship. Don't be afraid to ask for help from family or friends, or find a babysitter so that each person has personal time, and there is space in your schedule for couple time together. And don't forget that in the chaos a new baby brings, it is okay to have an untidy house.

  • Do things together as much as possible. "Each partner must have a life, but they must also spend a lot of it with their partner," says Roger Knowles, an attorney, lecturer and author, specialising in divorce and family law. "Time and time again I am told by tearful about-to-be divorcées that their spouses are forever working, or playing golf – or going out without them."

  • Don't allow your marriage to become boring. "Make sure you have fun time alone together, without children, family or friends. Don't take each other for granted. Give each other fun surprises. If you have fun outside the bedroom you are more likely to have fun inside the bedroom," advises Cathy Haselau, a social worker.

  • Laugh often. Share jokes and recall funny situations. Laughter is a great connector and it's hard to stay angry when you're laughing.

  • Share chores. "This can become a problem when chores and child care are allocated according to tradition, and one person carries more of the load and resents it. The couple needs to negotiate so that both contribute fairly and equally," says Cathy.

  • Stay faithful by expressing your needs and concerns to each other directly. Be open and honest, and put energy into your marriage. Solve problems in the marriage, not outside it.

  • Children leaving the nest? One or both of you retiring? Look at it as an opportunity to rekindle your relationship and set new joint dreams and targets.

  • "I would recommend marriage counselling as soon as problems occur," says Cathy. "The earlier these problems are addressed the easier it is to sort them out. Even if your partner refuses to go, it's important to go on your own to help you to cope."

    Got a few tips to share with us? Tell us in the comment box below.

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