10 Secrets of Happy Couples

They look lovingly at each other across rooms, finish their partners' sentences, and playfully poke fun at one another. Here's how those blissful twosomes keep the romance alive. REDBOOK.

Happy couple1. They celebrate a unique anniversary
Your wedding anniversary is a lovely date to remember, but it's not the only milestone that matters. It's even more intimate to celebrate less public moments of which only you two know the true meaning, such as your first kiss, first vacation together or - hey - even the first time the pregnancy test turned blue.

2. They stash pleasure money
Sure, you have funds earmarked for bills and savings, but every couple also needs a just-for-fun account to fund the occasional, much-need indulgence, says Brown University psychiatry professor Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men. "Put some money aside that won't destroy your budget when you use it," he says. Spend it on a spur-of-the-moment weekend trip, a pricey bottle of champagne or front-row tickets to a concert you're dying to see.

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3. When the going gets tough, they don't call Mom or Dad
The first task facing all young couples is separating from their families of origin, points out San Francisco-area-based family researcher Judith Wallerstein, Ph.D. This doesn't mean you shouldn't go home for the holidays. But if there's a crisis over whether to have a second child or relocate for a new job, or even if there's good news about a big raise or the results of a medical test, the couple should talk about it together first before dialing Mom. "You wouldn't believe how many people who are getting divorced say to me, 'She was never mine,' or 'His mother always came first,'" Dr. Wallerstein observes.

4. They don't nickel-and-dime about chores

It's no secret that most women continue to do more in the housekeeping and child-rearing departments than their partners. Still, when couples become double-entry bookkeepers, adding up every dish washed and every diaper changed, they may be headed for trouble. "Most couples think they should strive for a relationship that's 50-50," observes Manhattan-based family therapist Carolyn Perla, Ph.D., "but the fact is, they should each give 150 percent. In good relationships, couples give everything they can.

5. They never lose their sense of humor
Humor, as many psychotherapists have observed, is the Krazy Glue that keeps a couple together. When a couple can no longer laugh together, says Thomas Moore, Ph.D., best-selling author of Care of the Soul, it's a signal that the soul has gone out of their relationship and they are headed for trouble. But Dr. Moore is quick to point out that lighthearted couples never mock each other. They instinctively know what is - and isn't - fair game.

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6. They get busy, period
You don't have to do the deed every day - or every seven days, for that matter - to have a great relationship. But there's no way around this fact: "The happiest couples have sex on a regular basis," says Tina Tessina, Ph.D., author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. Avoiding a sex drought is crucial, because healthy sex reinforces and deepens closeness. That said, there's no need to stress if you sometimes let a week or two go by without sex. What's key is that you're both happy with your number.

7. They never withhold nooky as punishment
Warning: "Expressing anger by never being in the mood will doom your sex life," says Tessina. Why? Besides the fact that it turns what should be a loving and giving act into a commodity, once sex becomes part of a couple's power struggle, so much resentment builds that soon neither partner wants sex. So instead of feigning fatigue or rolling away from your guy next time you're annoyed, speak up and clear the air - without sex being on the table.

8. They use terms of endearment

"Pet names signal a safe, supportive environment," says Manhattan-based family therapist Carolyn Perla, Ph.D. Also, these days, when we're stretched to the limit trying to juggle jobs and kids, they "give us the chance to let down our guard, to be vulnerable and childlike. And they make us feel close to one another." These same feelings of intimacy can also come from using a special tone of voice with each other, sharing silly "inside jokes," or pet-naming your spouse's intimate body parts. The point is to connect with some private message system that's meaningful to you alone, as a couple - not to the outside world. "This type of playfulness is a statement that you're feeling comfortable with each other and with the relationship," says Dr. Perla.

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9. They're grateful for the ordinary
After you've been married for years, it's easy to take your guy - and everything he does - for granted. But for a healthy, satisfying relationship, you need to have an awareness of, and an appreciation for, the routine kindnesses he demonstrates: the way he dries out the wet morning paper in the oven; his patience in training the new puppy; his ability to make you laugh when you're PMSing. "Through praising your partner, you give him the message that he's important to you," explains Tom Lee, Ph.D., a professor of marriage and family studies at Utah State University. "Plus, you'll find these comments have a ripple effect; they're contagious. If you're positive, he'll be positive in return."

10. They take 10 minutes
A weekly date night is always recommended as a way to reconnect, but sometimes all you need is a few minutes. "I call this the 10-Minute Rule: Take 10 minutes a day to talk about anything - except for kids, responsibilities, or chores," Orbuch says. Her research showed that 98 percent of happy couples say they intimately understand their partners. And knowing your partner intimately isn't always about engaging in heavy conversations: Anything that helps you learn something new will bring you closer, Orbuch says.

For more tips for happy coupledom, visit Redbookmag.com.

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