5 Strategies to Make Your Marriage More Satisfying

Here, road-tested strategies for a stronger, closer bond with your man.

By Pamela Hill Nettleton

Every time I got married, I thought it would be forever. I thought I had gotten the ideal man, the perfect relationship. Unfortunately, I wasn't lucky enough or, perhaps, wise enough. What I did get -- after four marriages and three divorces -- was a heck of a lot of experience and knowledge about men.

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I'm not proud of my divorces, but I choose to focus on the positive. When a friend complains about her husband, I can usually assure her that he's not the only man with those flaws. When my husband points out an irritating habit of mine, I know he's right -- three other guys before him said the same thing.

So I'll spare you the cost of four weddings, three divorce lawyers and a handful of remounted engagement diamonds. Here's my advice about men and relationships -- may it help you make your marriage more loving and satisfying.

1. Don't change him, change you.
If only he would help with the laundry. If only he would flirt with me more. Every time I thought like this, I became frustrated. Making a list of things for him to change rendered me completely powerless. So I decided to change what I did. Now when my husband runs out of clean shirts, I simply say, "Want me to show you how to run the washer?" And when I flirt with him first, he flirts right back.

2. Play by his rules (sometimes).
I used to think it was manipulative and antifeminist when women would heap praise on their husbands and then ask for their help. I didn't want to trick my husband; I wanted us to be equals. Now I know that communicating with a man -- especially my man -- in a way that makes him feel good isn't the same as playing games. When he does the same for me, I don't feel undermined, but understood and appreciated.

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3. Survey your inner landscape.
Whatever else I changed in my life -- a new neighborhood, a bigger house, even a different marriage -- there was always one constant: me. Once or twice, I made a big change, like getting a new job or ending a relationship, only to discover that the frustrations in my life hadn't evaporated. What really needed tailoring was me: my attitudes, my thinking, my capacity to feel satisfied. A change can widen your horizons and get you excited about life again. Sometimes, though, the improvement should be internal.

4. Stay in the driver's seat.
Remember that you're in control of your life. In my first marriage, I didn't feel very sexy or polished. The minute the divorce was final, I decided to transform myself into who I really wanted to be. But the divorce wasn't responsible for my sudden makeover. I did that all by myself. So I could have done it while I was married, too.

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5. Talk about the good and the bad.
Arguments with my husband used to scare me. If we were so in love, how could we disagree so passionately? But over the years, I've had arguments that have dramatically boosted the level of intimacy between my mate and me. Sometimes understanding comes quietly during a sweet moment. Other times it strikes like a bolt of lightning, when he suddenly yells what he's been afraid to say, and I finally know what's bothering him.

Want more marriage advice? Check out all the strategies here!

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.