6 signs you're doing marriage right

Wonder how strong your marriage really is? Score yourself as you read these expert suggestions of how to strengthen what you already have.

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  • When you hear statistics like "40-50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce," it's normal to feel a little worried. We'd all like to know how to improve our relationships with our spouses. The following is a compilation of characteristics that experts say make strong, happy marriages. Compare your own marriage with this list. As a couple, you'll have your own strengths and weaknesses. Are there some things you could be doing better?

  • You have inside jokes

  • Do you remember back in school when you had a main person or group of friends you always hung out with? Sometimes, a single word or phrase was enough to set you all off laughing because you all remembered "that one time."

  • When you're married, it's time to strive for that same kind of relationship with your spouse. "Good couples tend to view their partners as their best friends," says psychotherapist and author Charles Schmitz. "Having inside jokes and stories is part of what builds that bond." Treat your spouse the way you treated your best friends growing up, and see what a difference it makes in your relationship.

  • You are still learning new things about each other

  • Once married, you may have become complacent in improving your relationship. You might feel like you already know everything there is to know about each other. After all, you spend all your free time together. However, you'll be surprised that no matter how long you're married, you'll still find out there are things you didn't know about your spouse.

  • Take time to "get to know" your spouse by asking new questions every day. "Would you rather ..." questions are especially fun and surprising. Would your spouse rather have the powers of Harry Potter or the money of J.K. Rowling? Maybe it's time to find out.

  • You fight with each other

  • No, the honeymoon stage doesn't last forever. And yes, it's normal and natural to argue every now and then. In fact, a 2011 study found that marriages with conflict are healthier and last longer than those without. This may be because those couples that don't fight aren't as committed to their relationships or because they allow resentment to fester. This eventually leads to more serious fights, grudges and differences.

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  • Claire Kamp Dush, the lead author of the study, explained, "When you get into a marriage, your conflict levels that you start with are likely going to persist over time." While having major conflicts continually can be problematic, don't be afraid of working through disagreements and disputes as they arise.

  • You don't split chores 50/50

  • Strong couples don't keep score when it comes to chores. They just do what needs to be done (even if they've changed 10 diapers in a row) without arguing about whose turn it is. When your main concern is making your spouse happy rather than making sure you're only doing your "fair share" of chores, you know you're doing marriage right. The next time your spouse asks you to do something (even if it's normally not your chore), bite your tongue and just do it. You'll be surprised how good it feels to serve your spouse of your own free will.

  • You socialize with each other rather than social media

  • Another indicator of a strong marriage is a lack of social media. Researchsuggests that the more social media platforms you and your spouse use, the less satisfaction you'll find in your relationship. This may be because time spent on social media takes away from a couple's time together, undermining bonds and allowing partners to converse discreetly with members of the opposite sex.

  • If part of your nightly routine is sitting on opposite ends of the couch catching up on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, make a goal to have a few social media free nights a week, and spend that time socializing with your spouse instead.

  • You do new things together

  • It's fine to have a routine for some things, but if you don't change things up for years on end, you'll find apathy and boredom creeping into your marriage. Marriages that succeed are filled with variety. The suspense and excitement that comes from trying new activities together helps strengthen your bond. You don't have to go skydiving, but you could try a ballroom dance class or visiting a museum you've never been to before. Moving outside your comfort zones means you'll rely more on one another, and you'll make even more fun memories (and probably a few inside jokes). Keep your date nights fresh and unique!

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  • If none of these characteristics describe your marriage right now, don't despair. As long as you and your spouse are both willing to put forth the effort, it's never too late to make a change for the better.

  • For more, read "10 things nobody told you about being married."

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Katie Nielsen received her bachelor's in English with an emphasis in technical writing. She has taught English and is a published writer.

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