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Now that the kids are older, or even out of the house, you'll probably find that you're more able to focus more attention on your marriage. Take this opportunity to strengthen your relationship. Divorce statistics for the over-50's age group continues to rise steadily. It has been speculated that the most common triggers for this are children leaving the home or retirement. Couples start to feel they have nothing in common anymore, and marriages that have lasted for thirty years or more are coming to an end. As the mother of three grown children and a happily married wife, here are the tips that I offer on how to prevent your marriage from becoming another statistic.

Open communication is the number one element of a successful marriage. Make sure to listen to your partner, and let him know that he has been heard. Set the example of the communication you like to give and receive from others. Chances are you don't like to be interrupted, and you like to know that when you're talking to someone, he is listening to you. It is likely your partner feels the same way, so set the example yourself. Be honest and encourage honesty in your partner. You can't truly face the problems of life unless you're working together. Communication is how you'll solve problems, work out differences, get on the same page, and express admiration and gratitude to each other.

Open communication also means not letting others interfere with your relationship. In-laws and friends will often have a lot to say about your marriage, but you'll find that you can often do much better without their advice comments. If you're unhappy about something your spouse does, sit down and talk it over in a positive way, geared toward a resolution. Sometimes friends and family can exacerbate already-existing non-optimum conditions in your marriage by adding their own "two cents," and the next time you confront your spouse about the subject, you may find yourself spewing out to him angrily, word for word, what your mother has to say, for example. You may like it when your girlfriends agree with you that your spouse's overspending has to stop, but the best person to discuss this with is your spouse.

Next, use a positive attitude in your relationship. Treating your spouse how you would like to be treated is generally the way to shape your attitude. Put a stop to blame and criticism and start paying attention to your partner's good points and compliment these strengths. You will get more of what you support with positive remarks. You'll often find a debate will go much more smoothly when you refrain from criticism and stay positive in how you approach the subject. For example, if you need to iron out a financial disagreement, begin by telling your partner that you know how hard he works to make money and or how skilled he is with managing finances. When he tells you his standpoint, make an effort to understand where he's coming from and tell him that you see what he is saying. Maybe he's right, after all. Just by being respectful and positive, you may find your spouse will be much more agreeable to compromising with you or will adopt your suggestion altogether.

Related to being more positive is the way you interact with your partner, be sure to adopt a positive frame of mind about your marriage in general. What is it that you really love about your partner? It could be how hard he works at his business or even something like how he still gives you his pickle at lunchtime when you go out for sandwiches, showing his thoughtfulness and how well he knows you and your love for pickles. You'll find that you'll start seeing him doing right more often than before because you'll be tuned to seeing his strong points.

Make sure that you and your spouse have individual as well as common goals. Just as you personally can feel lost without knowing what your purpose is or having something worthwhile to pursue in life, so can your relationship suffer without goals to strive toward. In making these goals, your imagination is the limit. Name your goals for how much money you'd like to retire with and vacations you'd like to take together, for example.

Next, stay in a perpetual state of creating things for you to enjoy together. Why is that couples report having the most fun with each other when they were dating? Tina strongly believes this is because when they're dating, couples are constantly trying different activities together, putting time and effort into spending time together, and are generally creative about the relationship. Naturally, any relationship, marital or not, can get stale when you stop creating things to do together. You don't necessarily have to plan a romantic island getaway. You can go out for ice cream, design a new kitchen together, or walk the dog together in the evenings and talk. If you were dating your spouse, what would you do with him? Ask yourself this question and go ahead and give it a try.

Even if you're not yet retired, or if your kids are still living with you, take advantage of the extra time you have now that you're children are more independent than they used to be. With these suggestions, you too can enjoy a fulfilling marriage which will serve as a valuable foundation for you and your partner in your retirement years.

Tina Turbin

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