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Marriage Tips: How to Stay True to 'I Do'

06/09/2013 02:31 pm ET | Updated Aug 09, 2013

Who's marrying whom, where and when is big news in June as couples across the country give the nuptial nod and promise, "I do." While "Pachelbel's Canon" racks up royalties, loving pairs walk down the aisle and pledge their allegiance to be faithful in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. Hear the echo of their promise, "I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."

Yet, fast-forward and many, once madly in love, may find themselves cracking marriage jokes they swore they'd never tell. If you start sounding like comedian Henny Youngman ("Take my wife. Please."), your conjugal bliss has momentarily flat-lined.

The joyous union celebrated with friends and family on your wedding day is now the same old-same old. While you were once so full of amoré you thought your heart would burst, you are now finding little things are suddenly big... and what you think are big things are belittled. Like what's the big deal asking your beloved to stop biting their fork when they're eating because it's driving you insane? Or asking them politely to try harder not to snore (because it's bringing you to a whole new level of losing your mind)?

Alert to soon-to-be brides and grooms, groom and grooms, brides and brides: Stay. The. Course. Be forgiving. As Erma Bombeck commented on the secret of marital success, "Long ago, I forgave my husband for not being Paul Newman."

Throughout marriage, most couples will admit to dancing on the edge at some point or another. They aren't spending enough time together as a couple. There are financial pressures, differences in raising the children, struggles with the life/work balance, and anxiety about the anxiety between the two. Connubial jubilation has hit the skids. Unless there is infidelity and abuse involved, the big question is black and white: Do you want to be married... or not?

After more than 26 years of marriage, I can tell you that honoring the marital commitment has been well worth the effort. Here we are: children out of college, the house to ourselves and what do you know? Love is in the air.

How did we get here? Here are a few tips from the wedded and wise:

1. Believe that your relationship will get through the rough times.

2. Hold hands. (When was the last time you did that? The overwhelming response is, "We haven't done it since we dated.") Clasping your partner's hand is a great way to reverse time and feel like you're dating again. (Side note: I once saw actress Ruth Gordon and her husband, film director/author Garson Kanin -- co-collaborators on such Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn hits as Adam's Rib and Pat and Mike -- holding hands as they walked down the street on Martha's Vineyard. Gordon was in her 80s and Kanin was in his 70s. They looked adorable.)

3. Many feel unappreciated by their partner. Take a moment to express your gratitude. The two syllables, "thank you," take an attosecond -- or exactly one quintillionth of a second -- of your time.

4. Keep up with one another's life outside of the home so that you understand challenges your partner may confront during the day. (Try not to ask, "Who is [so and so] again?" for the nth time.)

5. When you're sitting next to each other, scooch on over closer. If you're sitting across from one another at a restaurant, rest your foot atop his/hers.

6. Don't be a nag. (Do you like when someone nags you? Do you think your partner likes when you nag? Do you want to be thought of as a nag? Am I nagging you with all of these questions about being a nag? [You get the message].)

7. Leave an "I love you" Post-It on a door or mirror so that it is seen first thing in the morning. (Especially if you have been particularly nagging the day before.)

8. If you really need a break, go "out to pasture" for a few hours. Read. Shop. Cook. Take a walk. Go to the gym. Call a friend. Do whatever it is to refresh your self. (And be understanding if your mate needed a moment to get back on track.)

9. A kiss v. a peck on the cheek. Be mindful and present when you do either. Make it a show of affection that counts.

10. Be creative, playful and receptive to trying new things. (Send a flirty text.)

"Small gestures of affection can go a long way," says author Suzanne Burger, PSYD,
in her book, Steering Your Marriage: A Guide to Navigating the Road Together.

"Couples often think they need to make grand gestures that are costly and time consuming, like an expensive piece of jewelry or an exotic vacation," Burger said. "Successful and enduring couples usually do well when they have a simple way of expressing fondness and appreciation, even thanking their partner for picking up something on their way home from work."

In your life-long courtship, expect that you will fall in and out of love. It is part of the cycle of marriage. Honor the deal and strive to move beyond matrimonial meltdowns when they arise.

Seek inspiration from Marc Antony and Cleopatra. Napoleon and Josephine. Winston and Clementine. Bogie and Bacall. Barney and Betty. John and Yoko. Dick and Jane. Barack and Michelle. Strive to join their pantheon of great love stories.

And most of all, stay in the game. Uphold the vow you took on your wedding day to be ever true, loyal and devoted to the vow, "I do."