Not everything about marriage is pretty. And the couples who make it accept and love that fact. Here’s what they want you to know.

1. Give me space

Only puppies want to be on top of each other—and they get tired of it, too. Sometimes, you need space.

 

2. Easily distracted?

Is there anyone who hasn’t, at least once, remembered they left the car windows open when the rain, and sex, started at the same time?

 

3. Date night

Bill and Ben Flower Pot Men

A date isn’t all candlelight and dinner. The true criterion for a date: anything that lets you focus on each other. That could be weeding the garden while you chat amiably, a weeklong trip to Bermuda, or ten minutes over morning coffee.

 

4. How do you feel?

There’s a couple who randomly asks each other, “how’s your love tank?” They want to see if each other’s love tank—how loved they feel—is full, half-full, or getting near empty. If it’s low, it’s not taken personally; it’s just a signal that the other partner needs something.

 

5. I can't stand it

Most people have at least one thing about their partner they really can’t stand. Of course you’re going to be seriously annoyed at some of a partner’s habits. For example: snoring, hygiene, sloppiness, or foot-in-mouth problems. You are lucky if it’s just one habit.

 

6. Silence is golden

Over time there is less that you have to say—you know your partner’s response! Long silences are OK.

 

7. Fantasy

Jake Gyllenhaalb in Southpaw

Almost everyone has had a fantasy lover—either a real one that didn’t work out or a movie star or some famous person who you dream about. There is that “What if . . .” thought that comes now and then.

 

8. Throwing it all away

Sometimes you just want to chuck it all. Hey, life is sometimes just hellish or boring—or both. Or you feel underappreciated and overworked. Not taking care of yourself happens sometimes, too. Everyone knows it’s important to stay fit and attractive, but it’s just so much work.

 

9. Got my mojo working?

Sometimes the mojo isn’t working, but you don’t want to hurt your partner’s feelings. It’s normal sometimes to fake more sexual arousal than you’re experiencing. Good partners tend to be kind about this sort of thing—angry partners telegraph that, on the whole, they’d rather be watching TV.

 

10. Babysitter

A calm, mature, trustworthy babysitter is worth her—or his—weight in gold. Even better than one babysitter: Develop a stable of two or three to boost your odds that one will be available when you need a date night.

 

11. Quiet sex is OK

So is afternoon sex or sex when the kids are out for the evening. But nothing beats unhurried, loud, whenever-you-want-it sex, followed by a cuddle, a nap, a shower, more lovemaking, a wonderful walk. For this luxury of uninterrupted time, you need to get away—or find a trusted friend, relative, or overnight camp so that the kids can get away.

 

12. Naptime

Cat having a nap

There are ways to feel awake after the kids go to bed. One couple used to take turns taking naps during the day so they wouldn’t be too exhausted to be together at night.

 

13. Would I lie to you?

Maybe there are some long-term couples who have never told a lie to each other about anything—yes, conscious omissions count—but I wouldn’t make a money bet on that.

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SOURCES: Pepper Schwartz, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle; Don Howard and Teresa Titus Howard, a married couple in Blue Springs, Missouri; Susan Vogt; and anonymous couples throughout the United States.

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