Marriage can be a wonderful institution, benefiting both the spouses and their children. But a lot of married couples struggle for months and years to hold it together. Some of them end up closing themselves off from each other while remaining married, resulting in a relationship that might look stable on the outside but is actually cold and lifeless. Many others simply call it quits and file for divorce. Studies show that 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Many married couples build a relationship that lasts for a lifetime and brings joy, meaning, purpose and value to their lives. How do you pull that off? Here are four things you can do to give your marriage a fighting chance.

Always Communicate Openly and Honestly

Effective communication is the foundation for any strong marriage. Couples who don’t spend time talking with each other every day slowly grow apart, and their relationship never reaches its full potential. So take some time to connect with your partner every day. Ask how their day went and share a little about your own day. Small talk has its place, but don’t forget to also talk about other things that matter such as plans for your future and fun ideas for the coming weekend or holiday.

Follow a Financial Plan

Few issues divide couples more than disagreements over personal finances. In tough economic times, many families struggle to make ends meet, and they often resort to pointing fingers and blaming each other for their money problems. One of the best ways to avoid this is to simply follow a financial plan. You can meet with a planner in person who will help you get your bills organized and set goals for debt management. Or you can follow a plan from a book or even a financial expert’s blog online. The point is that you communicate and come together as a team to tackle your finances together.

Do Things Together as a Couple

One of the best ways to protect your marriage is to continue to “date” long after you tie the knot. Every couple needs to get out away from the kids and have a little fun. If you have trouble coming up with ideas, you might even try recreating some old dates from your courtship days. Try going out to that restaurant or movie theater that you visited together on your first date. Even little things like that can help keep that spark burning.

Don’t Stop Being Your Own Individual

While the concept of two becoming one in marriage is a powerful concept, a lot of married people sometimes mistake that as meaning that you no longer exist as an individual. That’s a recipe for disaster. Just because you’re now married, that doesn’t mean that you don’t get to make any decisions by yourself anymore. Some spouses can’t even decide where to eat or what to wear without consulting their partner.

That’s cute at first, and there’s usually no harm in it. But if you are overthinking every decision and can’t move forward with your day without your spouse’s approval, that’s not healthy. If you find yourself giving up your sense of identity to please your partner, you should probably seek out some counseling to help you reverse that development. Couples who go down that path for too long often find themselves in need of a family law attorney. If you want to avoid being stuck in a dead-end marriage—or simply avoid divorce—this needs to be addressed.

Keeping a marriage together for a lifetime is a real challenge, but millions of couples do it, and you can do it too. Follow these marriage-saving tips and keep that relationship growing strong for decades to come.

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