Whether you just tied the knot or have been with your spouse for decades, maintaining a happy, healthy marriage is no easy feat. This seems to be particularly true after the age of 40, when shifting priorities, financial concerns, and empty nest syndrome can all conspire to create discord where there was none before.
In fact, while the divorce rate for younger couples has declined over the past 20 years, it’s risen significantly for older adults—up 14 percent in the past 25 years for those ages 40 to 49 and up 109 percent for adults 50 and older, according to the Pew Research Center. So, how do you make sure that “I do” lasts forever? Start with these tips for being a better wife after 40.
1Be mindful when you’re together.
Being physically present with your spouse isn’t the same as being emotionally present. If you want to improve your marriage after your 40th birthday, make sure that you’re actually paying attention to your partner and not simply sitting in the same room as them.
“Being mindful with your partner allows them to feel like you are present in the moment and that you value spending quality time with them,” says dating expert Maria Sullivan, vice president of Dating.com.
2Don’t say “everything’s fine” when it’s not.
One of the most common sources of tension in a lengthy marriage is saying “I’m fine,” while making it clear with your actions that you’re anything but. Being honest about how you’re feeling, even if it leads to disagreements, will serve you and your spouse better in the long run. “Being open about how you feel is the only way you and your partner will be able to approach problems in a calm and respectful way,” says Sullivan.
If you’ve been with your spouse for some time, it’s easy to find yourselves acting more like friends than romantic partners. If you want to make your marriage a whole lot more exciting, try flirting with your spouse like you did when you were dating.
“The spark sometimes does end after the honeymoon stage,” says Sullivan. “It’s important to prioritize finding fun and quirky ways to keep that spark alive in order to have a successful marriage.” Try being more affectionate, telling your partner how good they look, or surprising them with a romantic gesture—you’ll be amazed at how far a seemingly small demonstration of affection can go.
4Compliment your spouse.
It may sound shallow, but a little flattery can help maintain a happy marriage. After all, who doesn’t want to feel wanted?
“When you first started dating, compliments were probably plentiful,” says Sullivan. “While it can be natural to get used to spending time with your spouse and seeing them looking their best, it’s important to remind them about how you feel—even if it seems repetitive. Once you stop, your partner will feel less appreciated. Even though nothing might have changed for you, your lack of attention and appreciation will make them want to stop being affectionate back. This can lead to a bad cycle of behaviors.”
5Be conscious of your body language.
Even if your relationship is going well, assuming defensive or angry-seeming postures around your spouse, like crossing your arms or putting your hands on your hips, can quickly lead to a breakdown in communication.
“Practice inviting body language,” says Sullivan. “Listening to them or speaking your mind with crossed arms might send the message you are hiding something or that you have your guard up. This can make your partner feel like you aren’t connecting.”
6Keep exploring together.
Early in your relationship, you and your spouse went to a new restaurant every week, tried new vacation destinations every year, and generally kept things fresh and exciting. However, after some time together, those impulses to explore can fade. Inject a little spontaneity into your relationship again and you’ll both be happier.
“Life can get repetitive. It always does. But eventually, your relationship will tire out if you don’t make an effort to try new things,” says Sullivan. “If a partner isn’t receptive to trying something different, like a class or exploring a new location, this can discourage partners from experiencing the joys that married life has to offer.”
7Avoid digital distractions when you’re together.
While it may be difficult to avoid the temptation to look at your phone or get ahead on work when you’re supposed to be spending quality time with your partner, putting your devices down can make him or her feel respected and listened to in a way that benefits your relationship in the long run.
“When your spouse is attempting to communicate anything with you, make sure you are not multitasking,” says Sullivan. “Looking at your phone or doing laundry simultaneously can send signals to your partner that you don’t genuinely care about what they have to say. If this continues on, you might be on track for a split.”
8Be honest, even when it’s hard.
If you’re over 40, it’s been some time since your parents sat you down to tell you why honesty is so important. But the message remains true—especially in your marriage.
“This may seem obvious, but once your spouse catches you in a lie, whether big or small, the trust will be gone,” says Sullivan. “Make sure to be honest at all costs. Lies that build up lead to distrust, anger, and sometimes infidelity.”
A little seduction can go a long way when it comes to keeping your marriage exciting. “Watch sexy movies and TV shows. Listen to sexy music. Look at sexy art and photography books,” suggests psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR. “Daydream, fantasize, and imagine scenarios that make you feel good.”