As time wears on, starry-eyed early conversations about dreams of traveling the world often give way to talks about maintaining the real house you live in together, shoveling the snow off its driveway or paying off its endless mortgage. But keeping up those revealing conversations is key to staying out of the unhappiness gulch, says Terri Orbuch
, a psychologist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great
. Orbuch has followed 373 Midwestern couples since 1986 in a large research study. Of those people who are very happy in their marriages, 98 percent say they intimately know and understand their partner. Half say they often share intimate details of their lives—their dreams, stresses, values and goals—with their partners (it's less than one-fifth for not-especially-joyous couples). She recommends that couples talk to each other for at least 10 minutes a day, but not about work, family or the relationship. (Her suggestions: "If you won the lottery, where would you go and why?" "Which parent were you closer to growing up?" or "If you could start over with any career, what would it be?") "Our partners change over time, and there are new things going on with them," Orbuch says. "That third date was novel and interesting and surprising, and it was wonderful. Have that third date again."