Having a happy marriage doesn't just happen by accident. It doesn't happen because love is the only ingredient needed for success or to be "perfect" for each other. Marriage is a partnership, and like any partnership, it takes commitment, dedication and hard work to nurture it and help it grow strong.

The following seven secrets have worked very well for over 22 years in my marriage and for many other couples too. Follow them, adapt them to work in your own marriage, and you'll be on your way to having what we all want -- a happy marriage!

1. Communicate

2. Meet each other’s needs

3. Learn to resolve conflicts

4. Grow with each other

5. Agree on money matters

6. Love and respect

7. Maintain a commitment to the marriage

Happy marriages depend on expressing your thoughts and emotions to each other, of speaking and being heard. If not, everything else will live on shaky ground. In order to have a successful marriage you have to make yourself an expert in communicating with your spouse. You have to try to understand what your partner is saying, and sometimes not saying, as well as try to analyze the underlying message or desire. It's a sad fact that we are often more polite to strangers than we are to the people we love the most. If your spouse is trying to talk to you, whether it's to find out what you want for dinner, to tell you about their day, or to discuss a problem in your marriage, give them the same courtesy you'd give a complete stranger, and listen! Don't try to finish their sentences, don't try to solve their problems, and don't ever say, "I told you so!"

The art of communicating and listening in your marriage is best illustrated when you are “fully present” for your spouse. To be fully present is to convey with your body language and attention that you not are distracted by any other event. You let your spouse know he or she has all of the time necessary to talk. Your job is to listen, receive the information being shared and continue to provide a safe and nurturing environment. Even though you may not agree with everything being said, allow your spouse the space to communicate what’s on their mind. Soon enough, it will be your turn to do the same. Therefore, model how you want your spouse to receive what you have to say.

Successful couples also talk deeply about their expectations of each other. Think of the old joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” The answer in context to your marriage should be, “Ask the chicken.”

The point is not to assume what you spouse thinks or wants. If you are unsure about any thing, simply ask. Ask how they are feeling, what they would like to do, and if you are giving them what they need. Too often we are afraid to hear the answer fearing we may get a bad report card. However, it’s much easier to be honest and convey you really don’t know what their expectations are, but you really want to find out in order to meet them.

Next: Secret two of a happy marriage: Listen

Author's Bio: 

Alex Blackwell is the author of The Next 45 Years - a website dedicated to sharing and creating happiness, life balance and success for the rest of our lives. To read more inspirational stories and articles, please visit: http://www.thenext45years.blogspot.com