Even the nicest homes need maintenance. They need to be cleaned, repaired, manicured and managed. In the same way, your relationships needs maintenance. Because you cannot be perfect, there will be emotional meltdowns, communication faux paus and plain old mistakes in your marriage so you need to be good at recovering, recuperating and reconnecting. To help in the process consider these ways of keeping your relationship in good shape.

1. Test the waters. Don't say a thing, just give her a hug, or squeeze his knee or pat his hand. Sometimes the best things in life are unsaid. One way to remember this principle is this little poem:

To keep a marriage brimming
with love in the loving cup --
When you are wrong, admit it
and when you are right, shut up!

2. Look for a positive. Anything positive -- even, "Sure is nice weather today, huh?" In fact, one researcher discovered that the more positively couples rated their communication, the more satisfied they were with their relationship. John Gottman and his colleagues have found that satisfied married couples had five positive interactions to every one negative interaction . Decide to have a positive attitude and then positive words will flow from it.

3. Try to encourage. Look for something that is good. Say some word of affirmation. Bill often says things like, "That's ok, Pam. I'd rather be here with you in this situation than with anyone else, any place else." When Bill blows it somehow, I usually say something like, "That's ok, you are a really great man and this is such a small thing." Start spontaneously listing off your spouse's best traits. (Who cares if you can't cook if your husband calls you "One red hot mamma!")

4. Look for the humor. This is not the cutting humor that can slice a heart. Instead, look for the inside joke. In our surveys of couples who have long-term happy marriages, nearly everyone mentioned the need for a good sense of humor! King Solomon, known as the wisest man in history, says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine . . ." .( Proverbs 17:2) and "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (Proverbs 16:24)

5. Keep it in perspective. Real problems are when someone has cancer or you've just lost a loved one. Everything else is just an obstacle to overcome. My friend, Debbie Andersen, a career military wife, gives young, stressed wives great advice when hit with a tough circumstance: "Just adapt and overcome."

We asked the long-term happily married couples in our survey their advice to newlyweds and a number of them used the same phrase, "Don't sweat the small stuff." Before you raise the roof over some issue, ask yourself, Will this matter 10 years from now? Most often in a few hours from now it doesn't matter! I often ask, "If I do it Bill's way, is it immoral or illegal?" (Of course the answer is "No!" so, as often as possible, just decide to defer to your spouse as a gift of love.)

6. "Plan B" it. Offer alternative suggestions and solutions. If things are really tense, you might want to hold your spouse for awhile then ask, "Are you ready to brainstorm some alternatives yet?" When Bill and I were newlyweds, Viva towels had a commercial that tested their towels toughness with others. So in a tight spot when we didn't know what to do next one of us would ask, "What shall we do now?" The other might answer with a smile, "The Viva Towel test?" Of course it wasn't the real answer to the real issue or problem at hand but it usually lightened the mood and made us laugh so we had a better attitude. It gave us the opportunity to regroup, put our thoughts together and come up with a new plan or solution to the real issue.