1. Say “I Love You” Every Day
Barbara De Angelis, personal-development expert: Say it as often as possible. There’s no reason to be emotionally stingy with the person you love.
Nancy Kalish, psychologist: I agree that it should be said often, but it should be said sincerely, so it means something. Not just “Good-bye. Love you.”
2. Play Hard to Get
Sam Yagan, dating-website cofounder: Playing hard to get starts the relationship off on a deceptive foot. If you want your relationship to be based on trust, honesty, and communication, why would you begin it like that?
Greg Behrendt, coauthor of He’s Just Not That Into You: You shouldn’t play hard to get; you should be hard to get, because your life is so busy and fulfilling. My wife and I call it being a MOD―a moving object of desire.
3. Your Spouse Shouldn’t Be Your Best Friend
Pepper Schwartz, sociologist: I agree. I think you’re asking a lot of your marriage to have the level of confidentiality, truthfulness, and disclosure that a best friendship has. Your marriage can fulfill only so many roles.
De Angelis: I disagree. If your spouse isn’t your best friend, then what is he? I think it’s important that you not only love him but like him a lot, too.
John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus: I have no problem with partners who are best friends, but you should have other close friends to confide in as well―especially when you are having relationship difficulties and need time away from your spouse. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
4. Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
De Angelis: A little bit of absence can help you appreciate your partner. Too much is dangerous. Relationships need connection, and it’s challenging to stay connected when you aren’t spending time together.
Schwartz: To a point―and then absence makes the heart go roaming. You need a steady diet of intimacy and the other person’s presence to remember why you’re in the relationship. If you don’t see each other often enough, you can start to lead parallel lives instead of lives that intersect.
Yagan: Absence can make the desire and lust for your partner grow. But it can also lead to stress in a relationship, because phone calls or text messages aren’t substitutes for real conversation.
5. You Can Learn to Love Someone
Judy Kuriansky, sex therapist: That’s true, depending on how you define love. You may not have the love-at-first-sight kind of love, but the deep companion kind of love―in terms of trusting each other and being a team―can develop over time.
Behrendt: No, that sounds like settling. I don’t believe in settling, because it’s not fair to the person you’re with or yourself. It’s not like settling on an apartment you don’t love but can live with.
Want more relationship advice? Learn the secrets to a happy marriage from other Real Simple readers.
6. Never Go to Bed Angry
Barbara De Angelis, personal-development expert: I disagree. Most of us don’t do well discussing emotional topics late at night, when we’re tired and less emotionally articulate―and your well-intentioned desire to kiss and make up is likely to make him angrier. Let your partner get some rest and things will be easier to resolve in the morning.
Howard J. Markman, psychologist: Most of the relationship issues that people argue about at night can wait for another day. However, if there are urgent issues that need to be discussed, partners should talk things through earlier in the night, then try to spend what is left of the evening relaxing.
Nancy Kalish, psychologist: You shouldn’t go to bed angry, but that doesn’t mean you have to solve every problem before you nod off. Even if an issue isn’t resolved, people who love each other should be able to put it aside and get some sleep, but with the understanding that it will be addressed in the near future with a time specified.
7. Having Kids Will Bring You Closer
Pepper Schwartz, sociologist: Children are an extraordinary source of joy, but they also bring conflict and difficulty into any relationship. You lose time, privacy, and intimacy. An otherwise easy relationship can be tested in a whole new way.
Kalish: The more family members you have, the more friction you have, because there are more relationship issues to work through. And if you focus exclusively on the kids, it takes away from your togetherness as a couple.
8. There Is Such a Thing As Love at First Sight
Ellen Wachtel, couples therapist: False. Often it takes time for love to develop. For some people, physical chemistry plays such a big role at the outset that it is mistaken for love.
Schwartz: It’s a romantic story when it works out, but you don’t hear about the relationships that end badly. Relationships start slow and build; they aren’t necessarily wonderful from the start.
Markman: You’ll quickly know if you’re attracted to each other, but not if you’re compatible or fit to stick together through tough times.
9. Always Keep Him Guessing
Greg Behrendt, coauthor of He’s Just Not That Into You: No, that’s tactical game playing, not love. It takes a lot of calculated effort and is dishonest.
Schwartz: It’s powerful and mysterious to be unpredictable, but it is also manipulative and can build resentment and anger and erode intimacy and respect.
Sam Yagan, dating-website cofounder: There’s good guessing and bad guessing, and it’s really about what kind of guessing you’re making him do. Try to keep the relationship fresh by being unexpectedly romantic.
10. You Can Never Be Too Close
Wachtel: False. Many marriages are damaged by partners thinking that closeness means not having to censor what they say or do. Some couples take each other for granted: Metaphorically speaking, they never get out of their sweat suits at home. If you don’t make an effort to be well mannered or attractive to your partner, then you’re too close.
Markman: That’s absolutely true. Closeness―emotional intimacy―is the heart of a good marriage, so it’s important to talk about what closeness means to each of you.
11. Love Conquers All
Barbara De Angelis, personal-development expert: Unfortunately, this is not true. Love is a big part of a lasting relationship, but shared values and commitment are still required.
Pepper Schwartz, sociologist: Sadly, it’s a myth. Love won’t conquer poverty, addiction, or abuse.
12. Everyone Experiences the Seven-Year Itch
Schwartz: The itch is true, but it doesn’t necessarily take seven years to get there. Some people get divorced within a year or less if they’re convinced the marriage isn’t salvageable.
Howard J. Markman, psychologist: Most partners will at some time think about divorce, but not necessarily in seven years. The data show that most people who thought about getting divorced were happy they stayed married when surveyed five years later. When things are tough, focus on increasing friendship and sensuality in the relationship.
13. The Way to a Man’s Heart Is Through His Stomach
De Angelis: The way to a man’s heart is through his heart. Men want a woman who is going to be a great friend and companion―and if they have to order takeout, so be it!
Judy Kuriansky, sex therapist: It’s true if he loves food, but that part about having to feed the needs of his heart is true, too. Still, don’t lose sight of your own needs. For a relationship to be successful, both partners need to feel pleased and fulfilled.
John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus: You’re off by about six inches. Sex is the direct way to a man’s heart.
Greg Behrendt is a comedian and a coauthor of He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $15).
Barbara De Angelis, Ph.D. , is a personal-development expert and the New York Times best-selling author of How Did I Get Here?: Finding Your Way to Renewed Hope and Happiness When Life and Love Take Unexpected Turns (St. Martin’s Griffin, $14).
John Gray, Ph.D. , is a family therapist and the author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus (Harper Paperbacks, $14).
Nancy Kalish, Ph.D. , is a professor of psychology at California State University, Sacramento, and the author of Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances (iUniverse.com, $18).
Judy Kuriansky, Ph.D. , is a clinical psychologist, a sex therapist, and a TV and radio personality. She is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to a Healthy Relationship, Second Edition (Alpha, $19).
Howard J. Markman, Ph.D. , is a professor of psychology at the University of Denver. He runs relationship-enhancing workshops (loveyourrelationship.com) and is a coauthor of Fighting for Your Marriage (Jossey-Bass, $17).
Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D. , is a professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and a relationship expert for Perfectmatch.com. She is the author of Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years (Collins Living, $16).
Ellen Wachtel, Ph.D. , is a psychologist in New York City who specializes in couples therapy. She is the author of We Love Each Other, But…: Simple Secrets to Strengthen Your Relationship and Make Love Last (St. Martin’s Griffin, $15).
Sam Yagan is a co-founder of OkCupid.com, a free online-dating site.