Approximately fifty percent of all marriages in America end in divorce. For the other fifty percent, there is no guarantee that their marriages are happy, thriving ones.

Where then can we look for a model of happy marriages? John Gottman, a psychologist known for his work on relationships and marital stability, can accurately predict which couples will end in divorce with 94% accuracy just by observing them. 

In his quest to find the secrets to healthy long-term marriages, said "I was not able to crack the code to saving marriages until I started to analyse what went right in happy marriages." Shifting the focus from what is going wrong to what is going right is the first step to attaining happiness. 

 Happily married couples (those that have been together for 30, 40, 50+ years) seem to have one common answer when asked about the secret of their successful commitment together. The reply almost always sounds like this: they married their best friend. 

 Being able to share your most intimate dreams, goals and fears with your life partner brings you closer together and allows both partners to feel understood. Imagine always being around your best friend, feeling understood, and having access to unlimited support. 

This is what an ideal marriage (or relationship) can feel like with a little effort. In fact, another common response from happy couples is that they constantly work to improve their relationship. 

This can mean many things to many people. Here are a few suggestions: Try to find out something new about your partner. Share something about yourself that your partner doesn't know. Do more activities together. Ritualize a date together on a weekly or monthly basis. Find common goals and encourage each other to attain them together. 

Focus on those little things that you appreciate about them and let them know about it. All too often we tend to focus on the negatives and lose sight of the positives. Appreciation can go a long way to increase the quality of a relationship. Don't limit yourself to just telling them how you appreciate them: show them. 

Prepare a special little action that says what words can't. An unexpected bouquet of flowers, or loving note left under their pillow are fun ways to let them feel your gratitude. Conflicts are an inevitable part of any healthy relationship. 

Learning how to deal with conflicts can actually be an opportunity for growth and build resilience within the relationship. During conflicts, we have an opportunity to know more about the inner feelings of our partner and therefore, get closer to them. In fact, having no conflict in a relationship is often a sign that something is wrong. 

Being able to express your true feelings instead of repressing them is an important part of a healthy relationship. Utilizing proper social skills and communication skills is the secret to effectively dealing with and benefiting from a conflict. 

Here then are a few tips for handling conflicts: Express your point of view in an assertive (as opposed to aggressive) way. Let your partner express their point of view (active listening). Criticize the behaviour not the person. Negotiate a compromise (if possible). Learn from the experience. 

Following these suggestions from couples whom have succeeded at bettering the quality of their relationships over time is a great way for a relationship to flourish and continue growing for years to come. 

In fact, the closer you become as a couple, the more resilient and happier you will be, and it is more likely that your relationship will thrive. Ron Forte is a positive psychology life coach who has over 15 years experience helping people achieve positive change in their lives. 

Having worked with teens in difficulty, victims of crime and inmates, he has specialized in treating addiction, emotions management and goal attainment.

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