10 Ways to Make Your Marriage the Top Priority

It happens so sneakily that you don't even know it at first. Without any warning, you've suddenly gone from having your daily intimate moment to the most harried parents on the block. At the detriment of your marriage, you've become the enablers of your child's rich social and cultural life as you rush around on endless rounds of sports practices, kids' birthday parties, and play dates. Furthermore, you've become closer bedfellow with your job than your partner. Job stress has now taken place of love and whispering sweet nothings. Before you know it, since there are only 24 hours in a day, the two of you are putting each other last. Ensuring that you put each other first is a good way to foolproof your marriage. But that's easier said than done. Here, the top 10 tips for how to put your marriage first.

1. Recognize. One of the most common times for a couple to split is when grown kids leave home and the parents are back to sharing an empty nest for the first time in many years. They may look at each other, realize they have nothing in common, and decide to split. Don't let this happen to you: invest time and energy in your partner now, says Lisa Rene Reynolds, Ph.D, author of Still a Family: A Guide to Good Parenting through Divorce. "When you're busy with your kids and you ignore your marriage, you may have to deal with feelings of having grown apart," she said. Recognize what an easy trap it is to fall into, then take steps to prevent it.

2. Court each other. Date night's hard, but just having regular time together is more doable. Sure, it's great to have a night out together each week, as many couples counselors recommend. But it's expensive to get a sitter and pay for dinner. Instead, schedule a 45-minute date for after the kids are in bed - or for Saturday morning if you have teenagers who sleep in. "The ideas is to have time for just the two of you," Reynolds says. "Light candles. Go in the Jacuzzi. It does not need to be over the top."

3. Don't talk about the kids during this time. Focus the conversation on the two of you - your dreams, your thoughts, your plans, your fears.

4. Write out an agreement in which you specify that you will work toward a goal of staying close. You want to spell out that you will put yourselves first with each other, says Judy Kuriansky, Ph.D., the author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Healthy Relationship." "Think of it as a way to let the other person know that you are committed to him," she says.

5. Assess yourselves honestly. Accept that things will never be 50-50. "Just get rid of that idea," Reynolds says. "It will average out to 50/50, but you have to be willing to make it 80/20 sometimes."

6. Say thank you. Don't always take your hubby (or your wife) for granted. When he does something nice for you, be sure to thank him - just the way you'd thank a friend or relative who did you a favor.

7. Put money in perspective. Financial worries are a huge reason that marriages break up, Reynolds says. Visualize the two of you putting your money woes on the shelf since there is nothing you can actively do about them. Then agree to talk about the situation at a pre-arranged time, when neither of you are under pressure from work or the kids. Instead of playing the blame game, discuss practical solutions - could you clean the house together rather than pay for a cleaning lady? Do you need the cable TV? "Engage in solution talk, not problem talk," Reynolds says.

8. Have a calendar within a calendar for all the events the family will be doing, Kuriansky says. "It's important to enter all the things the kids will be doing," she says. "If you are putting your marriage first, it may mean that you don't always want to argue about who's taking the kids where." If there is not enough money and time for a variety of activities, consider having your kids pick one or two and dropping the rest.

9. Think back. When you're feeling angry at the one you love, remember back to when you first met each other and started going out. Hard to conjure those carefree days? Page through an old photo album or play some music you used to listen to together.

10. Have sex more often. And remember, even if initially you are too tired for it, within the first five minutes of starting to make out, you will find that you actually are in the mood.