Six Ways to Keep from Drifting Apart

Could the secret of staying together be as simple as four kisses a day?

By Liz Brody

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It's hard to see much of anything between the blinding supernovae of cheating scandals, but have you noticed the stream of starry power-couples quietly unbinding?

You've got Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey tweeting adieus after five years of being tied at the funny bone. And before them, the serious, double-Oscar duo, Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes, ending their seven-year marriage. They "just grew apart," a source told People. And before them, Susan Sarandan and Tim Robbins, after 23 years together, dividing like a split end. Now, they, of all the famous pairings, seemed impervious to Hollywood wear and tear. "I won't marry because I am too afraid of taking him for granted or him taking me for granted," Sarandan once told the press. And yet...

What went wrong with these couples? And can experts help us all from going our separate ways? Maybe:

6 Ways to Keep from Drifting Apart (beyond the obvious)
  • The Simplest Thing: Guess what the secret to a long-lasting union is, according to a poll of nearly 3,000 married adults in the UK? Four kisses a day. It's so corny, but we kinda love it. Each kiss is like an email reminder—a little ping that tells the brain, ah, right, this is my boo,even as you marvel at his ability not to wash a single, dirty breakfast dish. Can't hurt to try.

  • The New Love Wrecker: Social networking is a fact of life. But if one of you spends more time on Facebook than in the relationship, you're heading for trouble, says Kat Hertlein, PhD, assistant professor of marriage and family therapy at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "There's a good body of research showing the importance of shared time in keeping couples together," she says. "If you're doing something to the exclusion of the partner, you're starving the relationship." This goes for any cyber community that sucks you in, like online gaming, which Hertlein is studying. All kinds of support groups, she points out, are cropping up for non-gamer mates. (Check out this one for World of Warcraft. Consider it a clue that the women call themselves "widows.")

  • The Superwoman Trap: There's no reason to think you can't handle any problem as well, or better, than he can. But you're missing out on a bonding moment. "If one of you is always in charge, there's probably a problem," says Tina Tessina, PhD, aka Dr. Romance and author of Money, Sex and Kids."If you're working together to solve challenges, even though it's not going all that smoothly, you're much better off."

  • Okay, Obvious—But Powerful: Today Show contributor and bestselling author, Gail Saltz, MD, recommends finding a moment every week to tell your guy at least one thing you appreciate about him. "By listing and saying what this person does for you and means to you," she explains, "you bring those things to the forefront of your mind." Bonus: When you do this, it will likely prompt him to reciprocate.

  • Nope, don't talk:"Communicate" is the resounding cry of relationship experts. Still, that doesn't always mean words have to come out of your mouth. For example, when you ask him how his day went, and he says, "fine," period, it may hit you like a slap in the face. But while you feel "evaded," says love anthropologist Helen Fisher, PhD, author of Why Him? Why Her?, "he feels invaded. He just doesn’t consider it intimacy to inform you about his day. For him, closeness is doing something together.”

  • Sex, anytime soon? The UK poll says three times a week is optimal, but let's be real here. Every couple has their own rhythm, and often it's a lot less frequent than that. Then again, if your bed is becoming solely sleep furniture, you might consider another another bit of advice from the poll: Long-term couples share two romantic meals a month, and two nights out with friends. Intimacy and independence—the chemistry is in the balance.

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