While it initially seems like a fairytale, the glow experienced in early marriage eventually wears off and reality sets in. Everyday life brings differences in opinion and occasional conflict, but also plenty of joyful and romantic moments. To sustain a happy and healthy relationship, it is important to realize that a great union is not just about choosing the right partner; it's about being the right partner. Here are eight ways to be a better partner or spouse.

Share Interests

It's rare for two people to share all interests, but engaging in a few of your partner's favorite activities teaches you more about them. While watching the Packers on Sunday may not exactly be your cup of tea, trying to participate shows you care. You might be surprised how much fun you can have donning a Rodgers jersey and enjoying tailgating fare. Couples can also generate common interests by trying new things together. Activities like bungee jumping, cooking lessons or travel can bring couples closer and sometimes create new, life-long hobbies.

Be Attentive

Whether having breakfast at the kitchen table or enjoying a romantic dinner out, check the newspaper and your cell phone at the door and give your partner your full attention. This means actively listening when engaging in small talk or discussing a work problem. When your partner needs to vent, don't offer a list of solutions. Continual eye contact, a nod, and an occasional "uh huh" go a long way towards making a partner feel loved and cared for.

Be Appreciative

No one enjoys being taken for granted. When researchers ask men and women what they need from their partner, appreciation often tops the list. Whether it's consistently taking the garbage to the curb on Monday nights or packing your lunch each morning, noticing what your partner does and expressing gratitude goes a long way. Male or female, it's also nice to hear an occasional "thank you" for hard work and bringing home the bacon.

Make Time for Romance

Be a Better Spouse, romance Although it certainly can't hurt, keeping libido high and a relationship amorous doesn't always mean booking a suite at the Ritz. An "I love you" note stuffed into a messenger bag, a back rub, some new intimate apparel or picking up your spouse's favorite ice cream offer equally important ways to show your ardor.

Take Care of Yourself

While "in sickness and in health" is an important part of the marriage ceremony, time together is much more enjoyable if both partners are healthy, so work on making this a priority. However, taking care of oneself goes beyond a healthy diet and regular exercise. Good grooming and dressing habits also make a big difference when it comes to a happy marriage. If you must sport sweatpants or pajamas on weekends, make sure they are presentable and flattering. Go the extra mile with a little lip-gloss or cologne.

Find a Way to Talk about Money

Even if you have separate bank accounts, it is important to talk about expenses, money problems and financial goals. If partners are not on the same financial page, tension is inevitable. Continual communication about money keeps the conversation calm and the financial situation moving forward.

When you are Wrong, Admit It

Disagreements are inevitable, but it's important to realize when you are wrong, admit it and apologize. Owning up to mistakes shows good character, humility and respect for your partner, and the make-up sex is just the icing on the cake.

Be Yourself and Respect your Partner's Individuality

A committed relationship shouldn't affect friendships and individual interests. Keep your friends, and allow your partner to do the same. In addition to a regular night out with pals, continue to pursue interests, whether yoga, Tuesday night poker, a book club or fantasy football with the boys. When it comes to a partner's less-than-desirable habits, use positive reinforcement as opposed to nagging to change the behavior or just let it go.

While people are often quick to blame their partner for a less-than-happy relationship, building a better marriage starts with becoming a better spouse. While it certainly takes two people to make or break a marriage, oftentimes a relationship begins to improve with the actions of just one partner, and it makes sense. When one spouse behaves in a kind and loving way, the other often feels more appreciated and reciprocates. Take advantage of the tips above for less disagreement and more harmony in your relationship.

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