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8 Ways to Improve Your Relationship

Get advice from the winners of the hit ABC reality show for newlyweds

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Times are good for Johnnie and Crystal Moutra. They just celebrated their first wedding anniversary, welcomed their first child Landon Vance into the world, and won $465,000 in ABC’s reality show/competition, Here Come the Newlyweds. Beating out six couples for the grand prize wasn’t easy. First, they had to live in a house with the other couples throughout the competition. Second, Crystal became pregnant, her husband thinks, during the fifth episode. And Johnnie wasn’t sleeping at all because of the stress of competing for so much money.

After the recent arrival of their son and the revelation that they won the competition – the couple was sworn to secrecy until the episode aired in early April 2008 – they can finally sit back, relax, and enjoy sweet victory. They also have lots of advice for fellow newlyweds about making a great team and winning in the greater newlywed game, where your winnings are a lifetime of love and an enduring marriage.

Have Faith

Marriage itself is a leap of faith. For some couples, religious faith – a belief in God or some greater force that brought you together with your spouse – provides strength and a foundation for shared values. These beliefs can help you through the rough patches. The Moutras say they have faith in each other, faith in God – and that gave them faith that they would win the competition. Faith – no matter the form – offers many couples motivation to achieve personal or even professional goals, too.

Support One Another

Couples that succeed give each other applause or a helping hand, depending on what their spouse needs at the time. “Husbands and wives should submit to one another,” says Johnnie. “When Crystal had an idea, I supported her idea. When I came up with something, she supported me.”

Learn to Communicate

If couples can’t communicate, they can’t even begin to support one another. Communication is pretty simple for the Moutras. Never argue, says Johnnie, who adds that he and Crystal debate but never argue. “Don’t ever get loud because once you get loud, you stop listening to one another,” says Johnnie.

Compromise

The funny thing about improving your communication skills is that once you do start listening to each other, you become more willing to compromise. You start to see what it’s like to walk in your spouse’s shoes and begin to understand why he or she takes a certain stance. That makes you more willing to bend. Crystal says she and Johnnie each made a list of things they wanted to do with the money they won, and then they decided together which suggestions they both agreed upon and which they had to sacrifice for the good of their family.

Watch Your Money

Money has torn apart families for centuries. But you don’t have to let it rip apart your marriage. One way is to be smart and save, so there’s no need to argue or stress about not having enough money to live. That means saving or at least keeping an emergency fund for those rainy days. Keeping life in perspective helps, too. The Moutras say they plan to invest their winnings wisely so that it grows and lasts a long time. But that does not mean their life is defined by their bank account. “Money isn’t everything,” says Crystal. “It can go fast.”

Set Your Priorities

Crystal is a self-proclaimed, recovering people pleaser. Often, parents, siblings, and other friends and family want the same kind of relationship with you after you marry as they had when you were single. People pleasers, like Crystal and many other women, try to oblige. But it never works. Relationships change, especially after you make a commitment like marriage. “I would say that your marriage comes first and then your family because you can’t always make everyone happy,” says Crystal.

Be Humble

Humility is necessary in any relationship but especially a marriage. The Moutras believe one of the keys to their victory was their ability to stay humble. They were confident but never underestimated their opponents. For men, humility usually comes harder. Many of them let pride get in the way, and it can kill a marriage, says Johnnie. “The man should know when to say, ‘I’m sorry,’” adds Johnnie. “A lot of men have too much pride to admit they’re wrong and apologize.”

Get Help

No one is perfect, and we can all benefit form help. The Moutras highly recommend getting marriage counseling as a means to get to know your spouse better and discuss tough subjects – from how to handle finances to how to discipline your future children. “[Counseling] was like having our battery charged,” says Johnnie. “If you have too much negative energy the battery is not going to work anymore.” Keep your batteries charged – and your marriage will last and last.

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