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Do you ever feel like you and your spouse are roommates instead of lovers? Does it feel like your marriage is in a constant state of chaos? Have you caught yourself wishing for the life you don't have?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you aren't alone. Truth be told, there are many chaotic marriages out there where both spouses are feeling disconnected and lonely.

When people feel disconnected in their marriage, then anxiety, distrust, uncertainty and suspicion often creep in. Couples stop believing they are on the same team and start looking out for themselves. Soon comes the need to have the last word, always be right and a "my way or the highway" attitude, all of which don't create an environment where a relationship can thrive and grow.

The first step toward changing the direction of your relationship is to identify what is creating the chaos or disconnectedness. Usual and customary suspects include: children, career, community commitments, being too busy and "phubbing," otherwise known as snubbing your mate in favor of your smartphone.

Clearly, you can't ship the children off, jobs matter and it's unrealistic to think that technology won't be part of your relationship. However, if you are resolved that something needs to change, it might help to know what research reveals about how happily married couples keep their marriages out of the ditch.

In her book, "The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages," Harvard-educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn uncovers 12 things highly-happy couples do. Here are a few that you can apply to your own relationship:

' Remember the little things. There are a few small actions that matter a lot to men and women. In fact, surveys indicate that consistently doing these five things will likely make your spouse feel deeply cared for.

For women, notice his effort and sincerely thank him for it. Tell him when he does a great job. Mention in front of others something he did well. Show him you desire him sexually. Make it clear that he makes you happy. For guys, hold her hand. Leave her messages during the day. Put your arm around her. Sincerely tell her she is beautiful. Pull yourself out of a funk.

- Believe that your spouse is well-intentioned and truly cares about you. It is unlikely they began their day plotting how to make your day miserable.

- Sometimes going to bed mad is a good thing. When there is conflict and anger that cannot be easily resolved, sometimes sleeping on it overnight can lead to a quicker resolution.

- Boss your feelings around. Highly happy couples lead their feelings instead of letting their feelings guide their actions.

- Cultivate generosity. According to research, generosity toward one another is one of the greatest contributing factors to a happy marriage.

- Hang out together. In the beginning you were friends. Couples who cultivate their friendship over time seem to have happier marriages than couples who do not.

- Get in over your head. Highly-happy couples were willing to put it all on the line for the sake of their marriage. Research shows they have dramatically increased security and happiness.

If you are tired of the chaos and feelings of disconnectedness in your marriage, try incorporating some of these habits. Although creating an environment for your marriage to grow and thrive may not happen overnight, these habits could be just what your relationship needs.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at julieb@firstthings.org.

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