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Healthy Relationships are Rare But Precious Gems to be Crafted

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RALEIGH — The stress of kids, money, and work can put a strain on the healthiest of relationships. But some couples still hold hands, and share special looks after years of marriage. Here's how to do it.

To hear them talk now, the Chervenys sound like the high school sweethearts they were in the '70s.

"I thought she was cute," David Cherveny says.

"I could talk to him about anything. He was my best friend and that was just wonderful," says Dee Ann Cherveny.

David and Dee Ann Cherveny were married in 1981, shortly after they finished college. They made time to raise three children and made time for their careers. But a few years ago, they realized they were not making time for each other. Their relationship had deteriorated.

"You come home, you get dinner ready, you do homework, and by the time that we have any time together it's 10:30 -- 11:00, and that's too late to put attention. You don't have any energy left for each other," Dee Ann Cherveny says.

Family therapist Dr. Dianne Occhetti has seen it before. "I'm always amazed when I see a young couple and they have small kids and I ask, 'When was the last time that the two of you went away for the weekend?' They look at one another, then they look at me. They haven't," she says.

Occhetti is the author of a new book, "Do I Stay or Do I Go?" At a recent book signing, Occhetti said it takes work to keep a relationship healthy.

"It's a tough ride. It can be worth it, but it's going to be tough," Occhetti says.

Occhetti says there are some basic factors in a healthy relationship: respect for each other, caring and more positive input from each partner than negative.

"It takes at least five positives to one negative to make a difference," she says.

Too much fighting can sour a relationship. A number of other issues can hurt as well: an affair, parenthood, religious differences, and job stress. Occhetti says couples should explore the issues before deciding whether to stay or go.

"Is it easy? No. But I stress that it's so important to go through this process, because if you do not, and you make a decision to leave a relationship without doing that, [in] your next relationship, you're going to repeat the same issues with a different twist," she says.

The Chervenys examined their issues and agreed to start respecting each other and caring again.

After working on their relationship for a year with the help of a counselor, the Chervenys say their bond is stronger now than ever before.

"The biggest thing I told him was, it was never anything big. It was always just the little things. And he's become wonderful at the little things," Dee Ann Cherveny says.

There are ways to improve your relationship without professional counseling. You can find support in your church or religious community. It also helps to bond with other couples who are the same age and share the same issues as you.

Statistics show five out 10 married couples split, which totals about 3,000 divorces a day.