What Makes for a Happy Marriage?
By Larry J. Koenig, Ph.D.
CBN.com People have different ideas about what makes a happy marriage. But, for many, the question is one they have not
asked themselves. Or at least if they have, they don’t have a
definitive answer in mind. So I think it’s worthwhile to look at
how other people define a happy marriage.
Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee undertook the task
of interviewing successful couples across America to find out
how people define a happy marriage. They report their results
in a wonderful book called The Good Marriage. Here are the
types of things they found that go into the making of a happy
1. Respect between the partners
2. Each person cherishes the other
3. Each person likes the other
4. Each finds pleasure and comfort in the other’s company
5. Emotional support of each other
6. Mutually satisfying physical intimacy
7. Expression of appreciation between the partners
8. The creation of fond memories
9. A feeling of safety, friendship, and trust
10. A feeling that the spouse is central to his or her world
11. An admiration of positive qualities such as honesty,
generosity, decency, loyalty, and fairness
12. A strong sense of morality
13. The conviction that each person is worthy of being loved
14. A sense of reality, in that there are some problems
but that they are surmountable
15. A view that each partner is special in some important
16. A sense that the marriage enhances each partner
17. The sense that there’s a unique fit between each partner’s
needs and the spouse’s willingness and ability
to meet those needs
18. The sense that each partner is lucky to have the
19. An equitable division of household tasks and childrearing
20. A sense that the success of the marriage is attributable
to both partners
21. An ability to express both positive and negative emotions
22. A shared view that the marriage takes constant attention
This is quite a list, isn’t it? Surely any couple that has these
things has a wonderful, blessed marriage!
However, it’s important to note that such a marriage
doesn’t come about by accident. It takes years of dedicated
work to bring this kind of relationship into existence. The
good news is that it’s certainly doable; in fact, millions of couples
have just this kind of relationship. It does, though, take a major commitment on both parts to continually work on
While I say that it takes a commitment from both people,
please recognize that at any point in time the task of keeping the
relationship together may fall more to one person than the
other. At the time, it may seem unfair. But that’s the way relationships
Sometimes one of the partners goes through a period of
intense personal challenge, severely hampering his ability to
contribute to the marriage. During these times, if the marriage
is to survive, it’s up to the other partner to keep the relationship
These are dangerous times in a relationship, dangerous in
the sense that one person can come to feel so overburdened that
she decides to end the relationship. Even the person facing personal
challenges may decide he would be better off if the
marriage ended. Some even come to believe the partner is the
cause of the problems.
If marriages are to survive long enough to cultivate the wonderful
characteristics listed earlier in this chapter, then both
partners must agree to stick with the marriage until challenges
can be met and overcome. Also in these times of great strife, the
one factor that may save a marriage from dissolution is active
participation in a faith community. Doing so cannot only provide
avenues of encouragement for the couple to stay together
but can provide the sustaining power of prayers from the faith
I think it prudent here to add a note of warning. In times of
strife, couples often quit going to church, cut themselves off
from their faith community, and cease all activities that are necessary
to sustain their faith in God. Often this happens out of shame and sometimes out of depression. Whatever the reason
for doing so, nothing could be worse. Having faith and a supporting
faith community can make the difference between
being able to keep a marriage together during times of trouble
and ending up in divorce court. While it may take energy and
courage that seemingly is unavailable in times where stress has
used up all available resources, digging down deep to sustain
your faith will, in the end, pay off hundredfold.
And the payoff comes in the long run, when surviving the
rough times eventually strengthens the marriage and your faith.
In a way, it’s like a bone that breaks. When it heals, the fracture
becomes the strongest part of the bone. So too, can a marriage
survive difficult times. Once overcome, the problems may well
become a source of strength to the marriage and to your faith.
In sum, your marriage can become one of great satisfaction
and enduring love. But it will take lots of work and a commitment
to staying in the marriage even through the rough times.
Excerpted from Happily Married for Life by Larry J. Koenig, Copyright 2006. Published by Life Journey. Used with permission.
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