Stronger Marriage

Is Your Marriage Relationship Functioning at Full Potential?

by Glen O. Jenson, PhD
Department of Family and Human Development
Utah State University


Approximately 90 percent of the population will marry at some point in their lives. More than 40 percent of those marrying for the first time will divorce usually during the early years of their marriage. (Many of those divorces need not occur. There are many signs that would indicate that a marriage is starting to deteriorate.) The problem is much larger when consideration is given to the many couples that have difficulties but do not choose to divorce. Many marriages are not operating at their full potential.

David and Vera Mace, pioneers in the marriage enrichment movement, have suggested a very simple test to measure the amount of potential being used in a marriage. Instructions for scoring the form are listed below the form. The ten items are:

Items to be scored                                           My Score
1. Commonality of goals and values
2. Commitment to Growth of Spouse
3. Communication Skills
4. Creative Use of Conflict
5. Appreciation and Affection
6. Agreement on Gender Roles
7. Cooperation and Teamwork
8. Sexual Fulfillment
9. Money Management
10. Spirituality in our Relationship

My Total Score =

Adapted from: Mace, David and Vera, "Measure Your Marriage Potential: A simple Test That Tells Couples Where They Are." Family Coordinator, January 1978, Vol. 27, No.1, 63-67

The Mace's suggest assigning a score somewhere between zero and ten to each of the ten items listed above. Zero would mean that the couple seldom agrees on the item that is being evaluated. Ten would mean that the couple has an almost perfect relationship in the area being evaluated. Seldom do couples score zeros or tens. Most marriages are somewhere in between zero and ten. After a couple has assigned a score from zero to ten to each of the above items, scores are summed and that score represents an indication of what percentage of the potential is currently being used in that marriage as it pertains to the items being evaluated.

It is recommended that couples complete the test independent of each other, then compare the scores and map out a plan of how to rectify and gain more satisfaction in the areas where there are big differences. Couples can take the test every few months to determine if there are significant changes happening in their marriage relationship. Couples can add items of their own to be evaluated. A couple does not need to restrict themselves to only the items listed.

Some specific suggestions for maximizing potential in a marriage include:

1. Make your spouse the first priority in your life. Love and loyalty are necessary for emotional well-being. Spouses who are treated as number one priority usually make their spouse feel the same way.

2. Do something extra nice on holidays and other special occasions. In addition surprise each other with small gifts or special attention on selected other days as well.

3. Praise each other daily. Everyone needs to feel appreciated and praised. Much more behavior is changed from praise than criticism.

4. Choose one of your mate's weak or less admirable attributes and seldom if ever bring it up during discussion. We can spend too much time dwelling on negative characteristics of our spouses, hoping they will change. Most spouses know the characteristics we dislike and if they desire to change they will. Constant reminding does little, if anything to change behavior.

5. Choose a task often done by your spouse that they might not enjoy doing and do it for them. When someone does a task without being asked to, it is appreciated even more. This is especially true if the task is one your mate does not find real enjoyable.

6. Arrange time away from the home with your spouse and without the children. A change of scenery can do wonders for a marriage.

7. Tell others how much you love and appreciate your spouse. Often those compliments will filter back to your spouse. We all appreciate hearing compliments about ourselves.

8. Write your spouse a love letter and send it registered mail. It is exciting to get mail important enough that it requires a signature.

9. Buy a book on marriage recommended by your local bookstore. Read it out loud together spending time discussing new ideas you get from reading the book.

10. Consult the public library for books and magazines about strengthening a marriage. There are some excellent resources available that would greatly enhance a marriage that is not meeting its full potential.

11. Write a letter to your in-laws and thank them for raising your spouse. Identifying positive traits of your spouse to his or her parents will likely bring added support to you and the marriage.

12. Many religious groups offer short courses, seminars focusing on enriching marital relationships. The local clergy should be able to refer couples to such classes.

13. Many community schools or the Cooperative Extension Service offer courses in improving marital relationships. Consider attending one as a couple.

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