Making the Most of Your Marriage
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet
Family and Consumer Sciences
Campbell Hall 1787 Neil Avenue,
Columbus, Ohio 43210
Marriage is a process. The individuals in a relationship, as well as the marital relationship itself, go through stages and have the potential for continuous growth. This growth requires trust, commitment, skills, caring, reciprocity, and effort. Strong, healthy marriages do not just happen by chance. Rather, the spouses in such marriages have chosen to make the effort to make them strong, healthy, and satisfying.
Happily Married People
All good marriages are not alike. However, researchers have found that certain characteristics are more likely to occur among husbands and wives in vital (happy) marriages than among less content couples. These characteristics form a profile of happily married people and include:
People in vital marriages are giving people. They meet their emotional needs by doing for others -- and they do not keep score.
They have a strong sense of commitment to their marriages. They do not take their happiness for granted, but are determined to make their marriages work.
They are strong-minded. They do not lose themselves in the relationship. Although they value their independence -- the right to form their own opinions, make their own decisions, pursue their own goals -- marital harmony is a top priority.
They have vigorous sexual drives. Sex plays a central and profoundly important role in the marriage.
They like to talk. Happily married people spend much time sharing thoughts about all sorts of subjects. They are open and direct, not manipulative.
They have a positive outlook on life. Faith that things will get better helps them cope with crises.
They don't take the good things for granted. They express appreciation and are generous with praise.
They are deeply spiritual. They have strong spiritual or religious convictions and commit themselves to a spiritual lifestyle, though they may not be affiliated with an organized church.
They are sensitive to other people. They recognize the needs of others, respect their differences, consider their feelings, and put themselves in the other person's shoes.
They are willing to grow, change, and work hard at their marriages. They know that a good relationship requires flexibility and effort to keep it alive.
Has the Light Gone Dim?
Have you lost that feeling, that glorious sense of loving and being loved? Have you settled into a routine sex life? Is everything just work, paying the bills, mopping the floor, mowing the lawn, and taking care of the family? Has the daily "I love you" disappeared?
Experts and married couples agree that the simple but magic ingredient in a love relationship is the expression of affection. They are just as quick to point out that this aspect of a couple's life together is usually the first to grow dim.
In researching what creates satisfaction in a marriage, one of the most significant findings was expressing affection on a regular basis. In other words, the couples who indulged in frequent terms of endearment, nonsexual touching, such as hugs and pats on the head, and tokens of affection, such as little gifts, reported extremely high levels of marital satisfaction.
Conversely, there is often a correlation between lack of overt affection and the breakdown of intimacy. And researchers observe that the reason so many couples allow expressions of affection to dwindle is that they associate them with the "start-up phase" of a relationship.
People are a little embarrassed by what they perceive as kid stuff. They think the candy and flowers, the sweet nothings, the silly names, are just a prelude to a real relationship. On the contrary, they light up your relationship.
To put a little love back into your relationship:
* Start each day with a big hug.
* Send a card or love note to your spouse.
* Telephone to say "I love you" during the day.
* Give the gift of listening: refrain from judging or giving advice.
* Complete daily chores together and let this time become special sharing time.
* Put on a slow song and dance before retiring for the evening.
* Give your spouse a list of ten terrific memories.
* On a clear evening share a brief star-gazing experience.
* Assure your spouse often that you care, and show you care by how you act.
* Thank your partner for compliments and kind gestures -- and you'll get more of them.
* Help without being asked.
* Always take each others' feelings into consideration.
* Make having fun together a priority.
* Look for the good in your partner and praise it.
* Admire each other's achievements.
* During tough times, think of why you fell in love in the first place and dwell on those things.
* Always make your partner feel special.
* List all the ways your partner enriches your life and share your list with your spouse.
Mims, Kathryn Beckham (1993). Choice, Not Chance: Enhancing Your Marital Relationship. Columbus: Ohio State University Extension.
Wolfe, Jerri (1992). 21 Ways to Reconnect As A Couple. Minneapolis, MN: Family Information Service (reprinted with permission).
Joyce K. Fittro
OSU Extension Agent
Family and Consumer Sciences