Q. You have written many times about marriages that are in trouble; about couples having very serious problems. What can you say about marriages that work; marriages that are happy and fulfilling? What are the ingredients in a successful marriage?
A. There are some long-term marriages in which couples are resigned to continue to live together. These are "survivor" marriages. Marriages in which there is satisfaction and excitement are "creative marriages."
Most lasting marriages include some "survivor" times and some "creative" times. Even the most creative marriages will have some empty spots or lulls. Also, a seemingly empty marriage may actually be built on deep attachments.
There are many characteristics of long-term marriages. I'll describe the four I think are most important.
1. Couples in long-term happy marriages have an ability to change and to tolerate change. They allow each other to grow and change and they welcome the changes of the past decades.
2. Couples in long-term happy marriages are able to live with unresolved conflict. They accept the fact that some deep-seated conflicts will never be resolved. The marriage will never be perfect. They focus on the strengths of their marriage, not its weaknesses.
3. The third characteristic of long-term happy marriages is trust. Love may come and go during the marriage, in times of anger, for example, but trust is there even during the angry or distant times. Each partner trusts the other with his or her inner self. Each partner trusts that the self will not be ridiculed or violated; each trusts that it will be nurtured and protected.
4. The fourth characteristic of long-term happy marriages is enjoyment of each other. Couples in long-term happy marriages like one another, enjoy being together and enjoy talking to each other. They also enjoy each other sexually and are affectionate with each other. They hold hands, hug and kiss or give affectionate gestures often. There is a feeling of closeness and affection between them. For more on this subject read Married People - Staying Together in The Age of Divorce by Francine Klagsburn.
“Friends come and go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.” Proverbs 18:24 The Message