MANY know how to build houses of brick or stone. But there is another kind of house to build called a family. Each must build it, and we must all family members help to build. If you expect to have home what does it take? Until recent years research had focused on what characterized unhappy and broken marriages, but relatively little had been done to find out what made happy and successful families tick. Here are some of the six qualities in happy and stable marriages which were lacking in the marriages of divorced couples as studies shows.


     Studies found that spouses who worked to fulfill their highest marital expectations regularly and frequently took the initiative to express appreciation, affection, praise, and encouragement.
In my view, communication of sincere appreciation can almost be called the barometer of a happy marriage. To put appreciation into words is difficult for some for various reasons:

     Some have never learned to be appreciative in their homes and have seen very little of it done by their parents. Such a background subtly teaches children that tender emotions are not to be expressed and others can be taken for granted. People become treated as objects, like the car and furniture.

     Others may be so preoccupied with themselves and their own needs and interests that they do not notice their spouse. Criticism and focusing on the negative are also communication habits which depreciate and devalue the other. Judge-mental people do a lot of bossing, ordering, demanding, blaming, criticizing, correcting, and belittling. Most are all too painfully aware of their faults and failing without being reminded of them, and such critical reminders rarely inspire motivation to change.

     Appreciation sometimes becomes a lost art simply because the partner seems indifferent and fails to reciprocate. ‘Showing concern for the spouse requires repeated expressions of interest, including spontaneous glances, smiles, and touching, all communicating warm caring. Without such expression, we begin to doubt whether our continued presence is important to the spouse. When indifference creeps into communication, love flies out of the window.’


     Happily married couples tend to make opportunities to be together because family priorities are high on their list. They sit together at meals, enjoy recreation activities together, and participate in other activities as a family.

     Marriage, like anything else of value, requires time and work. A growing relationship requires constant nurturing and this can only be done over a period of time. One of the modern enemies of togetherness is over-commitment. Your attitude towards and use of, time, probably says more about you and your values than almost anything else.

     In the busyness of life and our frantic frenzy to succeed, we often overlook the priority of friendship. As a result, we are left fatigued and with little energy or time for those things and people which really matter. Constant awareness of this intruder into the priorities of marriage and family life is necessary or else the demands of work, committees, clubs, hobbies, sports, or study, will squeeze out time for the relationship.


     Happily married couples have a high level of commitment to each other’s happiness and welfare. They realize that it takes work to make marriage a success and so are committed to fulfilling their obligations to meet each other’s needs.

     Where marriages fail is in meeting the needs of their spouse for love, esteem, and providing a nurturing environment for each other’s growth. Many marital conflicts is simply a frustrated cry of: ‘Meet my needs’. The steps towards marital disillusionment often commence early in a marriage when this cry is not heard or is misinterpreted because the spouse is busy, tired, or just simply refuses to respond appropriately. Many couples fail to communicate their support because they fail to take the initiative. We are endowed with basically selfish natures which drive us to think of our own needs first.


     Marriage is never easy. Conflict is inevitable as two individuals with separate ideas, backgrounds, and will attempt to live and work together. Making marriage work is difficult for all couples as both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ marriages experience friction and crises, but it is how these difficulties are handled which determines if it will lead to growth and marital survival on the other. So conflict need not be a bad experience. Disagreement can clear the air and bring a couple closer together. On the other hand, conflict can be destructive when those skills associated with good and caring communication are not employed.

     In the time of crisis, strong and happy couples will support each other and find ways of lovingly negotiating an agreement with which they can both live. Couples showing a healthy approach to the conflict are open with their disagreements and try to resolve their differences using effective communication skills. Couples at risk tend not to resolve their disagreements. As a result, conflict escalates, each spouse becoming increasingly defensive and blaming the other for their troubles. Many attempts to solve the conflict by ignoring it and hoping it will go away or using bullying or manipulative tactics which invariably devalues the other person. Either way, these methods are destructive to the health of the relationship.


     It has been said that ‘communication is to love whereas blood is to life. Few are naturally endowed with these communication skills, but they can be learned.
Openness. It is by sharing our true selves with others that we become known. Openness requires that one be brave enough to set the example by daring to say what one thinks and how one feels.
Honesty is not a license for dumping criticism and gloom or generally dominating a conversation. Honest sharing is not an excuse to hurt someone. Indeed, total honesty may not be appropriate at all times if the relationship will suffer irreparable damage.


     Studies on family strengths found that just as religion can be a major source of strength for individuals, so it can also be for couples and families. It is a well-known fact, consistently discovered in many studies that couples who actively share a similar faith, common values, and sense of purpose in life, report higher levels of marital happiness and are less likely to divorce. While belief in God is not a prerequisite to, nor an automatic guarantee of a happy and successful marriage, hard scientific research supports the assertion that a common faith is a binding force and source of strength resulting in a sustained and more fulfilling love relationship. A survey conducted concluded that 26000 men and women that ‘women with the strongest positive feelings about religion tend to have very good sex lives’. On the other hand, women who claimed to be anti-religious reported the highest rate of unsatisfactory sexual relationships.

     Besides making good common sense, it appears that in reality when couples share their whole and spiritual selves there is a force which unites them like nothing else.
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