Happy CoupleMarriage

Of all relationship types, marriage is one of the most common, and has been the type most intensively studied.  In an age of rampant divorce, infidelity, pornography addiction, and abuse, many fear to take on the responsibilities associated with marriage.

But careful scientific study has revealed the principles for making marriage work - if they are carefully and consistently applied.  This section focuses on principles and practices that can help build a strong, happy, resilient marriage.

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Focused CoupleIt seems almost magical when we first fall in love. Suddenly, we no longer feel alone in the world.  We feel we have found "that special someone" who completes our sentences, meets our needs, and makes us deliriously happy.  Suddenly all those movies and fairy tales about a couple living "happily ever after" no longer just seem like a distant childish fantasy.  We are living the dream!  And we entirely expect that easy, automatic ecstasy we experience with one another to last forever.

During that magical time, other relationships, projects, and responsibilities often fall by the wayside.  We may neglect our friends and family members.  It becomes hard to study, hard to work, hard to do anything except enjoy unhurried time with our beloved.  We feel exquisite pain - even physical pain at times - when we have to be separated for a while.  It's agonizing to say goodnight; or to say goodbye if one of us needs to leave on a trip or spend some time away.   We are so naturally focused on one another during this time, that it can be very challenging to tear ourselves away from one another to attend to other things.  We suffer deeply when we are apart.  When we are reunited again, we feel renewed and full of joy.

This is a time when neither of us has to tell the other what to do to make us feel loved.  Somehow, we just know.  We feel driven to do kind things for our each other - buy a special gift; scrawl out impassioned words on a special card; extend a special kindness; perform a special service.   We hold each other close, look into each other's eyes, tell each other how grateful we are for that sweet love that has so transformed us.   If we watch TV during this time, we watch it together, still focused primarily on the experience of being together - cuddling, talking, laughing, enjoying our relaxed time in each other's company.

What happens, after a few months or a few years?  Nearly all couples experience a waning of the initial intensity and excitement that brought them together in the beginning.   Feelings diminish, or disappear completely.  We may still love each other dearly, but we may perhaps no longer feel "in love."  When offenses occur - as they seem to, more and more often - we have a harder and hard time forgiving and moving on. We may remain committed to one another, because of the kids, or because of our religious commitments, or because divorce is just too expensive.  But the fire of connection we started with, all too often, goes out, leaving us both in the dark and the cold of missing what we once had. 

If you have ever experienced this distressing turn of events with your beloved, take heart!  You are not alone; and this dreary disconnecteness does not have to be the ultimate destination of your relationship.

 
icon-pdf-(All in PDF format)

1) The 4 T's: How Relationships Change Over Time.  A 3-stage grid identifying the essential progression of a relationship, through its development, erosion, and repair. 

2) Sharing Responsibilities: How to Manage the BBet's.  Helps identify all the Bbet's (the "boring but essential tasks) in a marriage, and to distribute this in a fair and manageable way. 

3) Your Relationship Toolkit: 12 Strategies to Improve Your Connection.  A grid comparing what strengthen a relationship, versus what weakens it, to faciliate positive planning and selection of tools. 

4) Marital Satisfaction Scale.  A checklist allowing couples to identify the current strengths and weaknesses of their marital relationship.

These are our favorite books on marriage.

  1. Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, by Dr. Sue Johnson EdD
  2. The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships, by John Gottman
  3. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, by Gary Chapman
  4. 12 Hours to a Great Marriage: A Step-by-Step Guide for Making Love Last, by Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley, Natalie H. Jenkins, Susan L. Blumberg, Carol Whiteley 
  5. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert, by John Gottman, PH.D
  6. Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love, by Linda Carroll
  7. Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, by Harville Hendrix
  8. I Almost Divorced My Husband, But I Went On Strike Instead, by Sherri Hills
  9. And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment, by Laura M. Brotherson
  10. Sexual Wholeness in Marriage: An LDS Perspective on Integrating Sexuality and Spirituality in our Marriages, by Dean M. Busby, PhD
  11. Knowing HER Intimately: 12 Keys for Creating a Sextraordinary Marriage, by Laura M Brotherson

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For more books on additional topics, please visit our Best Books Catalog.

Cascades(For a printable PDF of this article, click here.)

Based on the research and writing of John Gottman, PhD.  

Gottman and his research associates studied hundreds of marriages for several decades.  After careful observation, they determined a clear, consistent pattern by which many marriages – even once happy ones – tend to fall apart.  They then make important recommendations on how to avoid or heal  these dynamics in your own marriage.

It is important to understand and identify the forces that can erode a marriage, to give you the option of replacing these destructive dynamics with better options.  The "first cascade" occurs interpersonally, between husband and wife.  The "second cascade," which is even more dangerous, occurs intrapersonally, privately, within the minds of one or both spouses.   Recognizing these destructive dynamics is the first step in turning them around, to preserve and protect your marriage. 

Logo LDSThroughout its history, the LDS church has taught the sanctity and importance of marriage, as the foundation of family life, and as an essential building block in communities and civilizations.     Almost from their infancy, LDS children are taught to prepare for a temple marriage, and to look forward to their future role as a husband or wife.  Certainly, however, LDS marriages are not immune to difficulties or heartbreaks.   Whle there are many insightful articles to choose from, these have been some of our favorites, on the topic of honoring and strengthening marriage.

Favorite Articles: 

Salt Lake Temple

First Presidency and Quorum of the TwelveThe Family: A Proclamation to the World   (Introduced Sept. 23, 1995.  The central, guiding LDS  pronouncement regarding marriage and the family, teaching principles for establishing and maintaining harmonious relationships within families.)

Jeffrey R Holland

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments,” delivered at BYU on 12 January 1988 in the  Marriott Center.  (The best LDS talk ever given on sexual intimacy in marriage, and what it is intended by the Creator to represent.)

Joe J Christensen

Joe J. Christensen, “Marriage and the Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, May 1995, 64 (8 keys to build and maintain a successful marriage, including :  "Avoid 'ceaseless pinpricking.' Don’t be too critical of each other’s faults. Recognize that none of us is perfect... 'Ceaseless pinpricking' (as President Kimball called it), can deflate almost any marriage.")

David A Bednar

David A. Bednar,  Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan" Worldwide Leadership Training, Feb. 2006 (The central role of the family; Fortifying marriage against Satan's attacks;  The importance of spouses spending time together; complementarity of male and female contributions to a successful family.)

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