Four Keys to a Successful Marriage

by Richard E. Dodge

Getting out of my boat one day proved more difficult - and embarrassing - than usual. My balance shifted, and I landed with a big splash in the water. Balance can make life a challenge when you lose it.

Balance in marriage is important. Although balance is significant in many areas - food choices, recreational activities, and so forth - balance is very important in the emotional atmosphere and exchanges of marriage. John Gottman, in "Why Marriages Succeed and Fail," says that marriages that succeed have five times as many positive occurrences as negative ones. If we want marriages to thrive, we've got to make affirmation and encouragement of spouses - and family members in general, for that matter - basic to how we relate to one another.

Positive exchanges are more than just words. Being positive takes many forms, from kind words to kind looks and kind actions. Consider these ways to create positive exchanges in your family.

Learn how you communicate.

Communication is more than words. While words constitute one part of communication, how we say them, what inflection and emphasis we place on certain words, and how we attach other nonverbal behaviors determine whether what we say can have a positive or negative impact.

Make time for one another.

Time is precious to most of us. Couples need to budget time as carefully as they do money. Set aside time to be together even if you do nothing more than take a walk around the block together each evening. If necessary, calendar personal time together so you can plan accordingly. What doesn't get on most calendars gets ignored.

Show you care.

Although men may find this hard, each person should plan ways to demonstrate your care for your spouse. Consider doing some of the household tasks for your wife, or mow the lawn for your husband. Buy your wife a gift certificate to have her hair done, or get him a gift card related to his favorite hobby.

Develop affirmation skills.

Make an effort daily to say at least one positive thing to or about your spouse. Have you offered a complement lately? Did you thank your spouse for some small, routine effort? Have you told him/her how much you appreciate your spouse's friendship? Find ways to let the other person know you care.

Balance is a precious element in marriage. You might be surprised just how much the atmosphere of your marriage can improve by building a significantly more positive atmosphere in your marriage. The kids will appreciate this as well.

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