Recipe for a Happy Marriage *

David A. Gershaw, Ph.D.

Like any recipe, the ingredients for a happy, successful marriage can vary, depending on which pair of cooks you consult. However, they always include "mutual commitment, concern, love and respect."

Possibly the best people to give advice for a successful marriage are those who deal with marital problems all the time therapists. Unfortunately, the therapists note that couples put off seeking outside help. Often the couples think marital problems are too private to be shared with an outside person. Couples fail to realize that because therapists don't have a personal stake in the outcomes they can look at the problems more objectively. Frequently couples don't seek out a therapist, until one person has finally decided to end the relationship.

Therapists emphasize dealing with isolated problems as they occur rather than leaving them to pile up to the point where the relationship seems to be hopelessly doomed. They make the following recommendations:

One therapist came to the following conclusion.

"Complaints by themselves don't mean that a marriage is unhappy. It is when those complaints keep the couple from being positive and supportive of each other that the marriage is in trouble."

Some people relate that "all we ever seem to do is argue." However if we have differences we spend a great deal of time and effort dealing with those differences. In contrast if partners agree on something there is no need to discuss it, and the matter is dropped. To rekindle the awareness of the positive aspects of your relationship, it helps to discuss again why you developed it in the first place.

"Long, happy marriages take work, work, work."

* Adapted from Jane Brody's "Personal Health," The New York Times, July 29, 1992, Reprinted in Themes of the Times, Prentice Hall, 1993, page 3.

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