Happiness Tools for Couples Happiness — 03 February 2014
Blueprint for a pleasing Marriage

The question of what is required to live together “happily ever after” has intrigued mankind for centuries. Philosophers, writers, scientists and researchers in various specialties have delved into the mystery of blissful unions. Does a formula for a successful and satisfying long-term relationship actually exist?

Since human behavior is a complicated combination of a variety of influences such as innate programming, character traits, psychological health, family modeling, past experiences and more, the chance of partners being of the same mind on most issues is low.

Society’s definition of the roles and interactions between men and women are forever evolving, as does the blueprint for a good marriage. For example, the “ideal marriage” of the 1950’s would probably be disagreeable to most couples today.

Since the multifactorial determinants for a happy marriage are forever changing, are there any universal elements that hold fast despite the ongoing modifications?

Sociologist Pepper Schwartz of the University of Washington who studied couples in various continents found that European pairs identified “passionate lover” as the essential element needed for a good relationship, while Americans chose “’best friend” as the major ingredient which included equality and mutual respect.

Dr. Schwartz found that today’s couples create a more egalitarian partnership in which each individual is self-sufficient and chooses to share his/her life with the other.

Yet, in spite of cultural and relational changes, there are some behaviors that withstand the tide of interpersonal expectations. Dr. Schwarz highlights that respect or equal dignity are the cornerstones of effective and satisfying relationships. “Respect means that someone takes my humanity into consideration and sees me as worthy in my own right within a positive and collaborative relationship. I’m understood as a human being occupying the same kind of space in the world as you.”

Respect equalizes the standing of each partner as a worthy and accepted human being who is entitled to his/her thoughts, feelings and actions without the attribution of malice or inadequacy. It may be regarded as the core element of true love which includes: acceptance, caring and reverence for the other without judgment or assignment of ill-intent or deficit.

Adding kindness and compassion to your attitude of respect will enable your mate to openly express his/her needs and become equally, compassionately available to yours. No agreement or matching emotion is required of the listening partner–only a sincere openness to understand the plight, joy or stance of the other.

Couples who can feel and exhibit respect, kindness and compassion for each other are highly unlikely to have fights or engender ill feelings. They can feel free to open-heartedly express themselves knowing full well that they will have their turn –not for a rebuttal – but for the presentation of their own well-received perspective.

Make your good marriage last:

  • Treat your mate with respect, compassion and kindness even when your needs, wishes or opinions diverge.
  • Create a culture of respectful attention. It will grace both of you with security and happiness for life.




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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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