From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Last month, I began describing the results of my recent study of marital satisfaction
in 200 first-time marriages. This research revealed three key characteristics of
satisfying marriages. Marriages must be sufficiently loving; they must be
sufficiently loyal; and spouses must be satisfied in the areas of parenting and
religion. In this column, we will look at one of these components --- loving
Both husbands and wives indicated that romance is
an important part of their marital satisfaction. Romantic relationships tend to be those
in which couples communicate well and behave affectionately. While romance tends to come
most naturally during the courtship period, marital satisfaction is associated with
long-term romantic habits. Couples who wish to increase their level of marital
satisfaction can begin by softening their communication and increasing the number of
caring, thoughtful behaviors that they contribute to the relationship.
Loving marriages are forgiving. Human beings are not perfect. While spouses tend to
marry the "perfect person", few of us retain our halos for very long.
Forgiveness is an important part of problem solving in marriages. As couples work through
the various misunderstandings that arise in marriage, they hopefully learn from their
mistakes and grow closer through the process. It takes hard work to be successful in a
relationship, and times of conflict are opportunities for growth as a couple. However,
when there is the lack of forgiveness, the relationship enters into a state of decay.
Problems are not forgotten; so when conflicts have not been resolved sufficiently to
achieve forgiveness, it is extremely difficult to be loving.
Loving spouses are respectful of each other. Since each person has his or her own
definition of respect, it is necessary for spouses to learn how to show respect for each
other. Respect is a quality which we learn about early in life. As children, we are
instructed on how to behave respectfully toward others in school, in our community, and in
our families. As adults, however, we are on our own. We can choose to be respectful of
others, especially our mates, or we can behave respectfully only when required. The bottom
line is that mutual respect makes the relationship more satisfying.
Loving spouses are sensitive and supportive. In general, we are all extremely
sensitive and we get our feelings hurt quite easily, especially by our mates. As such, it
is essential that spouses learn how to be sensitive and supportive of one another. In
supportive relationships, spouses would be more likely solve problems through teamwork
with an attitude of "you and me against the world". In non-supportive
relationships, spouses would be more likely to solve problems through criticism, with an
attitude of "you and me against each other".
- Loving marriages remain romantic.
This study also showed that while loving relationships are important to marital
satisfaction, satisfaction with love is not enough! Relationships must be sufficiently
loving, and they must be sufficiently loyal. Without loyalty, even the most loving
couple cannot achieve marital satisfaction.
The research described here was conducted as part of my dissertation, "The
relationship between marital characteristics, marital interaction processes, and marital
satisfaction". I am grateful to Dr. Jane E. Myers and other faculty members at the
University of North Carolina at Greensboro for their guidance, support and encouragement
on this project.
ęCopyright, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated February 27, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon,