What Strong Marriages are Made Of

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: Please give me some pointers on what is necessary for strong marriage.
Happy marriages are characterized by selflessness, rather than selfishness. It’s learning that you gain by giving. It’s thinking about the other person, instead of you. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an abundance of selflessness in our current age. A secret to happiness in marriage is that we are drawn to those who love openly and generously.
While it’s important that your needs are being met in your marriage, if your focus is on yourself, you will likely always come up short. Turn it around; see how many needs you can meet in your spouse. Below are a few basic characteristics that can be found in most strong marriages.
Relatively Good Communication 
Communication doesn’t have to be perfect, but communication is important if you are to have a strong marriage. You will find that the quality of your relationship is directly related to the quality of your communication skills. Become interested in the things in which your spouse is interested. Read topics which interest your spouse and ask questions. Don’t push, but ask sincere question related to areas that you know your spouse has an interest in. Someone once said that he found a person interesting because the person was interested.
It’s been said the women need love, but men need respect. Though there are definitely gender differences, I’m not sure men and women are that easily stereotyped. I don’t think you can go wrong, whether a man or a woman, by showing respect. Don’t correct your spouse in front of others, unless it is a situation where incorrect information would be detrimental. Don’t try to top the other person’s story or joke. Allow your spouse to star. Enjoy your spouse’s stardom along with him or her. Be proud of your spouse and make it known by the way you treat him or her.
Quality Time 
Even if your love language isn’t quality time, you and your spouse need quality time together. No matter how caught up you are in the hustle and bustle of life, you and your spouse need time alone together to keep the fire glowing. Before you were married, you found time to spend time. It’s very important that you keep finding time to spend.
Romance is one of the most fun but least continued activities in married relationships. There are so many distractions in our busy lives that it can be hard for many husbands and wives to find the time to be romantic. Think romantically. Drive down the road with a grin on you face as you prepare to present her with flowers or a box of chocolates. Surprise him by… (I’ll just leave it at that.) Let your imagination fill in the rest of that sentence.
Physical Affection
Physical affection is a part of the marriage relationship and should continue beyond the first child. Though I mentioned the importance communication above, in all honesty, most who are reading this did not get married to communicate. You looked forward to the physical affection. The need for physical affection is part of being human. If your spouse is repeatedly pushed away, a dreaded sense of rejection sets in. The rejected tends to either increase the pursuit, often leading to further rejection, or it results in withdrawal. Put forth effort to show some physical affection toward your spouse on a consistent basis.
Verbal Affirmation
Verbal affirmation is important in every marriage, particularly for those who speak the love language words of affirmation. You may think your spouse already knows that you think he or she is the most special person in the world, but your spouse wants to hear that from you again and again. Go ahead, brag on your spouse to another when in earshot of your spouse. Verbal affirmation lets your spouse know that her or she is the greatest treasure ever found.
Challenge yourself to rid yourself of selfishness as the means to achieve happiness in your marriage—not just for your sake, but also for the sake of your spouse who you so truly love.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].