Oct 23, 2007

The ABC's of a Happy Marriage

by Betsy Love

You’ve said, “I do”, those two little words that mark the beginning of the rest of your life. When a couple gets married they believe in happily ever after. Well, guess what? There is no such thing as happily ever after. 2 million divorces will be granted this year alone. One out of every two marriages ends in divorce. Surprisingly the biggest rise in the divorce rate has been among couples married ten years or longer. Not only do the husbands and wives suffer from such break ups, but their children pay the highest price. Children living without both parents struggle more in school, have a harder time adjusting socially and more apt to get divorced as adults.

So how can your marriage be the one in two that lasts?

I’ve been married for 30 years and believe me it has not been all wedding cake and champagne. Marriage takes work, hard work if it’s to succeed. I’ve read many books on the subject and practice the principles I’ve learned. The three most important things I’ve learned along the way can be summed up by what I call the ABC’s of a happy, healthy marriage.

A is for Attention.

B is for Bonding.

C is for Communication

Those three little letters are all you need to succeed.

The first is Attention.

By attention I mean that the most fulfilling marriages seem to be those where the couples are truly interested in each other, and yet they set each other free to grow and mature, to take on new challenges which may not include the other. That freedom does not include flirting with anyone outside the marriage bond. Loyalty needs to be foremost in the attention that you give your marriage.

Another form of attention is to be sure and compliment each other daily. Whose opinions do you respect the most. It is and should be from the people you love the most. A middle-age woman said, “Somebody needs to keep my husband humble. He gets so much attention from others I have to knock him down a peg or two.” How sad for this couple. Every husband and wife needs to be built up; especially by the people you love the most.

I remember one time at a family reunion when my aunt went on and on about my uncle’s faults. He had failed to clean the freezer and something spoiled. Not only did she regale us with his inadequacy to complete the task, but she continued into other of his negative attributes. I watched my beloved uncle squirm in his chair and wished that she would just stop talking! My husband leaned over and said, “Thanks.” I knew he meant that I would never belittle him in public.

It’s important to your marriage to pay attention to what you say about your spouse. Of course he or she has horrible habits and horrible faults. We all do. The challenge is helping your mate to reach his or her potential. How can belittling him help? How can insulting her be beneficial?

Attention also means, paying attention to each other. Don’t sit in front of the T.V. or computer or newspaper, or whatever distraction you enjoy. Honestly listen to each other. As we’ve learned, hearing and listening are two different things. How many of you have heard countless stories of misunderstandings that ended in break-ups? Most of these could have been avoided if they had listened to each other and tried to understand.

Keep dating! I live for those Friday or Saturday night dates. It’s a time to renew our friendship doing things we both enjoy.

Which brings me to B. Bonding.

Just like a bricklayer must use cement to hold a wall together, there are some important elements in bonding that hold the marriage together. Bonding is the most essential element in marriage. It’s the touches, hugs, the kisses, the quiet talks and those most intimate moments shared by a husband and wife that bond them together. We all know that men and women are different and in a marriage relationship men and women’s needs are different. In his book His Needs Her Needs Willard F. Harley Jr. says there a husband and wife each has 5 basic needs. Fulfilling each of these needs is the cement that will hold your marriage through the tough times.

Number one for the wife is Affection. A woman cannot live in a marriage without affection.

Number one for a man is sexual fulfillment.

Because these needs are similar men and women often confuse them. If men will understand that sometimes all his wife wants is to be held and cherish and loved then his wife will give of herself more freely. By the same token, if a man is sexually fulfilled he will be more likely to give his wife the affection she craves.

Number 2 for a woman is conversation. The man who talks to his wife will have an inside track to her heart.

Number 2 for a man is to have recreational companionship

The third need for a woman is openness and honest

The third for a man is an attractive spouse. Now that doesn’t mean you have to look like a Hefner bunny all the time, but that does mean that he wants his wife to look nice. Don’t dress like a bag lady, and don’t let yourself go after you say I do.

Forth she needs financial support

His forth need is domestic support.

Her final need is family commitment.

His final need is to be admired.

Finally we come to C—communication.

Without communication it would be difficult to pay attention or to bond. When you communicate honestly with your mate you enhance the attention and bonding. Talk to each other. Don’t just hear the words but really listen to the meaning behind the words. Never resort to the silent treatment. What is marriage if it is not sharing and helping each other through crises? Keep the door to your heart open. Use pillow talk. It’s the best time of the day. Above all else, never go to bed angry. Work it out, even if it takes all night. Don’t one of you ever sleep on the couch! (unless the kids crowd you out.) One trick that my husband and I do is when we start to argue about silly things we each have three days a week that we are allowed to always be right. I get Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. He gets Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. We don’t argue on Sunday, it’s a rule! Contrary to a popular song of the 70’s , “Love does mean you have to say, “I’m sorry.” It also means you have to say, “I forgive you.”

Long after the cake is eaten and champagne has gone flat you will want to make sure that you stay in love and stay married.

If you will honestly commit to following the ABC’s of marriage. Attention, Bonding and Communication your marriage will last. Your children will be better adjusted citizens and your life will be enriched. Someone once said, The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.


  1. Dear Betsy - this is a wonderful essay filled with great advice. In fact, I've forwarded it to my children and husband as something to talk about and learn from. You've nailed it! Rene

  2. Great essay, Betsy. I wish more people would read it and heed what it teaches.
    When I attended my class reunion recently, I only found 2 other couples that were still married to their first and only spouse. One guy even joked about being married 30 years, too, but to 3 different women. sigh..I couldn't believe everyone thought that was funny. I hope there are many others enjoying success in their marriages and were just too busy to attend the reunion. But I'm not holding my breath on that one.

  3. GREAT posting, Betsy. Super informative. I'm going to print it and file it for reference. Well said!

  4. Good article which says clearly how to keep you lovable spouse always beloved. Read another article in matrimonyxpress.com

  5. On October 25, 2007 at 7:55 AM, Anna Arnett said:

    Thanks for the post. I especially liked the five needs for men compared with the five for women. We really are different. Isn't it wonderful? Being aware of needs and paying attention to each other is essential to any kind of relationship, but is it work?? If men of the stature of Spencer W. Kimball says it is, it must be. I'll have to think about that.

    Comment moved from a second copy of this blog essay.


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