What Your Marriage Needs to Survive

Even stellar relationships lose their spark over time. Here are the ingredients of a lasting, fruitful partnership, and techniques for weathering the stormy periods.

Joy, passion, great sex: when a couple heads into marriage, this is what they have in mind. Of course they want their relationship to last—but without losing a shred of that initial high from when they first met, began courting, and fell in love. But people change. Relationships change. Some couples’ bonds deepen and relationships flourish over time; other partnerships don’t fare as well. When our relationships lose intimacy—as many of us fear they will—is the love lost forever or just temporarily misplaced?

As a marriage and family therapist in practice for 40 years (and married for nearly 35), one thing I’ve learned is that even stellar relationships lose their spark over time. I help people understand how to weatherproof their relationships for the long run.

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Research shows that modern couples are looking for a partnership that’s “interesting.” They want partners who enhance their lives and with whom they can grow over time. Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. at Monmouth University in New Jersey talks about “self-expansion”: how people learn about themselves from their relationships. His research demonstrates that as self-expansion increases, so do commitment and relationship satisfaction. In expansive partnerships, he argues, couples don’t lose themselves in the marriage—they grow in it. Behaviors and character traits that had previously not been a part of their identity become essential to how they experience life.

UCLA’s Family Studies Center researched 1,500 couples who had been together for five or more years and who acknowledged having a strong, close, deeply committed bond. The couples revealed six common characteristics:

  1. There was a physical attraction between them.
  2. They were in the relationship out of clear choice rather than out of obligation or fear of being alone.
  3. They shared fundamental values, beliefs, interests, and goals.
  4. They were able to express anger clearly and directly and they resolved differences through communication and compromise.
  5. They experienced laughter, fun, pleasure, and play with each other.
  6. They were able to express support for each other and support each other’s activities, interests, and careers.

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In relationships with potential for durable longevity, each individual is willing to make the relationship a priority, giving it time, energy, and sustenance. As couples age together, the traits inherent in true friendship and close companionship take on greater significance. The partners constantly re-choose each other and feed positive energy to the relationship. They have each other’s back. They look out for each other.

In healthy relationships, both partners feel appreciated. He knows she respects and admires him; she feels nurtured and desired by him. Men tell me that their partner’s sweetness helps them to keep their hearts open. Women tell me that a man’s self-confidence is sexy. Conversely, men fear and resent it when their partners lose the sweetness and become brittle, bitter, and “bitchy.” Women fear and resent it when their partners become disengaged and either passive or controlling.

For a woman to remain vulnerable and open to her partner, and to exude that attractive energy so that a man stays turned on, she needs to feel secure and special. If she gets any messages that she’s not the number-one person in his life, she will start to close up, and then after a while the mutual attraction will wane. Understanding is the bridge to compassion, and compassion can be the spark that reignites the passion.

For a man to remain available to his partner and to emit that attractive energy so that she stays turned on, he needs to feel honored. A man’s sense of self is to a large degree determined by his feeling productive and useful. A man’s character counts tremendously. Integrity is central to his feeling like the good man his partner needs and deserves.

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Generally speaking, the truth works—so tell it as currently, clearly, completely, and compassionately as possible.

Many marriages end in divorce because one or both partners can no longer communicate honestly. When there are too many withheld feelings and thoughts, the life of the relationship gets snuffed out. The personal safety that one feels in the presence of the other is key to promoting open and vulnerable communication. True intimacy is determined by the degree to which partners can communicate safely and vulnerably.

Candid communication can be very invigorating, leading to mutual respect and appreciation, rekindled passion, and dynamic sex. His communication might be: “Honey, I know we’ve both been working long hours and have been quite tired lately. I want you to know how much the kids and I appreciate all your efforts on our behalf. I also want you to know that I’m missing the intimate time that we used to have just for us. I’d like to find a way to put it back into our relationship.” Her response might be: “Do you think we can come home for lunch one day during the week?” And then, “How about a ‘nooner’ this Friday?”

Loving communication creates arousal, passion, and intimacy. Maintaining a sense of humor can go a long way toward easing tension and smoothing ruffled edges. Remember the importance of courting each other throughout the full length of the relationship. Avoid taking each other for granted. Recall how it felt when you were first discovering each other and were falling deeply and madly in love—it’s possible to fall all over again.

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Stephen J. Johnson, Ph.D., MFT, has a psychotherapy practice in Beverly Hills and Woodland Hills, California and is the Founder and Director of The Men’s Center of Los Angeles (since 1988). He is completing a book titled: Man Up! What it takes to be a Good Man Today.

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More From Our Special Marriage Section:

When Tom For­ris­ter tran­si­tioned from female to male, his same-sex mar­riage became a federally-recognized, “tra­di­tional” mar­riage. The one con­stant was the bond he shared with his wife: My Exem­plary, Every­day Marriage

Guys may think leav­ing is the right thing to do for the sake of the fam­ily, but accord­ing to fam­ily lawyer David Pis­arra, there are a few things they should know before—and after—they walk out that door: A Guy’s Divorce Sur­vival Guide

The night­mare of fam­ily court is enough to deter a guy from even think­ing about tying the knot. Marriage: Just Don’t

For all the sto­ries writ­ten by and for women on this issue—and there are few—men are more likely to be absent from the pub­lic dia­logue about inten­tional child­less­ness. Why aren’t men’s sto­ries also being heard? Two Is Enough

If you’re mar­ried and using Inter­net porn reg­u­larly, your sex life—the one with your wife—is prob­a­bly a lot less sat­is­fy­ing than it could be: How Porn Can Ruin Your Sex Life—and Your Marriage

Men are more promis­cu­ous than women, but that doesn’t mean we should buy the cul­tural fal­lacy that men are pro­grammed to cheat; the vast major­ity of men are hap­pily, nat­u­rally monog­a­mous: Are Men Natural-Born Cheaters?

As Gabi Coatsworth’s son’s bipolar disorder gave way to full-blown manic episodes, she watched her husband slip deeper into drink and detachment: Reading Between the Silences

Tom Mat­lack talks to mar­ried men to find out when they knew their wife was “the one”: She’s the One

Monogamy sounds like “monot­ony,” but it doesn’t have to be monot­o­nous. Hugo Schwyzer explores how we can have the security—and the novelty—we desire in our rela­tion­ships: Red-Hot Monogamy

—Photo by Lynch/Flickr

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Comments

  1. Dr. Stephen Johnson is correct. Thank you Stephen, The Men’s Center of Los Angles and the The Good Men Project for yet another insightful look into the male psyche and relationships.

  2. This is a very good article. However I would suggest that the gender stereotypes presented are not restrictive and can apply to both genders:

    For a *person* to remain vulnerable and open to her partner, and to exude that attractive energy so that *their partner* stays turned on, *he/she* needs to feel secure and special. If *he/she* gets any messages that *he/she’s* not the number-one person in *his/her* life, *he/she* will start to close up, and then after a while the mutual attraction will wane. Understanding is the bridge to compassion, and compassion can be the spark that reignites the passion.

    For a *man/woman* to remain available to his partner and to emit that attractive energy so that *he/she* stays turned on, *he/she* needs to feel honored. A *man’s/woman’s* sense of self is to a large degree determined by his feeling productive and useful. A *man’s/woman’s* character counts tremendously. Integrity is central to *his/her* feeling like the good *man/woman* *his/her* partner needs and deserves

    • Denis, thank you for pointing this out. I quit reading the article right at the point where your criticism begins. I didn’t realize why I’d been turned off; now I realize that I despise being identified by my gender as requiring vulnerability.

      You are quite right; men require vulnerability and security just as much as women. I have seen that first hand, both in the detriment of its absence and the benefit of its presence.

      I will go back and finish reading now, adding your edits as I go!

    • Thank you! The gender binary pronouns used in this article are awful. I could barely read it.

      • Gender binary pronouns are the reasons you could barely read this article? Men and women (in general) are two different types of people with (generally) different needs. For as much as some people want men and women to be completely equal in everything, in general they’re just not. Men are fitted and better equipped for certain things that women aren’t, and vice versa. The fact that men and women are different is something that attracts them to one another (Oh, you have a penis. I don’t. How nice).

        Equal rights, equal pay, equal respect. That’s all great and should rightly be upheld. But the mental and physical traits of women and men are (generally) different from one another.

        This isn’t an exhaustive list of what men and women want from each other. It’s a general view of things. The world’s to big to categorize and diagnose each precious snowflake out there, and looking to the world to expect such from it is a fallacy.

        • I could barely read this article because people do not fit into neat little gender binaries. Using inclusive language is a general view of things; expecting all relationships to be gender normative is the fallacy.

          The gender binary is the classification of sex and gender into two distinct and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. What about those who are gay, trans, genderqueer? The gender binary does not account for any deviation.

          So yes, I could barely read an article that puts my sex into a neat little box as requiring security and giving vulnerability to her male heterosexual husband. The difference between myself and my husband as human beings is much greater than the difference between our biological sex. And the reason I married him, the reason I respect him, is because he sees me as a human being and as an equal partner, not as a feminine match to his masculine.

        • As other responders have mentioned, humans do not come in two neatly packaged groups – male, with male traits, and female- with female traits. First off, we have much more in common than not – namely males and females are all vulnerable, need nurturing, need to feel honored, to feel appreciated, to be productive, etc. Those things do not need to be divvied up between the sexes. I would have so much more enjoyed this piece if it didn’t include worn out stereotypes. Is it so hard to just think of men and women as human? Sure there are differences but they are not across the board and most laypersons are not knowledgeable enough to discuss neurological differences. Instead, people who don’t know better, like this author, end up generalizing far too much. Its a turn off and erodes their credibility!

    • Katharine says:

      Thank you, Denis, for making this important point. I certainly hope to be respected and admired by my partner as much as desired by him.

      • Thank you Denis, Kitti and Katherine, your comments regarding that men and women want basically the same from each other are well taken and I agree for the most part. Some of the specifics that I mentioned are what and how I have heard it personally expressed by men and women when they’re being candid about their most immediate and personal needs.

  3. Jamie Branker says:

    Great article Dr. Johnson. I am a 57 year old woman, married for 35 years and there have been many ups and downs along the way. We never separated or divorced, but we ended phases of our marriage and created new ones, at least a couple of times. We have gradually and more deeply learned what each other needs. And we have relearned it again and again. I think you are right on. And we have come to accept and appreciate the differences between men and women. Yes, at a certain basic human level, we all want the same things. But at an equally deep level, I’m more appreciative of the polarity. That’s where the real intimacy, spirituality and electricity is. I also think we’re experiencing big gaps between the multiple generations alive today. I hear a younger generation in the other posts. I’d love to have conversations about this between the generations!

  4. femme joyeuse says:

    I loved this article! It describes my marriage perfectly. Too many “yes!” moments to list them all, but I’ll mention the part abour learning about oneself. That’s so true – it’s a process of growth and source of surprising insights, too. Just being seen through the eyes of the person one loves, and who loves one back, is extraordinary. And for all the comfort, familiarity and intimacy, that sense of novelty and surprise hasn’t gone away yet. Thirty years, it’s been, since we fell for each other.

  5. The dramatic photo at the beginning of the article demonstrates how one viewpoint of the relationship could be “turbulent” while another viewpoint could be “electrifying”. I think that Dr. Johnson’s descriptions and examples are very clear as well as being easy to understand and identify with. He demonstrates that in order for a relationship to “work”, there needs to be degrees of independence, togetherness and most importantly the necessity of humor, trust and understanding for each other. Having been in and maintained a long term marriage, I know the importance of communication and being willing and able to “listen” to what my spouse (as well as myself) needs to say. It’s not necessarily about who is right or wrong, it’s more about moving thru the issue(s) with resolve and getting back to the place of understanding and love.

  6. Leeann K. says:

    Mutual respect, compromise & negotiation.
    Communication & good attitude.
    Humor & kindness.
    These characterics are benificial to creating a safe
    & Loving relationship.
    Thank you, Dr. J. For nurturing these traits in support
    of a long term loving & caring relationship.

  7. I have been a close associate of Stephen’s for many years and am keenly aware of his great insights into relationship dynamics The qualities he describes in the article are portals into Conscious Relationships and the opportunity to utilize marriage and committed relationships as an integral part of one’s Mindfulness Practice. I’m pleased to see a synergy between the Men’s Center and The Good Men Project. Keep up the good and important work. Dan

  8. Rich Manners says:

    Whether or not some readers fault the expression of gender roles in this article (he/she, him/her, etc.), it is important to realize that the content has strong validity. The six points mentioned by the author that are common to a successful marriage are the same whether the couple is heterosexual or homosexual. Furthermore, the expression of truths couched in respectful terms that are of positive service to both members of the relationship is of paramount importance, and the treatment of the bond as an entity that must be nourished and cherished cannot be underemphasized.

    In my marriage of 25 years, I have found that the element of friendship supersedes the others as time passes. When my wife and I feel that one of the basic elements of the interconnection is in short supply, we give more of that quality to the other instead of complaining about the scarcity. We find that whatever we give to the relationship is returned to us, be it love and respect or hate and indifference.

    Dr. Johnson also speaks of self-expansion. If each member of a relationship allows the other total freedom to realize him/herself, their connection will benefit abundantly. Yes, there is a danger that the individuals may grow apart, but stifling one’s partner’s ability to grow out of fear that he/she will leave will surely choke the life out of the relationship.

    There are a myriad of helpful points in this article that would benefit the reader who is looking for practical and time-tested techniques for keeping a marriage alive and healthy.

    Rich Manners

  9. An excellent, thought provoking and practical article that really gave me things to think about in my own marriage.

    • Thanks so much for the wonderful thoughts in your article! I have been with my husband for almost 5 years now, and we have gone through difficult times and have worked through a great deal. We have learned to work together in many ways and it is team work. Adding fun and humor is critical.
      Marriages are a work in progress as we all are, and if you want a good marriage, you have to work on your self and be the best you can be, and give your best self to your partner. Integrity is key. Being faithful is extremely important. Honoring your vows. A deal is a deal. Thanks again for the thought provoking article! Good thinking!

  10. Dr, Johnson, thanks for that article. Sage advice…Very informative. Certainly a great deal of it resonates with my own experience. I remember when I was in college, young and naive I was threatened by my girlfriend’s growth and change. Today, now that I’m older and a bit more evolved, after 12 years of marriage I invite change and love supporting my wife with her growth and wins; just as she does with mine. Perhaps the tricky area has been keeping the intimacy intact and more regular. Admittedly…we get lazy and complacent. Additionally, the economy has me feeling a bit less of the rock. I try and make up for it by being helpful, grateful and I spend a great deal of my time teaching our daughter as much as possible. After all, the economy won’t be bad forever. But the camaraderie we share as one is quite special. We both know we have areas to tweak.

  11. There’s a lot to like and admire about the article. I appreciate Denis’ detail and Stephen & Dan’s clarifications. Taken as a whole, the article’s content is enhanced by the discussion.

    The thing that concerns me is when one is in a marriage that becomes, or has become, one sided. When two of those 6 characteristics are not there or are a little “off”. Then what? when conventional or traditional gender roles are not applicable to a couple’s lives and livelihoods, how does one renavigate or renegotiate these moments for regeneration? What happens when only one wants to participate in that renegotiation?

    Is the split/divorce then inevitable? How does a guy know where he is when he has to play twenty questions, there’s little or no reciprocity, or at least none he can recognize? How does he leave when he still deeply desires to be with her? How does he know if that’s coming from an honorable place or a problem in himself that he needs to correct so he can see the relationship more objectively?

    • CP, You’ve asked some very good questions. I’ll address them in order: First, 4 out of 6 of the characteristics of a good relationship is better than 50% so you’re on the winning side. Strive to work on adding the other 2 and strengthen the other 4. It’s my experience that there are many modern couples that are experimenting with non-traditional gender roles. They just need to seek agreement, alignment and balance within the paradigm that they’re utilizing as the foundation and structure of their relationship or family. It takes two to tango or tangle for that matter. When one partner is resistant to the process of renegotiation there may be a stalemate or there may arise an opportunity for the non-resistant partner to learn more about what is underlying the resistance so that the energy gets unblocked and can start flowing. I believe that the one thing worse than divorce is being stuck in a bad marriage but many couples that split were not in irreparable relationships but rather dysfunctional ones needing repair. I suggest that couples that find themselves in duress and not able to get through it on their own seek professional help. Sitting with a competent therapist who can evaluate the issues will determine whether the relationship needs the primary attention or one of the partners requires the more immediate focus. A relationship is essentially the sum of its parts and it may be that one of the parts needs the work. Thanks for a thought provoking comment.

  12. thank you dr johnson, for this excellent article.
    it makes a lot of sense and resonates for me.

  13. This is an incredibly insightful article that holds so true for anyone in a marriage or for anyone who is contemplating marriage. it is candid and sends a powerful message of what a lasting marriage is all about. It really strikes home! Thank you for your insight and inspiration!

  14. m d green says:

    Dr. J’s article is a well crafted description of what a good and lasting relationship requires.
    Those who object to the ‘different’ need of the sexes have feeling that are the exception rather than than the rule, and his definitions are primarily ‘on the beam’.

  15. It is good to see such a well crafted summary of six very key characteristics of a fulfilling and potentially long term relationship. I think Dr J’s observations are spot on and have at least given me an opportunity to reflect on what I can do improve my relationship w my wife of 14 years. It has indeed been rocky at times, but communication is the key. Without it there is no safety, no vulnerability and no intimacy. Thanks for the guidance!

  16. Stephanie Cozart Burton says:

    HO

  17. Clayton Norcross says:

    Dr Johnsons article hit it right on the head for me. Honest communication is foundational. I know that when I go into some form of fear and feel like I have to suppress my truth in a relationship I am in for big trouble and dwindling satisfaction. I have often come from the afraid to be alone school of why I enter into a relationship, and this is a recipe for staying in a relationship for he right reasons and with a chance to go really deep into learning and joyful surrender to open and be ones authentic self. I agree with comments I read above that the cross gender application is valid for both sexes. I am finding that I need to feel like I am the number one atttraction and productive/successful to be fully present as much as my girlfriend does.

  18. Daniel Stanton says:

    Dr. Johnson’s article hit home a couple of fronts. My wife Hannah and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary on Monday. This in itself is a wonderful milestone, however, the thing that really makes this special for me is that Hannah is twenty years older than me. I was 29 and she was 49 when first started dating and for what ever reason we found ourselves as life long partners, even after a relatively shore period of time. I can tell you that there have been many challenges with family pressure and generation differences along the way that made our marriage challenging. We’ve been through many counseling sessions, couple’s retreats, and I have also worked on my own male issues over the years. Doing this work along with good communication, compromise and compassion that Dr. Johnson talks about in his article have enabled us to have 25 wonderful years together. As I reflect today where we are in our relationship, I can honestly state that we are happier today and have more joy and intimacy that what we had during our first year together. For us the key was finding the middle ground through mutual effort and wanting to keep the spark alive in our relationship. Thanks Dr. Johnson for sharing your experience and insight to relationships. Daniel…

    • Dan, at the beginning of your relationship with Hannah she had read a book by author John Lee about men. In the back of the book he had listed my name and the Men’s Center of Los Angeles. I vividly remember her call to me over 20 years ago indicating that she had married a really good man and that there was a 20-year age difference between the two of you. I thought that was quite remarkable. She felt that it would be helpful for you to be involved in a community of men that could support you and your relationship with her, ergo her call to me. At the time I thought that that was a very tangible sign of her love for you and her faith that your being in the company of good men could be helpful for your relationship with her. Many women would have been concerned about the reactions of men regarding a 20-year age difference in which the wife is the older partner. It’s become more common for many men, in post midlife, to choose a mate that is 10-20 years his junior. Over the years that I have been privileged to follow your relationship with Hannah and to witness how you have engaged with the men in your life it has been evident that your commitment and love for Hannah as well as your brotherhood has helped you to maintain the balance between your individual needs and those of your primary relationship and family. I have been a student of how you have made your relationship central to your life and have grown into the good man that you have become.

      • Daniel Stanton says:

        Dr J. thank you for your support and for recognizing our work over the years. It is very much appreciated. We had a wonderful celebration and are looking forward to many more years together.

        Namaste, Daniel…

  19. The things Dr J points to in this article are the same areas I point to in teaching about effective, powerful Parent-Child relationships. I used to be amazed at how many parents have lop-sided relationships with their children, asking for respect but not giving it, for example. Dr J is spot on with his message and it applies in a bigger arena than just our adult to adult intimate relationships. The same sage wisdom applies in business, parenting, friendships, even in our relationships with our own parents.
    Thanks Dr J for the powerful reminder.

  20. Dr. Bruce B. Figoten says:

    Dr. Johnson’s article really struck home to me. I am a 65 year old male who has had a few failed marriages. I am now in a marriage that is going on its 16th year and I could not be happier. If I had only known the information presented in this article when I was younger I could have avoided the marital turmoil in my life. Falling in love is the easy part of a relationship. It is the work and will that goes into a relationship that is hard. Dr. J also mentions the word honesty. That, to me, is the key. It is the one thing that I failed to do consistently in my previous marriages. I feel that most men are afraid to be honest with their spouses.
    All in all, this is a great article that can be beneficial to many men and women. I have sent this article to all my 7 children and their spouses. I can only hope that it will help them in their current and future relationships.

  21. Philip Dichter says:

    I first met Dr. Johnson in a somewhat adversarial situation. His understanding of the dynamics of relationships quickly ameliorated all y concerns and allowed me to speak openly and honestly. Now, in this article, he once again quite clearly sets out an approach that has proven to be enormously helpful to me in my relationship with my wife.

    • Philip, you’re another man that has found the keys to the kingdom. Your relationship with Claudia is exemplary and models the key ingredients listed above. I’ve had first hand experience of your relationship and it is evident that the love that the two of you exude is not only inspirational but invigorates all that come in contact with you. Happy Valentines Day.

  22. Andrea Fisher says:

    This is an exceptional and insightful article. So many truths in just a few paragraphs. I could reread this several times and continue to glean the wisdom. Thank you for sharing a mans perspective about relationship and marriage. Your expertise shows. This article is clear, concise and very helpful!
    Thank you! Andrea

  23. I loved the article and wished that I had lived the relationship that you described. I do agree on communication and honesty being so important between a couple. It is a little late for me but I hope to take the wisdom of your words with me if I am ever lucky enough to have a lasting relationship again.
    Well done Dr. J.
    Annette

  24. I much enjoyed Dr. Stephen Johnson’s article on what makes a good marriage over time. I’ve been married 26 years – but both of us had track records going in that didn’t look promising. It was my 3rd marriage; my husband’s 4th! But what can I say — something about this one has worked. Probably we were both just tired. Or we’d finally matured. One thing that works for us is that we’re both really busy doing things we like, so we don’t look to each other for entertainment. My husband once said to me that I’m the only wife he ever had who left him alone! I took that as a great compliment. We both love to be left alone and we spend evenings in different rooms, but we like knowing that the other is right down the hall. There are a bunch of qualities I like a lot. One is that my husband has no “agenda.” He just says what he wants and what he thinks. And even though we disagree on a bunch of stuff (we spent our first date in a political debate), none of that matters because we agree on “us.” I also like his good manners – holding doors open, saying kind things to people. If more men only “got” it that chivalry is sexy! And one more thing: He says kind things to the cat. How could this marriage NOT work?

  25. Sylvia, a man once told me that he reminds his wife that he loves her and then politely asks to be left alone. There is a poem by Rilke titled Across a Wide Sky in which the main theme is central to the importance for partners in relationship to be champions of each others need for solitude. I have come to the belief that the right amount and use of space can be the antidote for distance. The Asian art culture understands the intricate balance between form and nothingness. Scott Peck in his book A Different Drum recognized that the health of a relationship could be evidenced by how comfortable people are with themselves in the presence of the other during sustained periods of silence. And, yes, the Knights of the Round Table understood that manners, social graces, customs and rituals in the form of chivalrous behavior separated men by virtue of their esteem-able actions. I appreciate your comment.

    • Dr Johnson, I find this especially true.

      We are planning our wedding after 7 and a half years together (we are slightly laid back when it comes to milestones, some might say) and both of us came from families that were incredibly combative and toxic when growing up (though at least with my parents, the relationship is now far better). We were lucky enough to be each other’s first ever relationship on any level, merely out of statistical luck, and every year things get easier and more pleasant. To wit, the following things have helped when both people are actively engaged:

      1. If you don’t express displeasure with an idea or proposal, you have to suck it up. You have a right to an opinion, but if you don’t have the courage to air it, then that’s your problem, and you can’t expect the other party to be clairvoyant.

      2. Take things at face value, or you will forever be sucked into a quagmire of trying to guess hidden meanings.

      3. It takes, on average, 30 seconds to get over the things that people most likely argue about. It is seriously inconsequential if they stack the dishwasher the way you don’t like.

      4. Aim for 10 compliments to every 1 criticism.

      5. As you mention, champion each other’s solitude. It is far and away the best thing to keep people together and happy.

  26. Paul Bowen says:

    Thank you Dr. Johnson for putting in words what I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy during my 17 year second marriage. At 63 years old I’m enjoying the most satisfying intimate period of my life, and my wife at 55 years old feels the same. Having raised a blended family, my wife and I never had the honeymoon time together until we became empty-nesters. We are now making up for lost time. We respect each others’ time alone, don’t take each other for granted and encourage each other. Our intimacy is frosting-on-the-cake. One thing I might pass on that has been wonderful for our relationship is that nine years ago we started going together to a trainer at a gym. We work out together twice a week, with our primary motivation to stay in shape to remain attractive to each other.

    • Thank you Paul for posting this comment. Paul Bowen, considered to be the Dean of Aviation Photography, has been a lifelong friend, actually a true brother, since we were both 9 years old. I can attest to the accuracy of his comments regarding his marriage and wish to underscore the significance of his remark concerning how he and his wife work out at the gym together and have vowed to stay healthy and attractive for each other. The benefits that come from partners exercising their physical bodies can also strengthen the emotional connectivity within the relationship bond. Paul and Gail are great examples of how to maintain a vital partnership.

  27. Many relationships get into this power struggle of who does more and who has the last word. The most important thing in any relationship is for both sexes to feel loved and appreciated in a way that is natural and instinctive for them.

    Man has two basic instincts. One is to provide and the other is to protect. Men are basically hunters and in more primitive times used to go out and kill an animal and bring it home for his family. We do not need to do this any longer but we do need to make the money so that food and other essential items are procured.

    To protect is to protect his loved ones and others who cannot protect themselves. Protection can be as simple as crossing the street with your loved one with the man on the side of oncoming traffic or walking on the street side of the woman.

    Allow a man to exhibit these in a relationship and you will have a happy man and a fulfilled women.

    • Raindizzle says:

      What a load of crap. First of all, you are totally minimizing the role of a growing number of men who contribute to their families by staying home while the woman works, and yet are no less manly or appreciatd by their wives. Second, please spare me from that chivalry crap, which costs you very little to do and gives no real benefit, protective or otherwise. Not to knock a nice gesture and all, but I’m getting pretty sick of men thinking that women should fall down on our knees in gratitude (and be happy, dammit!) simply because of chivalry. Most women are actually happier and more fulfilled when their partners contribute in meaningful ways (for example, helping equitably with household chores) and are sincerely and actively engaged in the relationship.

  28. So much of this smacks of misogyny it’s not even funny.
    “He knows she respects and admires him; she feels nurtured and desired by him.” Women don’t need to be respected, just taken care of? And we need to look up to our men?
    “Men tell me that their partner’s sweetness helps them to keep their hearts open.” So if my husband stops loving me it’s because I wasn’t sweet enough?!
    And my absolute favourite: “For a woman to remain vulnerable and open to her partner, and to exude that attractive energy so that a man stays turned on…” So in order to keep my guy interested, I need to be ‘vulnerable’. If that isn’t a recipe for rape culture, I honestly don’t know what is.

    Point is, by making stereotypical gender roles and presumably gender-prescribed traits the recipe for a good marriage, you make it impossible for anyone who doesn’t fit the patriarchal mold to succeed. And that’s most of us.

    • Steve A. says:

      Krissy,
      I guess we all read and “hear” what we want to hear. My reaction (as a male) is so different than yours. I thought Mr Johnson placed the responsibility for the health of the relationship on BOTH partners. If my partner loses that “sweetness” , perhaps it’s because I’m “…disengaged, passive or controlling…” As for vulnerability – that also works both ways. Unless I am willing to open myself completely to my spouse with all my attendant strengths, weaknesses, thoughts and feelings there will be no depth to my relationship. How, in your mind, is this a prelude to rape? I would venture that if you’re not willing to open yourself up in this manner, then you’re not ready for a deep lasting relationship with a partner of either sex.

      • Vulnerable: capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon; (of a place) open to assault; difficult to defend

        The author not only specifies vulnerability as a singly female trait or position, he also asserts that it is a requirement for her husband’s attraction to her. Meanwhile the man does not, according to this article, need to go so far as to be vulnerable, he only needs to be ‘available’.

        The wording of that entire section is rooted in misogyny. The author uses the following words to describe the male partner: respected, admired, self-confident, honored. Conversely, the woman’s part, in addition to being ‘vulnerable’, is described thus: nurtured, desired, open, sweet, special. If you honestly don’t see the difference between these two sets of words; how one set conveys power and authority while the other infantilizes and sexualizes; then I’ll have to agree with you that we do indeed read and hear what we want to.

        We live in a society that simultaneously sees women as powerless and encourages them to abdicate whatever power they do have. When this is the norm – so normal that people like yourself totally glaze over it – it becomes easier to trivialize the victimization of women, or even blame them for their victimization. That is rape culture. Printing an article that suggests this inequity is “What Your Marriage Needs to Survive” institutionalizes rape culture into one of our most fundamental societal units.

        • Although i dont know if this article is misogynist or not, as a yong guy i dont want to be only the admired and respected husband, i also want to be the sweet husband and i want my wife desire me. I also want to respect my wife. In my opinion respect and desire should go to both. It must be sucks being a respected husband but her wife doesn’t desire him, and its must be suck being a desiring wife but her husband doesnt respect her.

    • KrissyFair wrote: So much of this smacks of misogyny it’s not even funny. “He knows she respects and admires him; she feels nurtured and desired by him.” Women don’t need to be respected, just taken care of?

      Women and men need to be respected AND taken care of, but the differences in our genders give one more priority than the other. Of course those levels can vary on an individual basis.

      KrissyFair wrote: And we need to look up to our men?

      I would define that as ‘security.’

      KrissyFair wrote: “Men tell me that their partner’s sweetness helps them to keep their hearts open.” So if my husband stops loving me it’s because I wasn’t sweet enough?!

      That sounds like a basic ’cause & effect’ issue. if I feel ABC around you because you radiate XYZ attitude/feelings, then ABC will fade away if you stopped radiating XYZ when you’re around me. That doesn’t seem unreasonable.

      KrissyFair wrote:And my absolute favourite: “For a woman to remain vulnerable and open to her partner, and to exude that attractive energy so that a man stays turned on…” So in order to keep my guy interested, I need to be ‘vulnerable’. If that isn’t a recipe for rape culture, I honestly don’t know what is.

      This is ‘vulnerability’ as used in relationships, not in battle/war. Emotionally vulnerable by sharing things you would not share with strangers.

      KrissyFair wrote: Point is, by making stereotypical gender roles and presumably gender-prescribed traits the recipe for a good marriage, you make it impossible for anyone who doesn’t fit the patriarchal mold to succeed. And that’s most of us.

      I don’t think it’s most of us. I think we are being trained to deny certain things are real/true because of the transitional state society is in now as the tradition of thousands of years of treating women like crap as the norm are being changed. But there are clear differences in what males and females value and lean towards in general as valuable. The trick to healing is not to swing the pendulum from one extreme to the other, but to value both.

      KrissyFair wrote: Vulnerable: capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon; (of a place) open to assault; difficult to defend
      The author not only specifies vulnerability as a singly female trait or position, he also asserts that it is a requirement for her husband’s attraction to her. Meanwhile the man does not, according to this article, need to go so far as to be vulnerable, he only needs to be ‘available’.

      From reading the article I felt that both males & females need to be vulnerable, but the female of the species is more likely to hold it as a valuable need in a relationship. I wouldn’t consider the word ‘vulnerable’ to be negative as long as it it understood to mean specifically ‘relationship/emotional vulnerability’ which relationships fundamentally need in order to function successfully.

      KrissyFair wrote: The wording of that entire section is rooted in misogyny. The author uses the following words to describe the male partner: respected, admired, self-confident, honored. Conversely, the woman’s part, in addition to being ‘vulnerable’, is described thus: nurtured, desired, open, sweet, special. If you honestly don’t see the difference between these two sets of words; how one set conveys power and authority while the other infantilizes and sexualizes; then I’ll have to agree with you that we do indeed read and hear what we want to.

      I think both genders need all of the concepts all of the words convey, but that in general each gender places more value on certain sets of them to feel emotionally healthy.

      KrissyFair wrote: We live in a society that simultaneously sees women as powerless and encourages them to abdicate whatever power they do have.

      I think attacking the traditional terminology that makes you feel that way is a legitimate part of the healing during this societal transition, but I think it more important to dialogue about the concepts themselves. Linguistic arguments come across to me as more of a side track from the meat of the discussion.

  29. #6 is so important…Thank you for writing this!

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