What are the most important things in a marriage? Is it time together? Sex? Learning how to fight properly?
The list of important things is endless. So let’s boil it down to four essential things.
But first a little story. Well, not really a story, more of an illustration.
Which car would you buy?
I want to show you pictures of two cars. Take a good look, then tell me which one you would buy?
The first one is a beautiful luxury car. It’s a Lamborghini that which looks flawless on the outside.
The interior is clean and it’s extremely comfortable.
The second one is a little old. It’s a Toyota Corlla with a moderately worn interior. It’s okay, but not much to look at.
Before you give me your answer, there’s something you need to know.
The first car…the gorgeous luxury car? It’s been submerged in water so the engine doesn’t work. It’s got a little frame damage from the accident, but you can barely tell.
The second one? It’s been owned by the same mechanic since it was made. He’s given it quarterly checkups, regular oil changes, and he’s always driven it like it was his baby. He’s never been hard on it.
How, with that information, which car would you want to buy?
I hope you chose the second. If not, rethink your decision. You will have trouble with the first one. But not with the second.
Why did I start this article with this story?
If you need to buy a car, you should do a few things before you lay down the cash.
First, you shouldn’t just buy based on appearance. In the example above, the car was ruined. You couldn’t tell by looking at it, but it was damaged goods.
Second, look under the hood.
The external things about the car are worthless if the engine doesn’t work. Just because something is pretty, doesn’t mean it is functional.
Finally, focus on what matters most.
Will the car get you where you want to go? If it doesn’t do that, it is an expensive ornament.
We can apply these same concepts to marriage.
External things do not matter as much as what’s inside the relationship. It might look good on the outside, but if there is turmoil inside, it’s bad.
Know what makes your marriage work. And know IF it works. Is it meeting your spouse’s needs? Are you connected with your partner? These are things that matter. If they are broken, work on getting them fixed.External things do not matter as much as what’s inside the relationship. It might look good on the outside, but if there is turmoil inside, it’s bad. Click To Tweet
Finally, focus on what matters most in your relationship. Don’t let things and stuff get in the way of cultivating a deep, loving relationship with your spouse.
In This Article
- What Is Important In Marriage?
- Pillars of Marriage
- Final Thoughts
What Is Important In Marriage?
A successful relationship has certain things in common. Although the list might look different, the principles are the same. It’s the common thread we need to look for.
This is the stuff that’s under the hood, so we need to pay attention.
The Vann Dees Study
A study was done for a thesis for Masters of Science in Human Development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
They discovered a handful of key elements that contributed to strong marriages:
- Open Communication
- Shared Values
- Religion or Faith
Other factors included having a network of social support (family, friends, groups) and learning how to manage stressors in work life.
The Cornell Study
Another study done at Cornell University indicated a slightly different list. They wanted to find out of there was a common formula for a ‘happy marriage.’
Their list can be boiled down to five components:
Most marriage issues can be resolved when couples learn how to talk.
Over 700 couples were polled and they all said, couples need to talk, talk, talk.
Ironically, many marriages that fail blame lack of communication.
2. Know Your Partner Well (even before getting married).
It’s not about knowing their favorite movie or book. True knowledge is about accumulating facts about your spouse. It’s about understanding them and accepting them for who they are.
One thing stands out regarding this; if you marry with the objective of changing your spouse, you are doomed to fail. You need to marry because you like them the way they are.If you marry with the objective of changing your spouse, you are doomed to fail. You need to marry because you like them the way they are. Click To Tweet
3. See Marriage as a Lifelong Commitment.
Marriage should not just be a trial run to see if it works out. It must be approached as an unbreakable, lifelong commitment.
4. Be a Team.
To be a team you must see problems collectively. This means it’s not just ‘their problem,’ it is your (plural) problem.
When issues come up, work together to resolve them and do not put all the responsibility on the other person.
5. Build on Similarities
It’s possible for opposites to attract. Many happy couples do not share the same interests. Hobbies differ, movie tastes aren’t the same.
Yet, sharing core values is vital for a happy relationship. These include things like how to raise children, religious views, and financial matters. Core values make or break the marriage.
A Random Collection of Ideas from the Internet
One more list before we move on. We researched several platforms to compile a list of qualities that make a marriage ‘good.’ Here’s what we found:
- Shared Values
As you can see, each list looks different, yet there are similarities and common threads that weave together. Remember, this is under the hood stuff; the engine that makes the marriage run.
We took all these ideas, qualities, and principles and put them into four categories we call the pillars of marriage.
Pillars of Marriage
If we imagine marriage as a four-legged chair, the legs of the chair are the support system. It doesn’t matter how good the seat is if the legs can’t support it.
These four legs represent the core principles that keep marriage standing.
Disclaimer: It’s impossible to reduce the core principles to four. There are so many things that make a marriage work. These four are only a handful, but they are very crucial for a successful marriage. We’ve intentionally kept them general. We want you to see them as a launch pad for greater connection.
These are not listed in order of importance. We do not see these as a hierarchy, but as compliments that support each other. We like to view marriage priorities as a marriage wheel.
Why I chose these four?
It wasn’t easy. However, marriage is a partnership that affects every aspect of our lives. In other words, we relate to our spouse on every level. We share ideas (intellectual) and feelings (emotional). We connect romantically (physical and emotional). We also have common values (spiritual).
Since marriage touches each of these areas, each one is a leg to the stool (chair).
#1 Physical Bond
Most counselors believe physical intimacy and connection are vital for a healthy marriage.
A relationship can survive without intimacy, but it will become a real struggle for both partners as time goes on; neither partner will be happy or feel secure in the relationship. Without happiness and security, the basis of a relationship is complicated. Once intimacy is lost or if it never existed in the relationship, it takes a lot of determination and commitment to get intimacy back in the relationship…(Source)
Why Physical Touch Is Important in Relationships?
We’ve written about this before
Think about your favorite outdoor activity. For me, it’s hiking (or fishing). I experience it by seeing the beauty in nature. I feel the cool water on my body. I hear the sounds of the outdoors. I touch the dirt and water. I feel it.
I’m not minimizing the spiritual aspect of enjoying God’s creation, but to make the point, you experience nature (in part) by connecting physically.
Physical connection is one of the pillars of a healthy relationship. It is one of the vital aspects of proper development in infants. Margaret Atwood notes that touch comes before sight in babies. This order tells us something about the significance of touch in our development.
We need to fight the temptation to disconnect physically.
Dr. Gary Brown says:
What I am seeing is that electronic “connection” is actually replacing face-to-face connection and in the process, we are neglecting our ability and desire to experience physical connection.(Source)
How Can We Connect Physically?
Touch. That’s the main way. It doesn’t have to sexual, just physical. Hold hands. Hug. Kiss. Sit close to each other so your legs can touch. There are thousands of ways to touch. The important thing is never miss an opportunity to connect through physical touch with your spouse.
Talk. Romantic talk (even teasing) is a great way to stimulate sexual arousal. It awakens desire and creates anticipation, which is one of the indicators of a satisfying sex life.
Sex. Sex is (should be) the ultimate expression of unity and oneness. It is the giving of ourselves to our spouse.
The ultimate physical communication of the marriage is intimacy. Truthfully, sex is the distinguishing factor that separates an intimate relationship from a friendship. Inevitably without sex (or when there is a lack of sex), the relationship feels troubled regardless of how the relationship functions on a day to day basis. This isn’t about gimmicks, trying new techniques, or toys. This is about real love expressed in real life.Cole Berschback
#2 Emotional Intellectual Connection
Is marriage more physical or emotional? Which is more important, your sex life, or your emotional/intellectual bond?
It shouldn’t be an either/or decision. Both are vital.
Physical intimacy should produce an emotional (intimate) connection. And your emotional, intimate connection should result in better sex and physical connection.
It takes both (all 4 legs) for the chair to work. So, it’s not one or the other. It is both together.
How Important is an Emotional Connection in Marriage?
First, when we talk about emotional connection we are not referring to ‘drama.’ Nor are we dismissing the intellectual stimulation a great relationship creates.
Emotional connection (for our purposes) refers to the internal sense of connection we feel with our spouse. It is emotionally gratifying because you feel loved, appreciated, and accepted. It is intellectually satisfying because it inspires, encourages, and challenges you (in a positive way).
Without these elements, the relationship grows stale.
The Journal of Personality conducted a study to determine what people look for in a mate. Kindness ranked near the top. What was surprising was ‘creativity’ was also in the top 8 characteristics.
There are a lot of ways to interpret this, but one thing stands out, people desire to be energized and motivated intellectually. Good communication is not enough. People desire to be challenged on an emotional level.People desire to be energized and motivated intellectually. Good communication is not enough. People desire to be challenged on an emotional level. Click To Tweet
How Do You Connect Emotionally With Your Spouse?
You may talk, but are you connecting. That’s the goal of communication – a deeper connection. Here are a few tips to help you connect better.
Ask Questions. Explore your partner by asking them questions about their childhood, meaningful memories, and where they developed their ideas about important issues. Here are some great questions to get you headed in the right direction.
Listen. Take time to pay attention to what your spouse says. One of the best ways to connect is to show your partner you care enough to hear them.
Play Games. I know this may seem out of ordinary, but playing games helps build a strong bond.
My wife loves to play board games. There are many nights the TV is off and we are around the table playing a game. Just the two of us.
We did this a lot when we lived in Colorado. The nights were cold, so we built a fire and sat on the floor to play games. I still smile when I think of those nights.
#3 Spiritual Unity (Purpose)
This could easily be titled ‘Shared Values.’ I use spirituality because we are spiritual in nature. Many studies show that strong marriages have a common religious or ‘faith’ base.
According to BYU Religious Studies Center, 95% of married couples share some form of religious affiliation. (Source)
Faith and religion aren’t merely drivers of commitment. Meaning, the role of faith is not just to enforce faithfulness and commitment in marriage. Faith enhances satisfaction in the relationship.
Shared values impact our sense of belonging in the relationship.The role of faith is not just to enforce faithfulness and commitment in marriage. Faith enhances satisfaction in the relationship. Click To Tweet
How To Tap Into a Spiritual Connection with Your Spouse?
Here is a short list of ways you can connect spiritually.
- Pray Together.
- Worship Together.
- Read Together.
- Talk about Values
- Volunteer Together
- Serve Others Outside Your Circle
These shared experiences help make marriage run smoothly.
#4 Intimate Friendship
John Gottman believes friendship is at the core of a strong marriage.
A good marriage is seen as a loving marriage, in which spouses are attached to one another as friends. They like each other, they have fun together, they know each other well, they take pleasure in one another’s company. If there is no friendship, it cannot be a good marriage…(Source)
How To Create a Strong Sense of Friendship in Your Marriage
Time. You cannot build lasting friendships without an investment of time. It’s not just about time together, but time invested in the relationship.
When my wife and I were dating I traveled often. At lunch and in the evenings, I would call or write her a letter. Even though I could not be with her physically, I was investing time in developing our friendship. We talked for hours on the phone. This caused us to connect on a deep level.
Laughter. Laughter is a sign of joy. Couples that laugh together know how to enjoy the little things in life.
Transparency and Sharing. A friend is someone you trust enough to be yourself around. You know they accept and love you no matter what. Your acceptance is not based on your performance; they see beyond your momentary bad times and believe your character.
This only happens when you are open enough to share your heart. Remember the Cornell study mentioned earlier? Healthy couples talk, talk, talk. This should be the foundation of your marriage.
The most important things in marriage are not things at all. To use the analogy of an automobile, it’s the stuff under the hood. No matter what things look like on the outside, if the engine is ruined, the car is not worth much.
We tend to measure importance based on external things. Studies show this is a false indicator of marriage satisfaction. Successful couples build priorities around the marriage wheel.
They understand the essential part of a great marriage is focusing on meaningful connections.
There are many things that are important to a successful relationship. We narrowed things down to four categories: physical bond, intellectual and emotional connection, spiritual unity, and friendship.
For quick reference, here is a recap of what we covered:
- What Is Important In Marriage?
- Pillars of Marriage
To get more help creating the marriage you desire and deserve, check out these resources:
The Healthy Marriage Quiz
If you want specific help for your marriage, or you want to know your healthy marriage score, take the marriage quiz. You’ll get immediate access with suggestions on how to improve your relationship.
The Healthy Marriage Toolkit
Books, Courses, Programs and Tools designed to help you create the marriage of your dreams.
Healthy Marriage Courses
Our courses will help you build a strong marriage. Each course is designed to meet a specific relationship need.
If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.
Magic Relationship Words by Susie and Otto Collins
The Devotion System This free video will show you why men pull away and what you can do to enhance your relationship.