Chuck, there’s so much discussion today about being healthy in mind, body and spirit, but what about in our relationships? April showers may bring May flowers, but it’s been years since I’ve seen a florist deliver flowers in any month from my spouse. – “Hoping for Roses” in Great Falls, Mont.
Relationships are a vast issue, with many interconnected parts, and I’m limited in space here. But let me highlight what experts are saying about the heart of the matter – what a healthy relationship looks like – and then recommend a few great resources to help us all build or maintain one.
With the assistance of James Witte, director of the Center for Social Science Research at George Mason University, and Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist at the University of Washington who studies relationships, Chrisanna Northrup, a wellness entrepreneur, recently surveyed the marital love and satisfaction of more than 70,000 couples around the world (the largest relationship survey ever conducted). Their findings were recorded in their book, “The Normal Bar.”
Here is what the study found is “normal” in global relationships, according to The Washington Post and Fox News:
- Seventy-four percent of people are happy in their relationship.
- Sixty-six percent of them believe that their partner is their soul mate.
- Though 28 percent of women and 48 percent of men said they fell in love at first sight, those who fell in love slowly are just as happy.
- Only 15 percent say they’ve had an affair, but there’s debate about what the term means, as those numbers rose when people were asked in terms of “sex outside (their) current relationship.” Then 33 percent of men and 19 percent of women admitted to cheating.
- Only 39 percent of women trusted their mate – and maybe with good cause: Sixty-nine percent of men said that if propositioned, they’d be tempted to have sex outside of their relationship.
As revealing (or unrevealing) as that the survey is, I don’t think the primary question should be on what is “normal” in other relationships or merely what happy couples are doing. Rather, our focus should be on what healthy traits and actions will eventually produce happier and long-lasting relationships.
The surveyors discovered that both genders said communication is the ingredient they value most – and those in unhappy relationships said it is the No. 1 thing they are missing. The fact that 80 percent of extremely happy couples know their partner’s salary is more proof that nothing is hidden in the happiest and healthiest of relationships.
The Post further explained, “The authors found that certain behaviors correlated with high satisfaction among couples: Happy couples often go on date nights, call each other pet names, hold hands, kiss passionately, give each other back rubs and say ‘I love you.’”
Healthy couples have learned the primary love language of their spouse – what means most to each other – and they speak it nearly every day. (And if your love language is receiving flowers, then yes, you should receive them often!)
We all must remember that love is a decision far before it’s a feeling. That’s why the Scripture says love is patience; love is kind; love endures all things; and love hopes all things. Remembering that through the hard times will give you power to keep loving and feeding your relationship.
I’ll tell you what else I’ve learned from watching others: Healthy couples protect their relationship; they understand boundaries – individually and as a couple – and enforce them. They also have learned to recognize their differences as each other’s strengths and utilize them as a united front. They don’t nitpick or criticize their weaknesses but spur each other on to love and good deeds.
William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, said 300 years ago what may be one of the most profound relational truths and ingredients to a healthy and happy marriage: “She is but half a wife who is not a friend.”
Above everything, be friends with your mate – the best of friends. My wife, Gena, and I are best friends, and we are blessed for it.
And if and when you have troubles or get stuck (and we all do), have the courage and humility to seek help – even by yourself, if need be – from a clergyman or a marriage and family therapist. The Scripture says the wise are known not by what they say but by what they receive. In the counsel of many, there is success, the book of Proverbs explains.
That is why I also recommend reading relationship-enhancing books, such as Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages.”
Here are a few more words of encouragements from healthy couples:
- Maintain a no-excuse weekly date night.
- Get away as a couple at least for a weekend every quarter – just to play, leaving your worries and troubles behind.
- Attend a marriage seminar at least once a year, such as Chapman’s “The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted” and FamilyLife’s “Weekend to Remember.”
Go online and peruse free relational resources, such as those from my friends Dr. Gary and Norma Smalley or their sons and daughters-in-law, Greg and Erin and Mike and Amy.
And if your relationship has been violated by an affair or a porn addiction, seek out the resources at XXXchurch.com.
Lastly, someone once said that marriage is the union of two good forgivers, and so it is. We all will fail each other, in actions and expectations.
Though not exactly a marriage counselor, George Washington was right when he said, “Perfection falls not to the lot of humanity.”
I’m sure that even his wife, Martha, learned that was true of the best of leaders.
Most of all, when it comes to love and marriage, don’t give up. As it’s been said, an oak tree is nothing more than an acorn that held its ground. So it is with a healthy, happy and successful marriage.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.