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Love and Marriage Article
Democrarcy and Love

by Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

Like most Americans, we headed off to the polls this morning to exercise our most important right of citizenship – we voted.  And what a beautiful day for an election.  Here we are in our hometown of St. Louis on this amazingly beautiful Fall day with temperatures in the mid-70’s.  The colors of Autumn are among the most grand and glorious we have seen.  Gold, red, and purple seem to be nature’s color choices this year.

As we walked home from the polling place near us we began to analyze the similarities between democracy in a nation such as ours and in a successful loving relationship.  You will note as we did that the two have many traits in common.

Over the years, we have studied successful relationships between two people who purport to love each other.  We have focused our research mostly on married couples – those who have been married for 30+ years and whom we judge to be successfully married based upon our time-tested interview protocol.  And while we have discovered a number of pervasive characteristics present in virtually all successful loving relationships, one truly stands out this Election Day – the best marriages are exemplars of democracy.  Here’s why.

Successfully married couples report to us that one of the enduring strengths of their relationship is that they share decision-making when it comes to important matters.  They note to us time and time again that this shared decision-making is one of the great virtues of their marriage.  It is interesting to note that they rarely report that one or the other makes unilateral decisions within the context of their marriage, instead they consult with each other.

Sure, many decisions in a marriage or loving relationship are of a personal or “minor” nature that do not require much discussion.  What we are focusing on here are those decisions that are not minor in nature.  For example, childrearing practices, major purchases (home, car, appliances, etc.), issues regarding the respective health of each other, where to live, how to save or invest the family resources, and the like, would be considered “major” decisions and, as such, would require consultation and mutual decision-making.

The amazing thing about the successfully married couples we have interviewed is that they see these “democratic values” play out in their everyday lives in routine ways.  For example, these couples report to us that they cannot imagine making major decisions unilaterally.  To do so would be contrary to one of the most important elements of their successful loving relationship.  Yet, we have observed time and time again one of the major differences between successful marriages and unsuccessful ones is this simple notion – democratic marriages are far more likely to succeed than those that are not.

As we often say in our writings, it does take two to Tango – one can’t dance the Tango without the other.  But the truth is, far too many couples make unilateral decisions without consultation with their mate, too many buy into that “head of the household” notion – one is in charge, the other is not.  Successfully married couples know better!  The heart of a democratic marriage is equality.

If your marriage is democratic where each has an equal vote – where consensus-building matters, where the notion of “all people are created equal” is the guiding principle in your relationship – then your chances of experiencing a long-lasting and successful marriage is very good.  On the other hand, if your marriage is not democratic and does not value the principles of democracy, then your chances of success are greatly diminished

So, friends, on this beautiful Election Day, as you exercise your constitutional right to vote for the political leadership of America, remind yourself that those principles also apply to your marriage.  Democracy is a good thing in love and marriage just like it is a good thing for our country.  The love between you and your mate will be strengthened when you embrace democracy in your relationship.  The countless hundreds of successfully married couples we have interviewed over the years will attest to its value, trust us on that.

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