5 Traits of a Good Marriage


Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, say in their book, When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages, that there are 5 traits of a healthy, life-long marriage: ownership, hope, empathy, forgiveness, and commitment. Here is a summary of each of those characteristics.

1. Ownership: Taking Responsibility

Often, couples believe their problems are the result of the other person’s actions.  It’s easy to avoid responsibility for our problems by blaming someone else.  But in the long-haul, admitting mistakes and owning up to our part of the problem is the single most powerful predictor of turning something bad into something good. Couples need to realize that it’s not who’s wrong, but what’s wrong that counts.

2. Hope:  Believing that Good Ultimately Triumphs

The foundation of hope is belief.  We must believe that the kind of marriage we want is possible.  Hope keeps love alive.  Stop hoping and marriage dies.

3. Empathy:  Walking in your Spouse’s Shoes

A spouse must be aware of what their spouse is feeling and what’s behind that feeling.  Empathy involves both the head and the heart. Many of us do one or the other pretty well; we either feel our partner’s pain with our heart, or we try to solve their problem with our head.  To do both can be a challenge.  But that is what empathy is all about.

4. Forgiveness:  Healing the Wounds

In a good marriage, both husbands and wives are quick to ask for forgiveness and to grant forgiveness. The simple words, “I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” are magical in marriage. Forgiveness was designed to heal the deepest wounds of a human heart.

5. Commitment: Loving for Life

No matter how long a couple has been married, commitment may be the most effective tool good marriages use in battling bad things. Without commitment and the trust it engenders, marriages would have little hope of lasting.

In the face of difficulty, the key is to stay committed to your spouse and work together. Sit down with your spouse tonight and discuss how you are doing in each of these categories.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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  • COBBP2


  • You are welcome COB.

  • Liz_blond

    Please pray for my Marriage.

  • Great post Mark! A year ago I came up with my personal list that I use for teaching.
    1- Commitment
    2- Love
    3- Peace
    4- Order
    5- Respect
    6- Joy
    7- Forgiveness
    Sounds like I’m on the right page according to your list! God Bless!

  • Way to go, John!

  • #6. Understanding (understanding the true intent of marriage which is to show the vertical relationship between Christ and the Church..no horizontal marriage will ever “work” unless accepting a vertical relationship with Christ. )…in my opinion of course.. = o )

  • What’s your biggest challenge, Liz?

  • Mykal, good point. Thanks for commenting.

  • Christine

    My husband checked out of the marriage.  He won’t tell me when.  We have three children, 10, 8, and 6.  He still lives with us as if nothing has changed as they are concerned.  With me, no affection, just daily talk about the kids.  I do everything, take most care of the kids, meals, wash, etc.  He won’t leave.  He says he doesn’t have any where  to go.  I’m the only one working…Dir. of Child’s Min. at our church.  He needs to sit down with the kids and tell them why he’s made this choice I believe, and leave…what say you all? He gave up on a marriage counselor who wasn’t a good fit for us and won’t continue with another one…after only 10 sessions.  I say he needs to leave and live with his mom or friends.  

  • Ann

    I experienced something similar, but not exactly the same. I finally decided to seek help to discover what lies I bought into in relation to God and my marriage. It has been three years and I am now more of an adult than I ever was before. My marriage is still not where I want it to be, but my role as the victim is much more deminished and I am able to function more as an adult in my relationship with my husband, and in fact, with others. A support group has been very helpful.

  • Christine

    Thx for your reply, Ann.  I will be calling a counselor that our pastor suggested on Monday.  I did think of a support group, but not sure what type of group to look for at this point.  Just feeling lucky I have the friends I have right now! 

  • Young

    I love the list you have come up with and I want nothing more than to improve and grow my marriage in Christ…but what do you do when your husband doesn’t feel there’s anything wrong with the marriage or thinks things are “fine?” Or thinks that any problem we may have, we can fix on our own.  Things are NOT fine.  Even though most days we don’t fight or argue, there is an underlying lack of the five traits that is plain to see.  I know that this isn’t what God intended for our marriage.  I have been reading an amazing book by Paul Tripp and each time I share pieces of it with my husband, he says, “How does he KNOW that?”  Or “Oh, so now we are supposed to try that just because he said so?”  It’s hard not to get frustrated.  I tried to get my husband to join a small group through our church, which I think would be such a huge deal for us individually and together in our marriage, but he refuses.  He says we can do our own study at home, read the BIble on our own, and work things out on our own.  If I actually thought this would happen, maybe I’d have a litlte hope.. but we/he simply wouldn’t make the time for it.  His reasoning for not going to the small group is that he doesn’t feel anyone knows anymore than we do so why should we listen to what other people do or how they think we should do things.  It’s frustrating for me because I know we could learn so much if he would just open his heart and mind to change. 

  • Frisbiemom

    What do you do when you try to instil in your child that church is important?  I want my husband to go to church with us but he refuses saying…all they want is our money.  Part of that is true…the one church we went to actually sent us a bill stating we committed to tithe a certain amount and that they had only received so much of it.  The preacher would preach nearly every week about the importance of giving 10% and how the church needs money.  Well…you can’t get blood from a turnip!  We are struggling financially, emotionally, and in our relationship with one another.  It is to the point that our daughter, age 11, has started to wonder what is up.  It breaks my heart.  My husband has recently started going out with friends from work and drinking….something he never did.  He blames me…for saying that he had no friends and never does anything.  I was referring to us doing things as couples…not him going out with the boys and drinking.  I feel so lost.  I have cried more in the past two days then I have in years.  He blames my parents for spoiling me and always coming to my rescue.  He has a point…but it isn’t just a one sided situation.  It takes two to make a good marriage and two to cause it to fall apart.  I’m hoping to sit down with him again tonight and have a heart to heart.  I truly do love him and don’t want to lose him.  I want to try anything and everything to make this relationship work…but his affect was flat today when talking with him about our relationship.  The hope has apparently died for him.  I’m hoping to God that I can rekindle it.  Please pray for us.  I printed your steps and plan to share it with him tonight.

  • jangell

    I am so sorry you are having to go through all of this.

    “Father, I pray you will comfort this woman, that she will feel your presence and rest in your assurance that we will not always live in this fallen world…but that one day we will bask in the radiance of your perfect and unconditional love.  I pray that you will help them find a solid church home that they both feel part of and accepted by.  I pray if it is your will, that you will redeem this woman’s marriage; that you will place Godly women in her life to encourage and strengthen her; that her family will be astounded by her humility, her consistency, her patience and her love which can only come from you; that you will place Godly men in her husband’s life to love on and speak Truth to him; and that you will grab hold of his heart, right his theology and clear his mind of the things of this world.  Help him to see who he really is in relation to who you really are, that he may give you the glory you deserve.  Give him hope, give him purpose, give him confidence, and give him a vision for his family that he may feel valued and reclaim his position as leader of his family. It is in your name and for your glory that we pray, amen.”

  • jangell

    “Father, thank you for this woman’s desire to grow in her relationship with you and to ‘live a life worthy of the calling.’  I pray you will soften this man’s heart, that you will place Godly men in his life to speak Truth to him, and that you will help him to be sensitive to your Spirit and sensitive to the wants/needs of his family. Help her speech to be seasoned with salt and not aggressive nor condescending; help her to be patient with your timing; give her little ‘wins’ along the way so as not to lose hope.  Give them good time in your Word separately as well as together.  Help him to see how much his wife desires for him to step up and lead his family spiritually.  And help them to find a group of believers that can help come beside them and lovingly help them navigate through their current situation.  Fill us up that we may pour out your love upon those around us.  Help us to keep things in perspective, ‘setting our minds on things above.’  Thank you for your grace; thank you for loving us in spite of ourselves.  Amen”

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