AXIOMS FOR A HAPPY MARRIAGE

J. C. Cain is a retired physician from the Mayo Clinic; he was for decades President Lyndon Johnson's personal physician.  The following excerpts are from an after-dinner speech by Dr. Cain.
 

Most marriages begin with both parties resolving it will last forever. Yet from June 1979 to June 1980 there were over one million divorces in the United States.  The divorce rate was 5.4 per 1,000 population as compared with a marriage rate of 10.6 per 1,000 in the same period of time. The average length of the marriage before divorce was 6.6 years.

 

We must stop this trend. Based on over forty years of happy marriage and a medical practice, I have some advice. I offer it knowing full well that rules and advice on "how to have a happy marriage" are usually ignored but, given far enough in advance of the problems, they might be heeded.

 

1. Vocally and frequently declare your love. I have never had patients complain that their spouses loved them too much. I've had many wives, however, tell me they know their husbands love them, but they never tell them so. I suggest you kiss when you meet or leave each other. Make a point to show your affection in public by sitting next to your spouse, holding hands, and supporting each other in conversation.

 

2. Make your spouse happy. That person's happiness is more important than your job. Your spouse is more essential to you than your children, who eventually will leave you for their own responsibilities and problems. You must sincerely and literally have only one desire—to make your spouse happy. I assure you, your effort will reflect back upon you tenfold.

 

3. Never even look at another man or woman. Literally flee from temptation. Keep your spouse so immersed in love and affection that it would be impossible for him or her to have time or inclination to look elsewhere.

 

4. Never do anything you think will be fun without including your spouse. If you have a hobby your spouse can't enjoy, change it to one you can both enjoy. You'll be surprised how flexible, tolerant, and resilient a spouse can be if you show a desire to be with him or her.

 

5. Plan and do unexpected things. Giving flowers, candy, and gifts at birthdays and anniversaries doesn't suffice; go the extra mile and do the unexpected.

 

6. When away from home, contact your spouse every day. Write or phone. What you say isn't important; it is important, however, that spouses know you are thinking about them. Incidentally, it unconsciously helps you resist temptations.

 

7. Beware of criticism of your spouse. Only someone you love can hurt you. My friends or acquaintances can criticize as much as they like, and I only feel sorry they have misjudged me. But even a hint of unjustified criticism by my wife results in a deep hurt. Save your best manners and greatest consideration for your family.

 

8. Shun gossip and unilateral advice. You and your spouse are one. Listen only to each other. Any advice (even this) should be shared by both of you.

 

9. Plan and arrange time alone with your spouse. Get away from the children and friends for a date each week and a weekend every month or so. A weekend together at a hotel or motel is great. Stay in bed all morning and have breakfast in bed. Avoid separate vacations as you would avoid the plague.

 

10. Beware of money problems. As a physician, when a patient told me, "I used my money to do such and such," it was blatant evidence of a marital problem. It is not "my money" or "your money," but "our money."

 

11. Never compete with your spouse. Make a point of trying to build each other up. Never try to make your spouse jealous. His or her success is yours—delight in it.

 

12. Go regularly to the same church. Read the Bible and pray together each night. This is probably the most vital advice that can be offered. Each night, without fail, read your Bible and make a point of getting on your knees and praying together. You can't be sad, angry, or even hurt if your spouse has an arm around you and you're praying together.

Don't let the sun go down on your anger.