What Is the Golden Rule of Marriage?

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I've been married for 5 years now and I wanted to know what I should be doing to ensure that I'll continue to have a great marriage. I know that each relationship is different and unique, but are there any "golden rules" that we should adhere to? I guess this could also apply to relationships for those who aren't married yet.

I rejoice with you over your great marriage.  One piece of advice: don't try to fix what isn't broken!  Keep doing what you are doing.  At the same time, I applaud your desire to ensure the continuation of your great marriage.

My wife Sarah and I have been married since 1973.  I realized several years ago that we practiced one golden rule: one for the husband and one for the wife.

Let me explain.

In our Love and Respect Marriage Conferences, we echo the research findings from the University of Washington that in marriage two key ingredients exist: Love and Respect.  In other words, they discovered that when the attitudes of love and respect exist, the marriage experiences true satisfaction.

Interestingly, while pastoring a church for twenty years, I discovered that the Bible teaches the same thing! Ephesians 5:33 says a husband must love his wife and a wife must respect her husband.  

From this verse, in my opinion, the golden rule for the husband is: if you want your wife to respond respectfully toward you, then meet her need to feel loved.  

The golden rule for a wife is:  if you want your husband to respond lovingly toward you, then meet his need to feel respected.

I call this principle the Energizing Cycle: his love motivates her respect and her respect motivates his love.  Given good will exists, when a couple acts on the Energizing Cycle, they will experience a healthy marriage.  

When I ask myself, "Is that which I am about to say going to feel loving to Sarah?" and let my answer guide me, I keep the marriage moving in a positive direction.  When Sarah asks herself, "Is that which I am about to say going to feel respectful to Emerson?" and lets her answer direct her words, she influences the climate of the marriage.

Here, I won't define love and respect other than to say in my book entitled Love and Respect, I go in depth on each, giving practical applications.  I also address certain objections such as, "Are you saying that a wife does not need respect and a husband does not need love?"  In addition, I explain what a wife can do if she loses her feelings of respect for her husband, how to respectfully confront a husband's wrongdoing, and how not to lose a sense of herself when showing respect.

The Energizing Cycle works because the key to motivating another person is by meeting that person's deepest need.  Sarah and I have observed this in our marriage as well as in the lives of countless couples as we travel the country.  

For sure, if a husband rejects the golden rule to love his wife unconditionally in order to meet her deepest need, she will close off her spirit and lose motivation to respond to him with respect. And if a wife rejects the golden rule to motivate her husband with respect, she will find that he no longer has fond feelings of love and affection in his heart for a woman he believes has contempt for who he is as a human being.  

As you move forward in good faith, applying the golden rule of love and respect, your marriage will wonderfully work!

-Dr. E