How Healthy Is Your Marriage?

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By Mike DuBose with Blake DuBose

Marriage is a journey where two different people commit to becoming one. It is not a competition where one person “wins” at the expense of the other; rather, it’s an ongoing process of accommodating each other’s differences, nurturing each other’s strengths, and supporting each other’s weak spots. No matter your age or your history, if you and your partner work to build a healthy marriage, you can look forward to learning and growing happily together for the rest of your lives.

Using my psychology training, lessons learned over 43 years of marriage, current research, and recommendations from marriage counselors, I developed the following Marriage Health Assessment. This tool can be used to take a snapshot of your marriage’s current state. Simply answer the following questions openly and honestly, using the last 12 months as your frame of reference (unless there are significant unresolved conflicts or feelings from the past that are currently impacting your marriage). Initially, each spouse should take this assessment individually, without talking to the other. Set aside some time to think through your answers, perhaps over a couple of days. Then, schedule some uninterrupted quality time with your spouse to reflect on both partners’ notes and scores.

Marriage Health Assessment

Directions: On a scale ranging from 1 to 10 (with 1 being “very dissatisfied” and 10 being “very satisfied”), rate your happiness with your marriage in the following areas over the past 12 months. Please note: the descriptions provided to the right of each category are meant as ideal or suggested examples and may not apply to all marriages. They are not weighted and should be considered alongside other unlisted factors when rating each category.

Category

Description

Rating

Commitment to each other and the marriage

My spouse and I prioritize our marriage above our family, careers, hobbies, and other outside activities.

We have a deep trust for each other.

I often place my spouse’s needs before my own.

I refrain from criticizing my spouse in public.

I like spending time with my spouse.

I consider my spouse my best friend.

We are realistic in our expectations for each other.

Divorce is not an option for us.

 

Communication

My partner and I tell each other about the important things going on in our lives.

When we talk to each other, we minimize distractions such as cell phones and television so we can truly listen.

We treat each other with respect and don’t raise our voices or yell, even when we disagree.

 

Shared values and goals

Our core values and beliefs are similar.

We share ideas and have the same general goals in life.

Teamwork is an important value to us as a couple.

 

Decision-making

We act as equal partners when making important decisions regarding our lives.

As a couple, we discuss issues and weigh or debate different options; then, we make decisions in line with our mutual beliefs.

We respect each other’s schedules and check with one another before making plans.

We seek “win-win” solutions, and if we disagree about taking a certain path, we usually don’t proceed.

 

Individuality

My partner and I desire similar amounts of “alone time.”

I allow my spouse reasonable time to be involved in activities that don’t interest me without guilt or judgment.

Although we generally agree on most things, I don’t expect my partner to shareall of my beliefs, needs, desires, and wants.

I don’t expect my spouse to make me happy.

 

Conflict resolution and problem solving

When we have problems, we confront and try to resolve them while listening to and respecting each other’s perspectives.

We seek advice from each other.

If something is bothering or irritating me, I express it to my partner in a nice, honest way at an appropriate time.

We do not call each other names during arguments or negatively compare our spouses to others.

We avoid bringing up old wounds or past problems.

We “pick our battles,” compromising on smaller problems or issues and avoiding rigidity. Sometimes, we agree to disagree.

We practice patience and don’t get upset unless we see patterns of problems.

While we may disagree, we don’t argue in public.

I do not feel the need to “win” arguments over my spouse—we seek solutions that we are both satisfied.

We both sincerely apologize when we are wrong.

 

Spirituality

My spouse and I have similar faiths and/or I respect how he or she feels about spiritual issues.

We share our spiritual beliefs openly with each other.

We regularly pray and attend a house of worship together (if religious).

 

Health

My partner and I support and promote each other’s physical, emotional, and mental health.

Neither my partner nor I use alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drugs excessively to the point that they cause relationship problems.

We value good health and seek ongoing preventative medical care.

 

Finances and security

Both of us are knowledgeable and in agreement about our family’s financial assets, spending habits, and liabilities.

In the event that one of us dies or becomes disabled, the other will be able to access and manage financial accounts (knows their locations and passwords, listed as a beneficiary and/or owner of accounts, etc.).

We mutually decide how money is spent, donated, and saved.

We try to live within our financial means.

We hope for the best and plan for the worst.

We save for retirement and unexpected emergencies.

 

Appreciation

I express my appreciation for my spouse when he or she does something thoughtful.

We greet one another with smiles and exchange pleasantries throughout the day.

We look for the good in each other and avoid being sarcastic, judgmental, or overly critical.

I enjoy doing little things to brighten up my partner’s day.

I dress attractively for my spouse and maintain good personal hygiene.

 

Recreation and having fun

We regularly seek out and enjoy fun activities as a couple (like vacations, watching television programs, seeing movies, gardening, walking, cooking, going out to eat, shopping, and/or exercising together, etc.).

We plan many activities together based on things we both enjoy.

We regularly socialize with other couples, friends, and family.

We use humor to make life fun.

 

Family

If we have children (or grandchildren), we are “on the same page” about how to discipline, spend time with, and raise them, and we don’t base our lives solely around their activities.

Building a close-knit family is a high priority for us.

If we have older parents, we don’t allow them to govern our lives.

If we have adult children, we agree to allow them to grow up as individuals, couples, and parents without our interference, and we only give advice when asked.

We each try to get along with (and do not talk negatively about) our in-laws.

We agree on how to share our time between in-laws, friends, and relatives.

 

Household chores and cleanliness

We divide household chores fairly, and don’t regard any work as being assigned only to one spouse because of his/her gender.

I do some chores without being asked to show appreciation for my spouse and to be a true helpmate.

I pick up after myself and keep my workspace and personal belongings fairly neat and organized.

 

Setting priorities

We each try to balance our time spent alone, with our children and/or grandchildren, and on our careers, spiritual activities, television, Internet, hobbies, volunteerism, friends, sports, etc., to ensure that these do not diminish the importance of our marriage as a top priority.

 

Intimacy/sexuality

We enjoy touching, holding hands, kissing, and hugging each other, in addition to being intimate.

We regularly schedule date nights to spend quality time together alone.

I regularly do romantic things for my partner, and I know that I can’t simply “turn on” my partner’s intimacy “switch.”

 

 

 

 

 

Total Points

 

Scoring and Analysis

In this assessment, which is meant to shed light on certain areas of your marriage that may need improvement, your overall score is less important than the points given to individual categories. However, generally, if both you and your spouse individually gave your marriage total scores of:

  • 100 or more: You have a good (or even great) marriage, but don’t get complacent! Like a garden, a good, happy marriage takes ongoing work and nourishment. Set a goal of always trying to make it better!
  • 85-99: Your marriage is better than average! Use your findings and your partner’s assessments to identify areas where each person can take it to the next level.
  • 61-84: This is an average score and a potentially stagnant marriage. You may live more like roommates rather than a happily married couple. Compare your partner’s scores with yours. Is one person unhappier in the marriage than the other? Discuss the areas in which one or both of you scored low and develop ways to improve upon them.
  • 15-60: You’re in the danger zone! Get to work on discussing the most urgent, lowest-scoring facets of your marriage right away, then move on to others. If the two of you cannot develop a realistic, mutually-agreed-upon plan of action and make progress on your own, seek out a professional marriage counselor. Don’t give up!

Take note of the scores that you and your partner recorded for each category. Marriage is an imperfect union, so don’t expect many (if any) 9 or 10 ratings in the individual categories! The health of each aspect of your marriage is generally reflected in the following terms:

  • 8-10: You’re very happy with this facet of your marriage. Either you are a positive person whose outlook makes you score things highly, or you and your spouse have invested time and effort into making this area so good. Great job!
  • 5-7: You either are a “hard grader” or this part of your partnership is just OK (5-6) or pretty good (7). Maybe you and your spouse haven’t paid much attention to this area, you’re avoiding talking about it because you don’t want to cause conflict, or it needs a little tweaking. A rating in the 5-7 range does not indicate failure, but it does mean that you may benefit from some good discussion and fine-tuning in this area. With a little effort, most “7s” can become “8s!” Many couples who have been married for a long time inaccurately think that a stale marriage is just part of growing old, but for some couples, late in life can be the best part of their married lives!
  • 1-4: You are unhappy with this area of your marriage. Scores of 1-4 in any category are major danger signals that can eventually bring down higher ratings in other categories and create unhappiness, resentment, and hostility amongst one or both partners.

After examining your ratings individually, compare your notes with your spouse’s. If your scores differ by more than three points in any category, you may want to discuss why you have such different views and how you can reconcile them. You should also talk about any categories that received a 7 or lower from one or both of you. Work to raise any low scores gradually to an 8 or above, and your marriage (and lives) will be happier and healthier! Remember: an open, forgiving, and receptive mind and the will to change for the better can work wonders in building stronger and healthier relationships.

This assessment is not a foolproof or scientific measure and is no substitute for professional counseling and advice, but it can give you clues to your union’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. Hopefully, you will use it to create a blueprint for reaching your marriage’s full potential by:

  • Identifying the parts of your marriage that are working smoothly (don’t forget to celebrate!).
  • Pinpointing any weak or average spots where you and your partner need to reach a compromise.
  • Zeroing in on the serious issues that you are avoiding or haven’t yet discussed (but should)!

The bottom line: With the national divorce rate at nearly 52% among couples 59 years and younger and 60% for couples aged 60 years or older, many marriages these days are clearly in danger! However, taking an assessment like this one is a good step that shows you are interested in understanding your partnership and working on the parts that could be better. If your marriage needs improvement, take baby steps and be patient, knowing that it will take time to repair any damage, build trust, and strengthen areas that need attention. Very few marriages die suddenly—failure usually occurs over a long period of time. You can always make your marriage more fulfilling and happy, ifboth partners are willing to identify strengths and weaknesses in the relationship, have frank but friendly conversations about their concerns, build a mutually-agreed-upon plan, and commit to a life of continual improvement. It’s well worth the effort!

About the Authors: Our corporate and personal purpose is to “create opportunities to improve lives” by sharing our knowledge, research, experiences, successes, and mistakes.

Mike DuBose is a University of South Carolina graduate, former licensed counselor, and field instructor with USC’s graduate school. He is the author of the book The Art of Building a Great Business. Mike has been in business since 1981 and is the owner of five debt-free corporations, including Columbia Conference Center, Research Associates, The Evaluation Group, and DuBose Fitness Center. Visit his nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com for a free copy of his book and additional business, travel, health, and personal published articles.

Blake DuBose graduated from Newberry College’s Schools of Business and Psychology and is president of DuBose Web Group (www.duboseweb.com).

Katie Beck serves as Director of Communications for the DuBose family of companies. She graduated from the USC School of Journalism and Honors College.

© Copyright 2015 by Mike DuBose—All Rights Reserved. You have permission and we encourage you to forward the full article to friends or colleagues and/or distribute it as part of personal or professional use, providing that the authors are credited. However, no part of this article may be altered or published in any other manner without the written consent of the authors. If you would like written approval to post this information on an appropriate website or to publish this information, please contact Katie Beck at Katie@dubosegroup.com and briefly explain how the article will be used; we will respond promptly. Thank you for honoring our hard work!

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