This week’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex unions have thrust the institution of marriage into the spotlight. We talk about the latest research on the keys to wedded bliss. Whether you’re straight or gay, what does marriage mean to you? What are the secrets to a happy and fulfilling union? Or if you’re divorced or getting over a failed relationship, what did you learn about what makes a great partnership?

Joshua Coleman, psychologist in private practice with offices in Oakland and San Francisco, co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families and author of books including "The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony"
Liza Mundy, reporter, fellow at the New America Foundation and author of "The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss," which appeared in The Atlantic on May 22

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    When my husband died in 2004 we had been married 38 years. Success came because neither of us tried to change each other, and because we saw life as a wonderful journey. Was his caregiver the last fourteen years of his life.

    It’s easy to say vows that promise ‘for better, in health and for richer’ but dont forget the ‘for worse, in sickness and for poorer’. Because marriage has peaks valleys, storms, extreme heat and days that are this side of heaven. But the journey is made easier with the person you cannot live without vs the person you can simply live with.

  • Dean

    Too many times when I observe young married people in public in this region, they behave like what is termed douche-bags (of the male and female varieties) who are crass show-offs, pretending to be happy after they up in their BMW SUV, encouraging their loud attention-starved brats to behave badly, gesticulating distractingly in their new clothes etc. and who always seem to talk about their amazing house after sitting down near people who want nothing to do with them. Their outward behavior seems happy but their boasting and attention-seeking has an origin in the status-seeker’s hostility toward others or as a psychologist might say, self-loathing.

    Put these “happy” people in a situation where money has run out or doesn’t come easy, and I’m sure their cohesion and their fake smiles would disappear rapidly.

    Real reason for our economic collapse:

  • geraldfnord

    I think dating has an injurious effect on people’s ability to wholeheartedly give themselves to someone of the opposite-or-otherwise-desired sex. I see the couples we know who had a couple of years’ dating before they met each other, and I see nothing like the openness and comfortable feeling we enjoy, not having had the repeated experience of having our hearts broken by the beloved.

    One thing people with arranged marriages have that the voluntarily married seem to is someone else to blame—expectations are lower, and if even those aren’t met, neither party has to feel as if they’d made a mistake—traditionally, they just keep on living out their social rĂ´les, doing what were expected of them…and dying a little inside, but I think not as much as people locked in bad marriages for which they feel _responsible_…..

    • Bob Fry

      On the other hand, there are two guys in my office with arranged marriages (one Indian, one Sri Lankan). Not forced marriages, both parties had choices, but choices arranged by parents. Both married 10+ years with kids. Both marriages so-so, from what I see, rather little communication between the man and wife, fallen into habits, etc. No divorces expected but hardly better than a Western marriage involving dating.

  • Hugh

    ‘good marriage’ = healthy imagination

  • cwestsf

    I’ve been married twice now, once to a woman and again to a man. One thing I find to be universal is a compatible sense of humor, and that often requires a common frame of reference. If you’re watching the same TV shows and movies, reading the same books and magazines, there is lots of room for inside jokes. This sometimes annoys others, but it helps build a certain kind of intimacy that you can show in public.

    • Cathy

      Couldn’t agree more. Also, people deal with things differently and using a sense of humor to disguise issues that need to be addressed isn’t healthy. On the other hand, my husband and I find a little self-humility and ability to laugh at the messiness of life helps us not take the little things too seriously. For me, if I’m in a relationship where I lose my sense of humor, I know we’re in trouble.

  • Mjhmjh

    I completely disagree with the speaker’s suggestion that women usually initiate divorce because they are less satified within marriage. In many, many cases, a woman initiates divorce because her husband has either checked out of the marriage, or abandoned her and their children. Women often wait a long time before filing for divorce, hoping against hope that the husband will come back. And when they at last file it is because they have finally realized there is no hope – and even today, because they need the man to pay a realistic amount of child support.

  • Susie

    “We” is more important than “me.” My spouse and I have occasionally shed our individual desires for the benefit of our union. This view seems counter to the general culture of self-fulfillment. Yet, the strength of two wings beating in unison buoys our spirits and enables us to be more, risk more, and achieve more than we could individually. The small sacrifice of the self is so small a fee to pay for the richness of our 27 year marriage.

    Life would not be the same if only one of us put “we” first.

  • Juliana

    I thinks marriage needs both parties to share the same core values. People can be different and communicate in different ways but do they share the same life priorities? Also it seems to me that success in marriage also depends on both people willing to sacrifice of themselves for the sake of the family.

  • chrisnfolsom

    Still – Money – is a huge issue. Letting issues fester over time – which will bleed into other issues, magnify and really impact intimacy. Again, being real and I think being secure in yourself is very important and as mentioned and not necessarily looking for marriage or your partner to make things better, but working with them.

  • James Ivey

    My favorite joke about marriage is by David Feldman: “Marriage is a lot like prison without all the sex.”

    • Sanfordia113

      Spoken by a 40 year old virgin? Wrong on both accounts!

      • James Ivey

        Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not 40!

  • Jeremy

    Is there a downside to lionizing marriage in pursuit of marriage equality?

    • Sanfordia113

      Somebody got played. Hope you don’t end up in prison for a decade over that felony that is taken seriously by the US Government.

  • sarasf

    I’m the 40 yr-old daughter of a same sex partnership. My two moms were together for 30 years until my biological mom’s death. Their partnership was remarkable and a model for all that I wanted in a successful marriage. I learned from their relationship the value of honoring your partnership without loosing yourself in one. I’m happy to say my brother and I both found our soul mates. My husband and I have been now been married almost 10 years and have endured some incredible trials. Sincere communication, mutual respect and common values has been key to the success of our marriage.

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