Marital researchers can predict with an 80-85% accuracy which couples will have serious relationship problems based on self-reported information about themselves and their partner. These relationship experts have identified five scales—realistic expectations, communication, conflict resolution, personality, and religious orientation—as predictive of relationship success or failure. In contrast to couples that fight or drift apart, happily married couples score high in these five scales.

Realistic Expectations:

When "expectations" are unrealistic (either too high or too low)—frustration and disappointment is imminent. When expectations are balanced and realistic, it is relatively easy to feel content. All successful couples and families must adapt to changing circumstances. Be they changes that are predictable—like the birth of children or advancing age—or changes that are unanticipated—such as unemployment or serious illness. All these "challenges" require an adjustment of expectations. In addition, it is essential to marital contentment that expectations are aligned with the aptitude and tendencies of one's partner. "He may never be the best communicator, but it is okay." "She may never be well organized and tidy, but I can live with it." Adjusting one's expectations to the reality of one's partner contributes directly to relationship harmony.


Satisfying conversations between a husband and wife builds closeness and trust. Research on relationship interactions shows that even one criticism or angry outburst, can undo the value of many positive interactions. The mind remembers negative interactions longer than positive ones. That's just the way it works! Understanding this highlights the importance of continually engaging in positive and pleasant communication, while trying to minimize negative interactions. Typically the simple and everyday communication between a husband and wife either builds or breaks a relationship. The challenge is to produce the greatest number of positive interactions with the fewest negative interactions.

Conflict Resolution:

The goal in marriage is to live in peace and harmony with your partner. However, for many couples, marriage will at times include occasional disagreement or conflict. When this happens it is essential to keep it contained. Successful conflict resolution requires three primary criteria.

One, stay respectful: no name calling, expressions of strong anger, bullying, or attempts to humiliate.

Two, stick to one topic: stay focused exclusively on the issue at hand. Resist dragging into the conversation other areas of disagreement or disappointment.

Three, keep it small: the disagreement should only last a few minutes and then be quickly set aside and efforts should be made to restore positive feelings and constructive interactions.


It is important that you are comfortable with your partner's personality. He or she doesn't have to be exactly like you—in fact if this were so, it would probably work against you. Remember, during courtship there was attraction. You chose to marry each other! Even after many years of marriage, that attraction it is still there—at least in potential. True—years of misunderstanding and conflict can create deep resentment. This accumulated negative emotion can actually change your perception of your partner, leaving you unable to accurately see who he or she really is. For this reason, as much as possible, conflict should be avoided, or at least you should try to look past it when it does occur and seek out the parts of your partner's personality that you admire.

Religious Orientation:

Dissimilar spiritual and cultural differences can stress a relationship. Religious orientation includes a set of rules that guides the couple in setting goals, making decisions, and raising the children. When religious orientation and culture are similar and compatible, this becomes the strong foundation upon which to build a strong and cohesive family. When there is disharmony, an individual should try to adjust to his or her partner's deeply held values. Values should trump convenience. For example, if your partner wants to keep Shabbat, try to find ways to cooperate and honor his or her spiritual values.

In Pirkei Avot (a Jewish ethical classic), the question is asked: "Which is the right path that a person should choose for himself?" Answer: "That which is honorable to himself, and honorable for other people . . ." Thus, the "honorable path" is a path that is comfortable for both individuals—the husband and the wife. A high score in these five scales are all honorable meeting places where husbands and wives can team up to built a successful relationship. Human beings are skilled at learning new ways of behaving. Choose one or more of these "scales," and improve your score.

Couples that score high in these five areas, although not necessarily perfect in every way, share happy and meaningful lives together. Join the ranks of the happy and successful.