Strong Marriage Foundation

All marriage problems originate in a weakened or broken marriage foundation. Any couple or partner can fix or save their marriage by strengthening their marriage foundation. Unfortunately, too many couples turn to common marriage advice, or wait, hoping that the marriage relationship will improve with time.

Common marriage advice fails. It isn’t that common advice is bad. Common marriage advice fails to provide proper context and execution. Look around. Over a billion items of common marriage advice available on the internet and decade after decade the number of couples divorcing is between 600,000 to 1 million, between 1% and 2% of all married couples. (No, it's not 50%)

This article is the first part of a two-part series about the marriage foundation. In this article, I provide a thorough introduction. In part two, I provide an example how and why a strong marriage foundation solves all marriage problems. Please read this article first, and then part two.

How I Discovered the Marriage Foundation

Mark Jala

My name is Mark Jala, and I’m here to tell you now that if you want to improve the quality of your marriage, you have to rebuild your marriage foundation. You see, when I considered becoming a marriage coach many years ago, I was bothered by the steady divorce rate, cost of marriage counseling, low success rate of marriage counselors, and how segments of the population were abandoned either by cost or education level.

I wanted to help, but I didn’t want to become a service provider like everyone else. I wanted to make a real difference.

With over 40 years of problem-solving experience in a couple different fields, I knew the only way a couple could improve the quality of their marriage is to address the root cause of the relationship problems.

That is why I chose to become a certified coach in Strategic Interventions. There is no better program to determine and resolve root problems. It was through the practices of Strategic Interventions that I discovered the marriage foundation.

The marriage foundation came to me when I was researching my blog post called Why the Divorce Rate is Consistently So High. In that blog post, I thoroughly examine the three major reasons why the divorce rate is always so high. The SOLUTIONS offered to solve the 3 reasons became the marriage foundation.

The marriage foundation is the solution to marriage relationship issues and divorce.

The 3 Parts of the Marriage Foundation

The marriage foundation is made up of 3 parts:

  1. 1
    The 13 Personal Needs
  2. 2
    Emotional Intelligence
  3. 3
    The Marriage Friendship

Every marriage problem you have is rooted in one, two, or all three parts of the marriage foundation. A happy and long-term marriage is the result when couples put effort into all three parts of the marriage foundation.

Part 1 – The 13 Personal Needs

Earlier, I mentioned that common marriage advice lacks context. What exactly is context? Context of marriage advice is WHY you make an effort to act on some marriage advice. I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to go on date nights, have intimate conversations, read a marriage book, or do active listening when having a conversation with your partner.
Have you tried any of these?

I hear from many partners and couples, and they tell me stories of how they tried going on date nights or having intimate conversations, and it didn’t go well.

While the advice is actually good, by itself, it lacks context.

  • WHY are you going on a date night?
  • WHERE are you going on the date night?
  • WHY there?
  • WHAT will you discuss or do on the date night?

These are just a few of the important items that define the CONTEXT of going on a date night. The answer to those questions is summed up in – your needs and the needs of your partner.

If you don't meet your partner's needs, they will be met elsewhere and by someone else.
When I ask people what their needs are, I often hear two or three. They say things like honesty, connection, or commitment.

Those are good. The problem is... it's just a start.

One of the biggest issues couples face is keeping the marriage fresh and alive. The couple has been together for 5, 10, or 20 years and they have nothing to talk about.

Really? Come on. Let's get serious.

Anyone losing a connection to their partner, or not having enough to talk about, doesn't know their partner well enough.

How do you get to know your partner?

You dig deep and discover their 13 Personal Needs?

That's right. I said 13 Personal Needs.

Your needs are the context that makes common marriage advice... awesome advice.

Personal Needs
  • Have you ever been on a date night and it didn't go very well?
  • Have you ever tried to have an intimate conversation with your partner, and one or both of you got defensive and argued?
  • Have you ever tried doing some activity together, and you just ended up on each other's nerves?

These are common things couples try. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. It's not that the advice is bad, it's just incomplete.

Most partners do not get their needs met by their partner. Often, a partner doesn't even know what all of their needs are UNTIL they do the exercises.

Then, the picture becomes clear.

They understand themselves better.

They understand their partner better.

Now, when they have a date night, they are doing it with a purpose and it has special meaning.

Now, when a couple has an intimate conversation, they have PLENTY to talk about. It has purpose.

Now, when a couple does an activity, they understand why they are there together, and it takes on a whole new meaning.

When you understand your 13 Personal Needs and the 13 needs of your partner, LIFE takes on a whole new meaning.

There are three groups of needs that make up the 13 Personal Needs.

  1. 1
    First, there are the high-level needs. These needs define some practical things you can do to express love to your partner. These are easy to understand and easy to implement.
  2. 2
    Second, there are the emotional needs. These are also practical, easy to understand, and easy to implement. When these needs are met, you build a special friendship with your partner.
  3. 3
    Third, there are the foundational, or human, needs. These are a bit abstract. They are more challenging to understand and implement. However, these are critical to understanding your partner, understanding why they do the things they do, and provide the most reward when implemented. When you meet these needs in your partner, an unbreakable bond develops between the two of you.

These needs are just the beginning of the marriage foundation. There are two more parts that carry equal weight.

Would you like to learn your 13 Personal Needs?

You will get that chance at the end of this article. I'll talk more about it later, but for now, imagine if your marriage took on a whole new meaning. Imagine feeling a strong connection to your partner. Imagine having a strong trust with your partner.

All of that and more comes when the two of you understand each other's needs and take time to meet those needs. 

Part 2 – Emotional Intelligence

The proper way to execute any marriage advice, and how to avoid most marriage problems, is to use Emotional Intelligence.

Wouldn't it be nice to know how to avoid most marriage issues?

Here's the problem.

Most people think their marriage problem is communication, anger, defensiveness, sex, trust, or some other common issue couples face.

Those are not the problems.

Those are how the real problem manifests, or expresses itself. These are SURFACE issues. The real problem is in the marriage foundation, and a key part of that, is not meeting each other’s needs.

Once you know your needs and your partner's needs, then it's time to fulfill those needs.

  • by having date nights
  • by having intimate conversations
  • and by doing all the other common advice you've heard about
Marriage Coaching

But now, you are doing all that in a way that CONNECTS with your partner. You connect with your partner by executing with Emotional Intelligence.

By learning the skills of Emotional Intelligence, you will execute skillfully, and avoid most marriage issues.

Most marriage issues arise because of how the couple interact with one another.
When you learn the skills of Emotional Intelligence, you'll be able to defuse anger and emotional outbursts before they happen.

There are 3 parts to Emotional Intelligence.

First, you learn how to understand your own emotions and feelings.

When you learn these SKILLS, you'll start to identify early on when you get triggered, angry, anxious, as well as happy, joyful, and excited.

You'll pick up on things like body language, heartbeat, eye dilation, breathing patterns, and more.

Understanding your feelings and emotions is critical to relating with someone effectively.

Second, you learn how to understand the emotions and feelings of your partner.

Just as you learned how to understand your emotions and feelings, it's critical to learn the same patterns in your partner. These skills will teach you how to notice your partner's body language, breathing pattern, pulse, and more. When you can pick up on the cues your partner is showing you all day, every day, you'll be able to move on to step three.
Third, you ACT to create the most beneficial outcome.

It's one thing to know what's happening, but acting on it is far more beneficial.

When things are going well where both you and your partner are having a great time, you keep the momentum going. You keep it going by continuing to meet your partner's needs and executing in a way that your partner responds well to.

When things don't go too well and you and/or your partner are showing signs of anxiety, triggering, or stress, you PAUSE the encounter by saying something like "I need a few minutes to digest what's happening here. Would you mind if we take a break for about 15 minutes? We can resume after that."

By pausing the situation, you diffuse a situation that could lead to one or both of you to get angry, defensive, or say/do something that makes the situation worse.

Acting on the emotions and feelings you discern is a sign of true emotional intelligence skills.

When you AND your partner are on the same page and pick up on the same signals, the pause is welcomed and acknowledged.

Emotional Intelligence may sound difficult. It does take time to learn and develop the skills. But that's the good news. It's just a set of skills, just like any skill you've already learned. You can learn these skills, too.

Soon, I'll explain exactly how you can do that. For now, get excited about the opportunity to learn new skills that will help you in every relationship you have.

  • Work associates
  • Family members
  • Neighbors
  • Friends

These skills can help you in every relationship you have.

Part 3 – The Marriage Friendship

Without understanding this special FRIENDSHIP, the marriage will suffer. We treat spouses differently than regular friends.

There are seven (7) parts of the Marriage Friendship. In this article, I'm going to cover three of them.

All seven are vitally important. The three I selected for this article should give you topics to ponder.

By understanding and building a special marriage friendship, you'll create a marriage that can withstand difficult times. 

#1 - The Love Map

The Love Map ties into the 13 Personal Needs.

Pull up a Google map of the area you live in. It will probably include the road numbers, exit numbers, parks, and terrain. As you drill down, you’ll discover neighborhoods, museums, hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, and area attractions. Click on a button, and you can be taken to street view where you have a totally different perspective of the street you are viewing.

The love map is very much like Google maps. It is everything you know about your spouse. While dating, you spent a lot of time learning about your love interest. You asked a lot of questions. In the beginning, your questions were probably rather superficial. What is your favorite color, sports team, music, etc.? As the relationship matured, so did the questions. You started asking about dreams, plans, fears, ambitions, motivations, etc.

Marriage Friendship

After marriage, communication tends to dwindle. Life gets in the way, and such communication becomes a luxury.

When you start to think you know all there is to know about your partner - you haven’t scratched the surface.

As the year's progress, we go through a lot of changes, physically, mentally, spiritually, in our careers, with our friends, where we live, our ambitions, fears, and a myriad of other things. There is never a time when you can stop learning about your partner.

Happily married couples ALWAYS update their love maps. They never shy away from time to talk with one another. Just like with good friends, the more you know about your partner, the more information you will have at your disposal to help you when challenges arise.
Such information is not just the surface info, the who, what, when, and where. It is important to delve into the "why."

Constantly building the love map is essential to developing a great friendship with your spouse, it is essential for a strong marriage foundation.

TASK #1: Build Your Love Map. Pull out your journal. What are some things you wished your partner knew about you? What are some things you want to know about your spouse? The next time you take time to talk, ask some deep questions about what is going on with your partner and why.

#3 – Positive Intent

When I get together with friends, we can act up pretty good. There always comes the time when we give each other a lot of grief. Of course, it’s all in good fun. Someone can look at a friend and tell them they are full of BS. In a moment or two, the two of them break out in laughter, slap each other on the back and go on to tease someone else.

In many cases if you were to tell your spouse they are full of BS, they might not take it so kindly. Why the difference? Besides having the expectation that loving spouses wouldn’t say those things to one another, even in jest, we also attribute a different intent to those we have the most serious of relationships with.

Happily married couples attribute positive intent with one another. Couples having issues often attribute negative intent.

When you come home, and discover your partner didn’t do a chore or something you expected to be done by that time, do you think negatively about your partner? Do you blame them for not getting things done on time?

Negative intent fills our minds when our blueprint doesn’t match our reality. Negative intent starts us down a negative spiral. It feeds on itself. Once we attribute negative intent, we begin looking for more behaviors that justify the negative intent. Minor things are blown out of proportion, all to justify and rationalize our negative beliefs.

The solution is to fight back the tendency to attribute negative intent, and actively seek out the positive intent.

Going back to our example earlier. You come home to find your husband did not vacuum the floors as he promised. It would be easy to start getting angry. You like a clean house. He promised to get the vacuuming done. He didn’t. To make matters worse, you find him taking a nap on the living room couch with the TV on.

Barring any other complications like company coming over in an hour and you have to make dinner, the best thing to remember is that love and anger cannot exist at the same time.

It would be best not to approach him at that time. Let him continue to nap. Give yourself the gift of time to allow your emotions to calm down. Take a soothing bath. Go for a walk. Exercise. Do something that relieves your stress. Now, start asking yourself quality questions. The questions we ask ourselves can help turn a bad situation into a positive situation.

Instead of asking why he is so lazy or why he didn’t get the job done, you could ask yourself what may have come up for him that didn’t give him the time to get the vacuuming done? What could have distracted him? What could have been more important to him than doing the vacuuming? What is going on in his life that allowed the vacuuming to slip his mind?
Do you see the change in thought process?

It’s not about you and the importance of a clean house to you, but rather about what is going on with your spouse.

Instead of assuming, negatively, that he didn’t vacuum because of a character defect, or to punish you for something, the thought process is to understand him better and what is going on in his life.

The vacuuming, or any household chore, is a surface problem. You can get angry about the surface problem, or you can understand your spouse and build a strong marriage foundation.

Positive intent allows both partners to remain calm with one another and discuss important matters as civil adults.

TASK #3: Positive Intent. What is an example where you recently jumped to a negative conclusion regarding your spouse? What are some ways you can pause from jumping to a negative conclusion, and assume positive intent?

#7 – Commitment

Let’s start with a quick quiz. This is like taking a thermometer to your marriage.

How committed are you to your marriage?

Are you:

  • 100% committed
  • 90% to 99% committed
  • 80% to 89% committed
  • 60% to 79% committed
  • Less than 59% committed

Take a moment and think about your answer.

Here is the quick way to score your answer. Anything less than 100% committed is 0% committed. Period.

For example, if your partner tells you they are 85% committed to the marriage, and they are scheduled to go on a week-long work conference to Hawaii with an attractive teammate of the opposite sex, would you have any concern?

Anything short of 100% commitment leaves the door open to inappropriate behavior. It is during difficult times that anything less than 100% commitment can ruin a marriage. Thoughts tend to dwell not on how to fix the marriage, but on whether or not you want to stay married.

Lack of commitment breeds conflict.

Commitment is an all or none condition.

TASK #7: Commitment. Take some serious time to spend in thought to determine your level of marriage commitment. If you find yourself at less than 100%, determine at least 5 things that brought you to this point, and 5 things that will help you to bring it up to 100%. Share your thoughts and both 5 item lists with your partner.

You completed the introduction to the Marriage Foundation. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more I want to share with you.

The first thing I recommend is to check out part two of this two-part series. In the second part, I provide an example of a couple struggling with their marriage, and how the marriage foundation radically changed the dynamics of their marriage. Check out PART TWO.

The second thing I recommend is to sign-up for my email newsletter. You'll find that below.

Third, check out my services page. There you can see the various ways I help clients save or repair their marriage in weeks, rather than months.

About the author

Mark Jala is a certified marriage coach, researcher, and consumer advocate. Certified in Strategic Interventions, Mark bases all of his services and advice on verifiable research. With nearly 40 years of problem solving experience, Mark has developed a holistic approach to marriage coaching which provides a context and execution plan not seen in ordinary marriage services.

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