What Makes a Good Marriage?

What Makes a Good Marriage, a Good Friendship, a Good Partnership?

by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

As I sit here this morning with my coffee praying for my children, I reflect on their lives as young adults and the choices that they have made in their partners.

We have six amazing adult children.  Five incredible young men and one delicious daughter.  Two are married, one is negotiating a new relationship, one is in a long term relationship with a simply incredible young woman, our youngest boy is single and one of our middle boys is a week away from walking down the aisle with his exquisite bride.  I have the incredible privilege of marrying the two of them and I couldn’t be happier.

One common denominator stands out in the choices that my children have made in their partners.  ‘Kindness and Empathy’.  Well I guess that’s two but they are joined like twins.  At different times throughout their growing up I have written letters to them, had talks with them, encouraging them to make ‘deliberate choices’ in their selection of a partner.  I’m wishing I had a copy of the letters to share with you but the main tenant goes something like this which comes from a quote of Dr Gordon Livingston MD.

I maintain that a good marriage is easy provided that both people have been astute in the selection process.  If we choose a partner with ample reserves of kindness and a willingness to put us at the centre of his or her life, and if we have sufficiently cultivated those virtues in ourselves, we can refute the ‘hard work’ school of marriage, put down our picks and shovels, and partake of the endless pleasures of renewable love.

Here is the fundamental question about our readiness for marriage:  “Is it possible for us to love another adult as much as we love ourselves?    Can we truthfully say that we would never intentionally do anything to hurt them?  Are we our best when we are with them?

In these conversations with my kids I have talked about a list of characteristics and qualities to nurture in themselves and to look for in friends and lovers.  At the top of the list is kindness.  This is the top of the list because it is glued together with empathy and love.  Like any art form it is incredibly hard to define but we notice when its missing.

Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known. Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes. Joseph Wirthness.

You are valuable, your time is valuable therefore it is important that you know who to avoid.  You avoid those who are not worthy of your time and trust.  You need to protect your mental health, and avoid betrayal, meanness and people who are not transparent or willing to communicate in a healthy manner.  Selfish people can never be kind because kindness asks that we are able to put others first.

This is a list that I wrote out for one of my kids after they asked my opinion about a potential partner.  This was my response:

1: is he/she kind?
2: is he/she funny, because humour is the greatest form of courage that overcomes suffering and brings healing to the wounds of life.
3: does he/she believe there is a God – something other than their own small humanity?
4: is he/she patient?
5: is he/she open and willing to talk?
6: is he/she good at forgiving, because forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, it is anecdote to toxicity.
7: has he/she got a good work ethic?
8: is he/she truthful – honesty makes a solid foundation to build upon?
9: does he/she see women and men as equal?
10: would they hug a tree?

Number 10  is very important –
10 is the ability to see beyond the normal, to notice moments of wonder, to be a little mystical with a touch of silly – and very importantly it means that they are not afraid to laugh at themselves.

Ultimately each person is responsible for their own choices.  As parents we can only offer suggestions, collective wisdom and guidance.  We pray, we advise, but our greatest gift to our adult children is to let go and to trust the people that they have become.  I love my adult children, I love their company and I love who they have become.

The primary goal of parents, beyond keeping them safe and loved, is to convey to them a sense that it is possible to be happy in an uncertain world, to give them hope (Livingston).  We do this of course by example.  From the beginning we have been raising them to leave us.  Hopefully they find fruitful and loving relationships, built on kindness, honesty and trust that last the distance.


If you wish to read more about kindness you can follow this link to another blog post that I have written on Kindness.

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