Please remember that all articles on this website  are © Sonja Ridden unless otherwise stated.

Essential Ingredients For A Happy Marriage




This is the main ingredient for a good and healthy partnership as it enables us to open our innermost self to our partner. Trust can only be established by consistently acting in a reliable and predictable fashion, by being truthful with and dealing fairly with one another. Trust is essential as it allows us to let our partner know who we are (warts and all) in the faith that he or she will treat this knowledge with the respect this courageous step deserves. Without trust a marriage/partnership cannot survive.



Acceptance means honouring our partner despite their differences in personality and character, despite their individual complexities, idiosyncrasies and flaws. Acceptance means recognizing that just because we are different from our partner does not make us any better or worse than them - we all have flaws and require our partner's willingness to accept our frailties as much as they require ours. Whilst trust is the only soil in which the fragile flower of partnership can be planted successfully, acceptance is the fertiliser without which the flower will eventually whither and die.



When we first enter a love relationship we rarely think about the fact that all relationship have their "up" and "down" times. However, we need to understand that no matter how well we get along initially, in order to create a healthy long-term partnership or marriage we will need to make adjustments and sacrifices. We need to be prepared to see the world through our partner's eyes and help him/her to see the world through ours. We need to learn to negotiate conflict issues and be willing to agree to disagree in certain areas. We need to accept that having a healthy partnership does not just happen, but requires TIME, COMMITMENT and HARD WORK.


RESPECT This is a vital ingredient for a any relationship and particularly important for the creation of a happy, healthy and satisfying marriage. It means treating our partner the way we wish to be treated ourselves. It means respecting them as an individual with their own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, strengths and frailties, even though they may differ from our own. It means never making fun of or belittling any of their qualities. It also means dealing with relationship conflicts in non-threatening and non-manipulative ways and never using their frailties as a weapon against them.



Achieving a sense of togetherness has much to do with TIME. It requires taking the time to get to know our partner (warts and all); scheduling time to discuss our relationship challenges and to action any agreements we might have made. It means making time to do "fun stuff" together. It also means making any effort necessary to ensure our partner feels precious, cherished and nurtured. This is best achieved by learning each other's love language. More information on the 5 love languages (as identified by Chapman, G) will appear in a separate article.



As important as it is to achieve a sense of 'togetherness' it is also to retain a measure of 'separateness'. This means understanding and accepting that whilst we've chosen to travel life's journey hand-in-hand, we are neither inseparably entwined with each other nor do we cling to each other like ivy clings to a wall. In other word, we retain healthy personal boundaries that allow us to say 'yes' and 'no' when appropriate and give the other the freedom necessary to retain their individuality. It means having and pursuing individual interests and giving our partner time and space to do the same. A partnership that does not honour the separateness quickly becomes stifling, overwhelming and toxic. It becomes co-dependent. (More on co-dependency will appear in a separate article).



Effective communication is a two-way street that has a number of components. It requires an ability to verbalise our thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening way and a willingness to listen in a way that lets our partner know that he/she has been heard and understood. It requires an openness to their experience, an ability to acknowledge their opinions (whether we share them or not) and a tolerance for their differences. Talking together enables us to share our innermost thoughts and feelings. It is the means by which we demonstrate respect, by which we encourage and affirm our partner and let them know if we fell that things aren't right between us. It further enables us to effectively deal with conflicts and allows us to verbalise our needs and wants as well as our hopes and dreams. Communication is the key to all healthy, successful relationships.



Every partnership requires a spirit of tolerance. As our partners neither share our individual histories nor the same experiences or personality make-up, we need to exercise tolerance in areas in which we find them very different to ourselves, difficult to understand or hard to like. Tolerance helps us accept them even if we do not always understand or (even) like them. It enables us to "let them be who they are" and takes away the need, that so poisons relationships, to change them.



Compromise means 'meeting half-way'. The very fact that we are involved with another person suggests that we cannot always do, have or say things that merely suit ourselves but need to consider the other's desires, wishes and needs. In order to achieve a healthy partnership, compromise as an absolute "must".



Being human means making mistakes. No matter how wonderful our relationship may be in general, there will be times when we fail our partner and when he or she fails us. A healthy partnership is able to "weather" such storms through the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness means "letting go" of the offence, which is an ability that is essential to keeping any marriage or partnership intact. (More on the power of forgiveness will be covered in a separate article).



The Value Of Great Relationships continued:



One of the most difficult things to understand about what makes a relationship satisfying and great is the significance of personal responsibility. The only way we can ever achieve lasting intimacy and satisfaction in any relationship is to recognise, not just on a cognitive but also on a deep emotional level, that each human being carries responsibility for their own feelings. This, however, is not a well known nor particularly popular concept as most of us tend to firmly believe that our happiness is dependent on how others behave towards us. How often have we uttered complaints to our friends, or they to us, along the lines of:


  • "He makes me sooooo angry" or

  • "she is driving me crazy" or

  • "my teens are responsible for every grey hair on my head", or

  • "my mother makes me feel so guilty", or

  • "my boss frustrates the living daylights out of me"...etc


Most of us carry a deeply ingrained belief that it is someone else's job to make us happy. This is never more apparent than in our love and family relationships. Take the following example:

Sandy desperately wants to spend quality time with her partner, Bob. He, however, is not in the right frame of mind to comply with Sandy's wishes. Consequently Sandy feels unloved, uncared for, rejected and very angry with Bob.

Bob's desire of physically connecting with his wife has been thwarted once again because she just 'isn't in the mood'. Bob feels frustrated, rejected, uncared for, unloved and equally angry with Sandy. Each is expecting the other to supply what they consider they need in order to be happy and since their needs and wants aren't being met, they feel perfectly justified in blaming the other for their feelings of resentment and anger.

Please understand that I am not challenging or denying your rights of expecting legitimate couples needs to be met in your love relationships. What I am saying, however, is that YOU are in charge of your responses. If your legitimate relationship needs are being neglected there are far more appropriate and more effective ways of dealing with this than through temper tantrums, emotional withdrawal and/or finger-pointing.



A lack of awareness of this important concept can (and easily does) cause us to fall into the following relationship traps:


  • Playing the blame game - "I am desperately unhappy and it's all your fault!"

  • Engaging in power struggles - "I won't do this for you unless you do that for me, but you must do it first."

  • Taking the victim role - "I give and give and you don't give anything back to me!"

  • Manipulating - "If you don't meet my needs I don't believe that you love me".

  • Sending the partner on a guilt trip - "If you really loved me, you would..."


Can you see how destructive it is when we do not take personal responsibility for our feelings in relationships?


Taking responsibility for our feelings (whatever they may be!) empowers us to appropriately respond and take whatever action may be necessary.


When we take personal responsibility we can be honest (with our partners, others and ourselves). We can also maintain healthy boundaries, create win/win situations, maintain all-important self-respect and conduct ourselves with integrity. Let me demonstrate this by using Sally's circumstance as illustrated in the above example:


Speaking honestly Sandy might say to Bob: "When we don't spend time together week in/week out, I start to feel disconnected. When I feel disconnected I wonder about the quality of our relationship and I get scared that it might not be as important to you as it is to me."


When Sandy lets Bob know her real feelings (being scared), he is far more likely to respond favourably to her needs than he would be if he felt attacked for being uncaring and unloving.

In the interest of maintaining her personal boundaries Sandy could add: "When I feel disconnected, because of the lack of time we spend together, the last thing I feel like doing is making love."


Sandy takes responsibility for her diminished interest in their physical connection rather than blaming him and also gives him a vital clue as to why this is so.


In an attempt to create a win/win situation Sandy might say to Bob: "Perhaps we could plan to spend time together one evening each week (go out for dinner, watch a movie, go for a walk at the beach...) and end those days on a physically romantic note?!"


This way, rather than fuming within and feeling justified in ignoring Bob's needs for physical connection, Sandy makes suggestions that demonstrate her willingness to take responsibility for finding a solution which meets her own needs and at the same time shows consideration and respect for his.


If Bob doesn't respond to Sandy's efforts, she could say to him: "I feel like I am starving emotionally when we can't manage to make time together. If my suggestions don't work for you, perhaps you could make suggestions that do."

This helps Sandy maintain all-important self-respect.


If Bob is equally as interested in getting their relationship back on track he will either agree to her suggestions or come up with his own. A lack of either could well be an indication that their relationship is in serious trouble. If this were the case Sandy, conducting herself with integrity, might say: "I have legitimate needs in this relationship. Right now these aren't being met and this is causing me a great deal of pain. Let's get some help!"


This is just a simple illustration of how communication can work when we take responsibility for our feelings.


Sounds scary? Well yes, it can be if emotional honesty hasn't thus far been part of your relationship repertoire. Stretching towards this kind of goal, however, will not only improve your intimate relationships but also pave the way for improvement with all your other relationships. Yes, this does take time and is a process that involves some trial and error, but when you begin to feel the freedom of communicating with emotional honesty, self-respect and integrity you'll be glad to have made whatever effort was required. After all, the essence of a happy life is found in the quality of our relationships!


Sonja Ridden is a counsellor and coach who has conducted a private Counselling/Psychotherapy and Coaching practice located on Sydney's North Shore for 17 years. During this time she has not only assisted large numbers of clients but also written and presented numerous professional and personal development training courses and has authored a book as well as countless other publications.


Passionate about personal and professional development, Sonja considers herself a change agent and is committed to enhancing individual's potential in all areas of life.


Having moved away from Sydney some years ago Sonja now specialises in life-and relationship coaching via Skype, Google Hangout, Facetime or phone.


Over the years she has had the privilege of assisting hundreds of couples in dealing with their specific relationship challenges as well as rediscovering intimacy, connection and love.


Children Learn What They Live continued:


If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encoura
gement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.


Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte



When There Is Conflict In Your Relationship continued:


To most people conflict is something from which they shy away. They may be so afraid of conflict that they would do just about anything in order to avoid it. Alternatively, their discomfort might express itself in aggressive behaviour or language. Ask yourself: "How do I behave when conflict arises in my life? Do I....."


* Pretend that everything is okay even when it isn't?

* Withdraw from the person who raised a conflict issue?

* Withdraw from conflict situations?

* Give in or do whatever you can to 'fix' the problem, even if you don't consider it your problem?

* Give another the 'cold shoulder' or the 'silent treatment'?

* Get angry, blame, shame, criticise or use sarcasm?

* Scream, yell and/or become physically violent?

If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions, you would benefit from learning more about effective conflict management and resolution. Learning to effectively deal with conflict is an invaluable life skill.


Here are a few tips:


  • Don't deal with the issue causing conflict in the heat of the moment. Nobody is objective at that time.

  • Deal with the issue at hand. Dredging up everything that has annoyed you about the other person or the current conflict situation during the past five years is not helpful.

  • Focus on the conflict issue or behavior instead of attacking the other person's character or motive. Don't threaten or manipulate, and don't call the other person names.

  • Give the other person an opportunity to say what they wish to say. Listen carefully and seek to understand from their point of view what they are saying.

  • Don't push the other person into a corner, allow them to "save face".

  • Don't be afraid of discovering that you are wrong. If you are, say 'sorry'!

  • The issue causing conflict may not be a matter of right or wrong - you may need to 'agree to disagree'.

  • Sometimes 'meeting halfway' may be a necessary compromise to achieving resolution of your conflict.

Avoiding Family Conflict continued:


Some years ago I heard about research (involving close to 20,000 families) that was conducted in an effort to discover what people believe constitutes a strong family.


The 6 major qualities were identified as follows:



Appreciation and affection

Effective communication

Quality time spent together

Successful stress and crisis management

Spiritual unity


A few hints on how this might work:


Commitment is:

* A promise and decision of significance and lasting value.

* Hanging in there when the going gets tough.

* Walking life’s journey together through thick and thin.

* Supporting family members when they are having a rough time.

Appreciation and affection are:

* Caring deeply for all family members and expressing this frequently.

* Showing family members through our actions how much they mean to us.

* Being available to and showing respect for all family members in good times and in bad.

* Physical demonstrations our love.


Effective communication is:

a two-way street that has a number of components. It requires an ability to verbalise our thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening way and a willingness to listen in a way that lets others know they’ve been heard and understood. It requires an openness to others’ experience, an ability to acknowledge their opinions (whether we share them or not), a tolerance for differences and, last but not least, the courage to deal with conflict. These components can be specified as follows.......


Quality time spent together:

We spend time with whom and on what we value. A thousand words won’t be as effective as quality time spent together...
Spending time with our family says: “I enjoy your company”, “I want to be with you”, “You are more important to me than my golf buddies” If, however, they – or anything/anyone else - take precedence over our loved ones and usually come first, the message our family receives is loud and clear and it’s a very painful message – others matter more!!

Remember: “Families who play together, stay together!”


Successful stress and crisis management:

None of us can escape the stresses of the world we live in, but some families deal much better with them than others. Families that manage stress more effectively are usually headed by a couple who:

* Have a strong and committed relationship.

* Have strong values.

* Are good role models for their children.

* Have firm, but flexible family boundaries.

* Have realistic expectations.

* Have good conflict resolution skills.


Spiritual Unity:

Spirituality can be a great bonding agent. Spirituality, whilst meaning different things to different people, usually is focused on a power that is greater than us. Spending time together in discussing, exploring and communing with our Higher Power can be a great foundation for family unity. It can be the basis of our value system and provide the guidelines by which we lead our families.





The Role Of Emotional Safety In A Couple's Relationship


Dr. Rosie King, a lady who is renowned for her studies in sexual health, calls this experience 'limerance' and describes it as a hormonally induced state that occurs when 'boy meets girl'. There is no doubt that this is a wonderful and exciting condition that feels awfully good. But is it love? Relationship experts say "no". It's an experience that leaves almost as quickly as it comes. As the hormones settle, as we start to get to know the other person warts and all, as life continues to relentlessly pound us with its challenges and wears us down with its daily grind, the state of 'limerance' quickly gives way to stark reality, which can turn our feelings into rapid disillusionment. This is usually the point at which the question arises: "Why did I fall in love with this person?" What happens next will largely depend on the answer to this question. If the couple feel connected by something deeper and of greater substance than 'limerance', they then have the opportunity to step up to a different and far more meaningful level - commitment. Commitment means making an internal vow to stay with the program, to resist the desire to give up when the going gets tough, to make the decision to work at the relationship and to give it one's best. Commitment is the foundation for emotional safety.


Emotional safety is a relationship climate in which it is possible to show all of yourself - the good, the bad and the ugly - to another person. It is a climate in which you know that it's okay to be open and honest, to share your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, ideas, hopes, dreams, expectations and fears. It's a climate that enables you to be who you are whilst allowing you, at the same time, to develop, grow and change into the person you desire to be. It's a climate of unconditional support.

Emotional safety is a two-way street that requires willingness and effort from both parties. It's something that can only be developed over time and is made up of a number of ingredients.


Acceptance means accepting the other person for who they are. It means not being threatened by the partner's individuality and/or their differences.

Honesty means speaking the truth whether it is comfortable or not, whether it is convenient or not, whether it feels good or not.

Openness means being able to 'hear' the truth even if we'd rather remain ignorant and to consistently make the choice not to react defensively.

Trust is something that develops as a result of feeling safe in the knowledge of the partner's honesty, dependability and integrity.

Communication is the channel through which we connect with another person. It's the means by which we discover who our partner really is, share your thoughts and feelings, our personal likes, dislikes, ideas, values, beliefs and interests as well as what we will and won't accept - in other words, show the other person who we really are.

Conflict resolution skills. How safe do you feel with someone who seems to be in constant competition with you, who turns every conflict into a power struggle and seems unable to admit to their faults, weaknesses and vulnerabilities? My guess is, not at all! Conflict resolution skills are essential for the development of emotional safety.

Tolerance. Who is perfect? To happily co-exist with ANYBODY requires tolerance. Tolerance means not getting too hyped up about the other person's shortcomings.

Forgiveness. We can only feel safe and secure in an environment in which making mistakes is not considered a criminal offence. Any healthy relationship requires heavy doses of forgiveness.


Selfishness. Making everything - or considering everything to be - about you.

Not taking personal responsibility. Blaming your partner for everything that isn't working in the relationship.

Power struggles. Feeling that you must 'win' each argument, must get your own way, must be right at all costs and act accordingly.

Lack of personal boundaries. Allowing your partner to walk all over you OR considering it your personal right to walk all over your partner.

Fear of conflict. Inability to tackle tough relationship issues.

Lack of communication. Not giving your partner information about you - your thoughts and feelings, likes, dislikes, ideas, values, beliefs, interests, what you will and won't accept - in other words, what makes you tick.

Sonja Ridden is a counsellor and coach who has conducted a private Counselling/Psychotherapy and Coaching practice located on Sydney's North Shore for the past 15 years. During this time she has not only assisted large numbers of clients but also written and presented numerous professional and personal development training courses and has authored a book as well as countless other publications.

Passionate about personal and professional development, Sonja considers herself a change agent and is committed to enhancing individual's potential in all areas of life.

Sonja also specialises in relationship counselling/coaching. Over the years she has had the privilege of assisting hundreds of couples in dealing with their specific relationship challenges as well as rediscovering intimacy, connection and love.