Richard Marks
Richard Marks

Regular readers of this column know that I have, from time to time, referred to the Smart Marriages conferences which I attended from 2001 to 2011. These conferences were a wonderful collection of therapists, authors, professors, political folks and others, all there with a desire to help people have healthy and smart marriages.

Many of these columns have been guest written by contacts I made at these conferences and today's is one of them. Dr. Richard Marks and I first met in 2001 and reconnected each year either at Smart Marriage or at Marriage Co-Mission meetings — another pro-marriage group of which he and I were members.

Ron Price
Ron Price

Rick is a delight to visit with and a veritable fountain of information on what it takes to have a strong, satisfying marriage. He is the vice president of "Live the Life," a wonderful organization in Tallahassee, Fla. "Live the Life" offers many programs and resources designed to help couples enjoy and maintain their marriage.

So without further ado — whatever ado is — here's Rick:

Defining US

Ever wondered what it takes to maintain a strong, healthy, vibrant marriage? I mean think about it. What does it take? Many books and articles talk about good communication and problem solving skills, respect and love, how one expresses love, and the list goes on. Now I am not saying those things are not good and right for a healthy marriage, but with all that knowledge, why is it that so many marriages still end in divorce? I think it is because of one very particular thing; the thing that matters most.

So, what does it take to have a loving, vibrant, and closely connected marital bond? I believe I can answer that.

I believe that the most important part of the marriage is not the husband or the wife. It is the third part of the marriage. And when the third part wins, you both will win. When the third part loses, you both will lose. What am I referring to? Great question. I will answer. The most important part of marriage is (drum roll please)... US! Yes, US. When US wins, you both win. When US loses, you both lose.

What is US? US is the third part of the relationship. It is neither the husband nor the wife, it is the relationship itself. And you always know when US is present in the relationship because you can FEEL its presence and you can also feel its absence. I love it when US is in the house.

When US is in the house, I feel the love, the connection, the warmth, etc. I also know when US is not in the house because I can feel its absence in the distance, the coldness, the tension, angst, anger, etc. Every decision you make in your marriage benefits you or it benefits US. I always tell couples that at the end of each day, you want three people in your bedroom: the husband, the wife, and their US.

If you want to keep US in your marriage you must live by one rule: humility. Humility to US. You see dear reader, pride, selfishness, bitterness and unforgiveness essentially exist because one party is focused more on the self than on the US. But when I forgive, seek forgiveness, humble myself and my decision making on behalf of what is best for US, my marriage will thrive. So who do you live more for — Yourself or US?

Now here is what is really interesting. Your US is different than the individual's. What I mean is that US likes things that I don't. For example I don't like shopping malls. I do not go to them. I stay away from them. If I am in a shopping mall it is because I had to go there. However, even though I don't like the mall ... US likes the mall. You see, when US goes to the mall, that is not me. It is US. When US goes to the mall we are holding hands, dreaming, etc.

My wife, Louella, would never visit a battlefield. Military history is not something she enjoys. However, US likes the battlefield. What does your US do that you don't? Do you spend making US time or is most of your time for your Self? When we value US more than ourselves, we will (through humility, good will and respect), keep US in the forefront of our lives.

I spend my life thinking and living each day more for US than myself. Giving to the US in your marriage is always a position of strength, it is not appeasing or placating your partner. And, the great mystery I have learned over 30 years of marriage is this: the stronger US becomes, the more complete I become. I think that is the great paradox of marriage. When we decide to value US then a strong, loving, and fun and caring marriage is a daily experience. The focus on US will serve to help you maintain your US in and during moments of occasional conflict, which all marriages will experience from time to time.

If you have lost that "loving feeling" as the song says, and your US has "left the house", then we know how to help you get it back. If we can ever be of service let us know.

Thankful

It's me again and I'm so thankful for Rick's thoughts on the importance of maintaining US in marriage. Nobody ever said it would be easy, but as Rick said, the benefits to each party clearly outweigh the effort or sacrifice required.

There are three ways to learn more from Rick. One is to contact him at rick@livethelife.org. Another is to call him at 904-861-0420. And a third way is to listen in tomorrow at 6 p.m. when he will be my guest on TWOgether as ONE on KLJH 107.1FM. Until next week, my hope and prayer is that you'll find more US in your marriage.