By Americaâs #1 Love and Marriage Experts.
This morning, a great friend of ours sent along an article that we were really taken with. For those who have read our book, Building a Love that Lasts (Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010), you may recall a chapter entitled, âA Tribute to Lasting Loveâ (pp. 259-262). In this chapter we highlighted the wonderful six-decade marriage of Sandy and Pris, whom we had interviewed for our book.
Over the years, Sandy and Pris have been advocates for âcharacter educationâ for young people. They have been very philanthropic when it comes to this passion of theirs.
As we thought about the article by Dr. Tom Lickona based in his book entitled Character Matters: How to Help our Children Develop Good Judgment, Integrity, and Other Essential Virtues (Simon & Schuster 2004), we were struck by the similarity of the âvirtuesâ he believes essential for âstrong characterâ and the virtues we have discovered in our research over the years about successful loving relationships.
1. The first essential virtue highlighted by Dr. Lickona is âwisdom.â According to Tom, wisdom is the master virtue that directs all others. Wisdom âtells us how to put the other virtues into practice â when to act, how to act, and how to balance different virtues when they conflictâ such as âtelling the honest truthâ even when it âmight hurt someoneâs feelings.â We refer to this notion often in our book when we speak of the importance of honesty in our relationships with those we love.
2. The second virtue is justice according to Dr. Lickona. âJustice means respecting the rights of all persons.â In our book, we refer to this virtue as the Golden Rule â mutual love and respect for each other.
3. The third virtue is âfortitude.â According to Lickona, âfortitude enables us to do what is right in the face of difficulty.â Or, more succinctly, doing the âhard right instead of the easy wrong.â As we discuss in our book, all successful loving relationships have hard times, great challenges, and failures. More importantly, however, those whose love lasts a lifetime have overcome the challenges in life and have been strengthened by them. Overcoming these challenges together makes for a stronger and even more loving relationship. Fortitude is the strength to carry on even when we find it hard in our relationships to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
4. âSelf-Controlâ is the fourth virtue. In its simplest terms, âself-control is the ability and the strength to govern ourselves â to control our temper and to regulate our appetites and passions.â It is as Lickona says, the âpower to resist temptation.â All marriages and loving relationships have their temptations. Trust us on that. The successful couples donât act on their temptations; hence, they survive and thrive. Read the chapter in Building a Love that Lasts entitled Character in Love and Marriage (pp. 9-11).
5. The fifth virtue according to Lickona is âloveâ â âthe willingness to sacrifice for the sake of another.â Successful loving relationships quickly learn that their relationship is not about âyouâ or âme.â It is about âweâ and âus.â We write about these notions extensively in our book. Suffice it to say, people who are truly in love do not spend their time finding fault with each other â they do not spend their time putting down or belittling each other. They find strength in the virtues of each other. They love each other in the truest sense of the word.
6. As the purveyors of positive love, we really like Lickonaâs sixth virtue â âpositive attitude.â We once heard a speaker say, âIf you frown, you frown alone, but a smile is infectious!â Maintaining a positive attitude is a great virtue. Who wants to be around negative people? Successful loving relationships work like this as well. If your spouse or your lover is always in a negative mood you will work hard not to be around them. The choice of being negative or positive is ours. Choose positive!
7. Hard work is the âseventh indispensable virtueâ according to Lickona. If you want to be successful in love and life you must work hard. Nothing worth having in a relationship comes easy. You must earn it. Love is something you earn. As we say all the time, the simple things required to make love work take lots of hard work, day in and day out, throughout the life of the loving relationship.
8. Our favorite virtue is âintegrity.â As Lickona says, âIntegrity is adhering to moral principle, being faithful to moral conscience, keeping your word, and standing up for what we believe.â In love and marriage, you donât cheat on the one you love! You donât lie to the one you love. You are faithful to the one you love. There are no exceptions to this basic virtue. To truly love someone is to tell the truth to them and to yourself.
9. Dr. Lickona reminds us that âGratitude is often described as the secret of a happy life.â We would offer that gratitude is the secret of a successful loving relationship. We must show gratitude for the one we purport to love. We should always take the time to thank those we love for their support, their understanding, their sacrifice for us, and for their love. Always show your gratitude to the one you love. They will love you for it!
10. And finally, the tenth virtue according to Dr. Lickona is âhumility.â Humility âmakes us aware of our imperfections and leads us to become a better person.â And like in love and marriage, âhumility enables us to take responsibility for our faults and failings (rather than blaming someone else), apologize for them, and seek to make amends.â To be truly in love in our opinion requires us to recognize that we are not the center of the universe â that the world does not revolve around us. People who are truly in love, learn from each other, they respect each other, they value each other, and they recognize that in the best loving relationships, personal humility allows us to understand the simple notion that trying to prove you are right when you are clearly wrong, is not a virtue. Trying to win a senseless and pointless argument is not a virtue. It is good to be humble!
We would encourage you to read more of Dr. Lickonaâs work and you will see as we do that his âessential virtuesâ are, in many ways, a mirror of our âseven surprising secrets of a successful marriage.â
Simple Things Matter in love and marriage. Love well!
By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz
For more tips to enhance your relationship get the Doctorâs best-selling and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010) Available wherever books are sold.
Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book
Winner of the 2009 Momâs Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book
2009 Nautilus Book Awards Winner for Relationships
As Americaâs #1 Love and Marriage Experts and award-winning authors, Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz help international audiences answer questions about love, marriage and relationships. With 26 years of research on love and successful marriage across six continents of the world and their own 43-year marriage, the Doctors know what makes relationships work.
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