Building Successful Relationships: Keys to a Successful Marriage

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Laura and Kyle went for marriage counseling. Laura was clearly upset. “Kyle’s on ‘automatic NO!’ ” Then she almost sobbed: “Even if I ask for a small favor it’s ‘No!’ ” Kyle retorted, “I don’t think that’s true, but I’ll tell you what is. Laura is forever finding fault with me and she criticizes everything I do. “


Unhappily married people, many on the verge of divorce, tend to make the same mistakes. They frequently express disapproval, are highly critical, blame, accuse, use threats, and are likely to say “No!” to each other a lot.

Such behaviors are killers of love and intimacy. When you are on the receiving end of criticism and blame from your spouse, the result is hurt and resentment. And when your partner refuses to grant reasonable requests, when he or she is on “automatic no,” trouble is inevitable.

Most of the couples we see for marriage counseling make these errors. What is so remarkable is that they treat complete strangers politely, with tact, consideration and respect. Yet they dump on their loved ones. They incorrectly believe that home is the place to let your hair down, to be spontaneous and to drop any civility.

We are not advocating an inhibited, uptight marriage relationship. Openness and informality are two of the most important elements of a satisfying marriage. But keep in mind: Marital openness is not an invitationto attack each other with emotional napalm. Try instead to:|

• Express genuine caring, respect and consideration toward each other.

• Make deliberate efforts to please each other, and to avoid those things which displease each other.

In our counseling sessions, we typically begin by asking each person “What kind, thoughtful and decent things have you done for your spouse this week?” Taking the other person too much for granted won’t lead to conjugal bliss. A successful marriage requires some effort. But if the effort becomes hard labor, it probably signals basic incompatibility. You have to work at marriage, but you shouldn’t have to work too hard at it.

And by the way, if you and your spouse are competitive with each other:

• Remember that happy marriages are based on teamwork and cooperation, not on competition.

Bottom line: If you want your marriage to succeed:

• Avoid being critical.

• Try to say “yes” whenever possible.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on