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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 07-Apr-13


Sunday 07-April-13

The three Ls of a good marriage

A recent article on the BBC website offers a simple formula for a happy and lasting marriage: lust, laughter and loyalty. It's simple and, by my chalk, a fair stab at a difficult topic. I've been married to the same woman for 37 years and I don't think I could have found a better partner.


Lust, of course, is about eros, the passionate desire for consummation with a partner. A ready partner makes for convenient sex which may lack the fire of a new relationship but yet still can be enough.

While the need for sex varies with the person and time, it is important that both partners each get enough for their personal gratification. A similar sexual appetite is hence important (lest one partner seek satisfaction elsewhere) and that the one who needs it less is willing and able to make up the difference. As men are less able to fake it, this commonly falls to the woman.

Without going into details of my own sex life, I can report that I am happy with it, and that I still find my wife to be gorgeous. It has always baffled me why she agreed to my college-boy stumbling proposal and I believe myself very lucky, which may be another sign of a good relationship.

Personally, I would replace lust with love, which includes affection and companionship as well as carnal desire.


A good marriage is a happy marriage and laughter is a good sign of happiness. A shared sense of humour allows for much pleasure together. Laughter is a form of closure that relaxes and lets people safely come together and form bonds of friendship.

Humour in heterosexual relationships tends to be asymmetrical. Men laugh less but provide more fun for their women to enjoy. There is evolutionary sense in this. Power is the classic aphrodisiac as it promises status and protection, yet this is a two-edged sword as strong man can also harm the woman as well as competitors. Humour offers an alternative way to happiness that is harmless and fun.

This is certainly true for me. I enjoy creating language-based wit, and my wife, an English teacher, is very good at decoding my obscure observations. I delight in amusing her and love the sound of her laughter.


Loyalty means sticking together through thick and thin. It means helping one another through sickness, depression and hard times. It means defending them when others attack. It means not straying, avoiding sexual relationships with other people.

Loyalty engenders trust, and trust is the essential dimension of human bonding. Trust means exposing vulnerabilities and knowing the other will not take advantage. It means knowing the will help when you are in need.

How a person speaks to and about their partner is a good indicator of how they think about the other person. In particular speaking with respect and affection indicates a strong relationship while speaking with contempt is a good predictor of divorce.

I believe my wife and I have a strong, shared trust. While I still find other women attractive, I resist the urge to pursue opportunities. This is a clear choice as men have a polygamous tendency to spread their seed. I have always trusted her, too. As an attractive woman she would have no problem finding alternative company, but I know jealousy is a destructive and self-fulfilling route. I have also scared myself by wading in on the few occasions when my wife was threatened by another man, although she knows I would never harm her.


Is that it? Are the three Ls all you need? While these are a sound base, good relationships can have confounding complexity that defy definitive decomposition. There is also something about balance.

My wife and I are not personality clones, though we have much in common. We have similar intelligence levels. We are both practical. We have a similar cultural background. Yet I am at root an engineer while she is an artist. I am analytic while she is expressive. I like studying new subjects while she remained an English teacher. I will talk business and psychology all day while she has an encyclopedic knowledge of literature and movies.

Similarity and difference work well together. Similarity gives a base for common interest and shared activity, while difference gives space for exploration and sustaining your own identity within the relationship.

It's not magic. There are distinct things you can think and do to sustain a relationship. Yet there is also magic, an undefinable spark that keeps it going.

All I can say is that it has worked for me and I'm grateful.

Your Comments

Love the 3 L's. Pure and simple. Nothing religious or anything and makes a lot of sense. Good base = Great future together.   

 -- Mosa

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