The Key To Creating A Successful Long-Term Relationship

Do you want to know the one, biggest, simplest, and most difficult secret of marriage?

by Lee Baucom, Ph.D.

It is right in front of you, but you may miss just how important this one is.

In fact, this is the one piece of information I try to get into every person I see BEFORE they get married. And it is my central goal of working on marriages.

Miss this one, and you will always be caught in malnourished and hobbled relationship.


Marriage is about building a WE.

It is about becoming a solid team, always having each other’s back, and always in each other’s corner.


Get there, and you will have a successful marriage. Notice, I did not say you would have a trouble-free marriage. Only that you would have a successful marriage.

Every single marriage in the world has challenges and difficult times. The question is really about how you approach the difficulties, not whether you have them.

Being a WE is what gets you through the difficulties.

First, let’s talk about what this does NOT mean.

This is not being in a permanent “mind-meld” with the other person — liking the same things, wanting the same things, thinking the same things, completing each other’s sentences, blah, blah, blah.

Second, it is not giving up yourself for the other person, or the other person giving him- or herself up for you.

It is about two people deciding — committing — to being a team, a unit, a new entity. It is about each supporting the other, but also looking out for what is best for BOTH, for “the whole.”

How close to that are you today?

  • Do you find yourselves in power struggles?
  • Do you argue about money, sex, parenting, and other central issues?
  • Do those arguments often end with little-to-no movement?
  • Do you feel like you are in a stalemate?
  • Do you both constantly keep saying (silently or out loud) “What about me?”
  • Do you feel like you are headed in different directions?
  • Do you feel the need to disagree or argue your point, even when you mostly or completely agree?

The more you answered “yes” to the above the more you can be sure you have not “made the leap” to being a WE.

Or perhaps you can answer this one question:

Do I feel more alone than I want to in this relationship?
If that is “yes,” then you know that you are not quite there.
But that doesn’t mean it is your fault! Quite the opposite.

Unfortunately, our culture does a very bad job in preparing people for marriage.

In other words, nobody told you the goal of marriage was to build a WE, and if they did, they probably didn’t tell you

a) how to do it, and
b) how subtle it can be.

Some couples actually make it there, almost by accident. Others seem to struggle against it, refusing to see the obvious need to get there.

So, let me make a blanket statement: I have never, in well over 20 years of working with couples, seen a couple who made it to WE end in divorce.

But I have seen, repeatedly, when a couple does not get there, the relationship at least deteriorates over time, often ending.

There are several reasons why people don’t make it to WE. Quickly, let’s look at why people don’t get there.

Lack of understanding that this is the goal.
This is where our culture has failed us. We have done a poor job, as a society, of letting peope know this is even what marriage is about. Thus nearly 50% of marriages end.

Fear of a loss of individuality.
While this is not what happens, since there is so poor of an understanding, people fear this. Again, this is merely a misunderstanding of what it means to be a WE.

Caught in a Fear/Anger cycle.
So, if you don’t know this is the goal, and you get caught in the ensuing power struggles, over time, the anger builds. And anger is really a secondary response to fear. The fear is that you will not get what you need, which triggers a very primitive response, which only leads to more power struggle, more fear, more anger.

Perceptions and Misperceptions of each other.
And once you have slipped into the power struggle, and the anger/fear cycle, you begin to justify the situation. We all misperceive the other person. We begin to only see the shortcomings, the lack of investment, etc. At that point, the perception is that the other person is not on your side.

Which raises the question, “How do you get there? How do you become a WE?”

Let me assure you it is possible, and it is even possible if one of you is resistant to getting there.

And let me assure you that we humans are actually designed for this. We are wired to be in relationship, to create that level of relating.

So, what we really have to do is get ourselves out of our own way and let what should happen actually happen — become a WE!

I tackle this in detail in my Save The Marriage System (learn more by CLICKING HERE), but let’s talk a little about how to get there.

Starting Points:

  • Do not try to address WE with your spouse.
  • Work on YOUR concept of WE.
  • Until you understand WE as a concept, you cannot expect your spouse to accept it.

Specific Steps To Being a WE:

Step 1

Make a careful examination of the places that you think “you/me” instead of WE.
Remind yourself that you are part of a WE.
Ask yourself this, “Where do I need to let my spouse in MY world?”

Step 2

Train yourself to think in terms of “we” and “us,” not “you” or “me.”
Whenever there is a decision, ask the magic question: What is best for US?
This is a “magic question” because the answer is more creative than “what is best for me” or “what is best for you.”
It forces you to move to WE.

Step 3

Accept YOUR FULL RESPONSIBILITY to be a WE, regardless of your spouse’s outlook or actions.
Refuse to be lured into an “if you don’t, I won’t” approach.
Invite your spouse into WE by your actions, not your expectations.

Now, time to get started! Go work on creating the WE you need in order for your marriage to survive and thrive!

Lee Baucom, Ph.D. is a best-selling author, therapist, coach and speaker, and has over a quarter of a century of experience helping couples and individuals learn to thrive in their relationships and their lives. He is the creator of the internet marriage program, Save The Marriage.

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