Nourishing Relationships

Nourishing Relationships A marriage, along with the dating relationship leading up to marriage, can be thought of as a living, breathing organism requiring regular, adequate, proper nourishment. Otherwise, if the relationship is malnourished, the bond--and the relationship in general--will eventually wither, starve, and die. A strong relationship requires regular quality time, attention, and affection.

In the classic 1982 book, "The Romantic Love Question and Answer Book" by Nathaniel Branden, years of marital research are summarized down to 9 key forms of nourishment that keep a marriage healthy and thriving. In looking forward to a potential marriage with that special someone, notice which of these traits are and are not emerging as you spend time together. Discuss these traits. Ask about which of these traits existed in his or her parent's marriage. The more of these traits that emerge over time in your dating relationship, the greater confidence you can have in these traits continuing and sustaining a future marriage with your dating partner. The fewer of these traits that you see over time, the more concern will naturally have with your healthy potential together, and you may need to consider finding another partner.

Research-Based Forms of Marital Nourishment--Research shows that in happy marriages, most of these traits exist most of the time:

  1. They express love verbally. This includes saying "I love you" and phrases like that on a frequent basis. Saying "I love you" is a regular occurrence in a happy marriage.

  2. They express non sexual physical affection. Positive warm touching not usually leading to anything more is a regular occurrence in happy marriages. These forms of touching include things like hugs, pats, rocking, cuddling, back scratches, light massage, and so on. This touching "gives" more than "takes".

  3. They express their love sexually. Sexual/physical intimacy is a regular, frequent (but not excessive) form of affection in healthy, happy marriages (but not prematurely in dating). However, this form of marital intimacy is used to complement and enhance the other forms of affection on this list, rather than replace or overcompensate for anything missing or lacking in the relationship.

  4. They express the appreciation and admiration. Happy spouses regularly talk about what they like, admire, and enjoy about each other. "Thank yous", appreciation, and other kind words helps the other partner feel visible, appreciated, and valued.

  5. They participate in regular self-disclosure with each other. Happy spouses regularly open up and share deeper, below the surface issues with each other both in and out of their relationship together. Such topics could include things like thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, aspirations, hurt, memories of painful or embarrassing experiences, etc. Such couples are more comfortable talking with each other than anyone else and in general, take a stronger interest in each other's inner life.

  6. They offer each other an emotional support system. Basically, this involves being a good, strong, consistent emotional supporter of the other when they are in need. The most common way to show this kind of support is by acting as a validating, empathetic listener.

  7. They provide the practical support needed for the relationship. This partly includes bringing in money for the household needs. However, most of this point involves both sides helping to do more than the agreed upon household chores, duties, and obligations. These needs include such things as helping with dishes, laundry, childcare, and so on. Giving and working hard in this way will be appreciated by the other.

  8. They accept demands and put up with shortcomings. We know that "nobody is perfect", and this point involves putting that principle in action. Within reason, the other's shortcoming are overlooked or tolerated. Furthermore, doing something because it is important to the other person, also within reason, is a building block of a healthy marriage. This principle involves sacrifice and accomodation.

  9. They create time to be alone together. Apart from work, friends, kids, and others, successful married couples know that their marriage requires regular time and attention. Therefore, they plan for and enjoy quality time together that is spent solely on building up and strengthening their relationship together as a couple.

In sum, look for the emergence of these traits together. Talk about it. Promote it. When both sides freely and regularly give in these ways, you can have confidence in having a loving, committed, lasting marriage together full of happiness, mutual respect, and closeness. Feed your relationship to thrive. Because "…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11). Best wishes,

Dr. G

2015-12-11 Randy Gilchrist Healthy relationships

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About the author

Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (, practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at; email me questions to