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The Three Pillars of a Successful Marriage—Love Is Not One of Them!

Kathryn Skaggs is the founder of Latter-day Saint Women Stand, a community of over 50K faithful Latter-day Saint women who love their faith!


pillar [pilər]: noun, a tall vertical structure of stone, wood, or metal, used as a support for a building, or as an ornament or monument.

• something shaped like such a structure : a pillar of smoke.

• a person or thing regarded as reliably providing essential support for something : he was a pillar of his local community.

Strong Pillars on a Solid Foundation

Am I saying that love is not important in a marriage? Of course not. The romantic love which brings two people to the marriage altar is not that which successful marriages are built upon. So lest we have the impression that romantic love will somehow sustain us through everything... let's just remove that idea right from the beginning and talk about reality.

The kind of love that is truly romantic is that love which is developed during the course of a life together, with someone whom you have worked hard with to then claim that lasting love. The kind which we all dream about.

A successful marriage is something that two people work hard at building together. Marriage requires two people who desire to walk the same walk in life, and in the process build a successful relationship and family life.

There are three pillars for a successful marriage which are absolutely necessary in order for you to enjoy the blessings of a successful marriage. If even one of these is left out, the likelihood of your marriage losing balance and focus are increased greatly.

What is a pillar? In a building it is one of a total number of props that literally hold up a structure and keep it from losing balance and eventually collapsing altogether. For a building to stand, it is imperative that at least three pillars are placed upon a well prepared and planned foundation. This is necessary to remain standing when pressure of any kind or from any direction is applied.

The foundation upon which said pillars are placed is critical if the structure is to stand, and withstand the elements. A foundation is just that—a place to begin to build. A foundation in itself must be determined to have integrity - before building upon that foundation is begun. Therefore, an inspection is usually performed.

The integrity of the foundation will then be depended upon by those who build upon it to ensure the safety, security, and ultimately the longevity and usefulness of that which is built upon it... the building.

In building, those who build upon a solid and secure foundation, should never need to ever return to the foundational beginnings of the structure, if a problem in stability arises. If structural issues in a building become apparent over time, each pillar that is in place must first be looked at and carefully inspected, as a probable source of a potential breech or structural issue.

Once a good foundation has been established; and today we have building codes to determine the integrity of such—a permit is given. The building begins to be constructed when the first pillar is placed. The integrity of the final building or house will be determined by the strength of the combined pillars, which then support the entire structure.


Inspecting the Foundation: Dating

Dating is another word for inspecting the potential foundation for a successful marriage. It is imperative, as discussed earlier, that the person you choose to marry and build your life with has a very similar belief and value system before you can be sure that the proper foundation can be built.

You must, above all else, make sure that the person you have chosen to build your marriage and life with is stellar as an individual. This initial step must be cleared, before you even think of building anything together - of which you expect to last. The long-term success for your marriage can only be ensured - 'if' you take the responsible position to make sure your intended marriage partner - passes the initial inspection 'while' dating!

If during the inspection process, you begin to see any 'flags' going up... ALERT - ALERT - ALERT! Deal with it now! If you cannot do so - move on and fast!

Individuals who think that they can 'live' with it, or change it... have not themselves learned the value of having respect for other's individuality and choices in life. We do not and never will change another person... no matter how cute or persuasive you think you are.

The Vital Decision of Marriage...

"Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all the decisions and has the most far-reaching effects, for it has to do not only with immediate happiness, but also with eternal joys. It affects not only the two people involved, but also their families and particularly their children and their children’s children down through the many generations."—Spencer W. Kimball

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Ensure a Successful Marriage

Marriage is defined differently today by many different sources, which come from all walks of life. I am going to talk about how to have a successful marriage regardless of all outside influences.

More than half of all legal marriages that are entered into in the United States end in divorce. A marriage that ends in divorce is not a successful marriage. A successful marriage is one that is enduring, and has endured, the many hits that are an inevitable part of weathering life's storms - which will naturally and inevitably beat upon it, relentlessly. Got that?

If you are in a marriage that currently is struggling to withstand the storms of life then you will most assuredly want to review the Three Pillars For A Successful Marriage. Perhaps a bit of structural repair is necessary so that you might reinforce your current marriage for future longevity!

Identify where you might be having a bit of structural stress in your marriage and what then, must be done to remedy the breach.


Quotes for a Successful Marriage

"In the enriching of marriage the big things are the little things. It is a constant appreciation for each other and a thoughtful demonstration of gratitude. It is the encouraging and the helping of each other to grow. Marriage is a joint quest for the good, the beautiful, and the divine."James E. Faust

"Marriage demands work. A happy marriage exacts the very best of us. Yet above all, maintaining a successful marriage is a choice."—Janette K. Gibbons

"Covenant marriage requires a total leap of faith: they must keep their covenants without knowing what risks that may require of them. They must surrender unconditionally, obeying God and sacrificing for each other. Then they will discover what Alma called 'incomprehensible joy.'"Bruce C. Hafen

"The secret of a happy marriage is to serve God and each other. The goal of marriage is unity and oneness, as well as self-development. Paradoxically, the more we serve one another, the greater is our spiritual and emotional growth."—Ezra Taft Benson

"A . . . false notion about marriage is a too-common belief in the fairy tale phrase, ‘They married and lived happily ever after.’ To achieve marital happiness, it is necessary that couples work together to overcome difficulties and temptations, and they must show a willingness to meet the other challenges that will always be a part of their married life together."Dale F. Pearson

"Marriage, like any other worthwhile activity, requires time and energy. It takes at least as much time to keep a marriage in shape as it does for a weight lifter to keep his body in shape."—Dee W. Hadley

Pillar One: Integrity

There are many today, who have experienced divorce from many angles, and are asking the question: why even get married ? Especially if the majority of marriages end up looking like a wrecking ball has struck. Marriages that end in divorce are tragic. There is no other way to describe the outcome of any divorce. Divorce for anyone involved, rocks the very foundation who a person is, and what they thought they understood about relationships. Recovery from divorce, has little success in itself - so great is the trauma to the individual soul.

As a child of divorce, at the age of ten, I can only say that I consider myself a survivor of divorce - divorced parents' that is. I continue today, to still find that I am surviving from the fallout of such a tragic blow, and at such a young and impressionable age.

Please, I am not one that can be convinced of the lie—not even for a moment—that there is such a thing as a nice divorce. For this reason, as an adult—I became and still am, determined to remain in a "working" marriage.

  • Integrity is the first pillar of a successful marriage.

This pillar of integrity will be critical in the building of a successful marriage and do much to ensure a strong structure. It is also called commitment or honor. In order for your marriage to be successful, or solid, it must be founded upon principles that both you and your spouse agree, and which you both are stellar in keeping. You must inspect each other to decide if you both have what it takes together to build a strong and lasting marriage based on principles that both embrace as true (the foundation).

Mormons believe, along with many other Christians, that marriage is ordained of God. When both marriage partners are committed to God, first, the integrity of that marriage and its ability to endure the many challenges that will come is considerably strengthened.

Our most important and best decisions that we make in life are based upon our values and beliefs as individuals. When both partners in a marriage share the same basic beliefs and values and are committed to living those principles together then they become the first Pillar, which is that of Integrity; to then place upon that solid foundation of beliefs and values.


The Three Pillars for a Successful Marriage

  1. Pillar One - Integrity
  2. Pillar Two - Respect
  3. Pillar Three - Endurance

These three pillars combined and placed upon a strong foundation, will do more to ensure that you have a successful marriage, than anything else - outside of your relationship.

Maintaining the balance of these three pillars, will give the needed strength, as you work to build your successful marriage and family life.

Pillar Two: Respect

Respect and trust in a marriage co-exist. It is not possible to have one without the other. When both marriage partners trust that both in the marriage have the same values and beliefs they able to then trust one another in all things, which are done independently in that marriage. Therefore, pillar two is respect.

A wife generally knows, unless there are extenuating circumstances involved, how her husband will act in a given situation, and very similar to the way she would likely conduct herself. This is based on the fact that both partners in the marriage trust that they share similar values and beliefs; and generally will act accordingly.

When on occasion, the actions of your spouse do not seem to concur with what you expect, the respect for that individual is foremost, and will aid in finding mutual understanding and coming back together.

If both husband and wife in a marriage are able to always keep in mind the stellar foundation of basic values and beliefs, which are the foundation being built upon in your marriage, they can then trust that although differences may and will arise, the goals of the marriage remain.

Respect between marriage partners is a powerful pillar in the building and ensuring that your marriage is successful. With respect as the second pillar, standing beside the first principle of Integrity you are on your way to a successful marriage and family life.

Romantic vs. True and Lasting Love

“Love is far more than physical attraction. It is deep, inclusive, and comprehensive. Physical attraction is only one of the many elements; there must be faith and confidence and understanding and partnership. There must be common ideals and standards. There must be great devotion and companionship. Love is cleanliness and progress and sacrifice and selflessness. This kind of love never tires or wanes, but lives through sickness and sorrow, poverty and privation, accomplishment and disappointment, time and eternity.” —Spencer W. Kimball, "Faith Precedes the Miracle," Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1972, pp. 157–58)

Pillar Three: Endurance

Now we must add the element of the third pillar, which is endurance. Endurance, in my opinion, is much more powerful than commitment alone. If we are to lay claim to a successful marriage we simply must stick with it no matter what! Remember, marriage is ordained of God and is a covenant.

Barring any type of abuse in a marriage, your marriage is worth your best efforts. Time and time again, it is not uncommon to hear a person that has opted for a divorce, to later in their life make a comment suggesting, perhaps, that they probably could have worked things out, or that they wish they had never opted for divorce. Considering the pathetic statistics for successful second marriages, working through the rough times of your first marriage is most likely worth it for everyone involved.

When we keep our marriage covenants to God, and with each each other, we are richly blessed in our lives. Covenants with God, require integrity, respect and the ability to endure all that will come our way in this life, with hope of positive end results—a successful marriage and family life!

As the natural man in all of us will... we find ourselves asking the question: what is in it for me? Consider for a moment what it means to have integrity? What is the result of that one attribute within your marriage? A person with integrity is known to be true to that which they speak and claim belief in.

Within the marriage covenant made with God, each individual commits to strive to be like the Savior. Think of the blessings which that would bring into you and your family's life if this is your walk in life.

Your spouse and children will always believe and trust what you teach them, by both your words and deeds. What is more powerful than example to those you desire to bless and maintain strong relationships with?


Inviting God Into Our Marriages

"Of all that can bless marriages, there is one special enriching ingredient, which above all else will help join a man and a woman together in a very real, sacred, spiritual sense. It is the presence of the divine in marriage. Shakespeare, speaking in Henry the Fifth, said, 'God, the best maker of all marriages, combine your hearts in one.' (Henry V, 5:2.) God is also the best keeper of marriages."—President James E. Faust, "The Enriching of Marriage," Ensign, Nov. 1977, 10

Making and Keeping Covenants

A successful marriage and family life are without exception the greatest joy and happiness that can be known and enjoyed by all who are a part of such a blessed unit—your family. The family is the basic unit of society. When society is blessed with strong families we all benefit for generations to come.

There is no greater blessing for parents than to see that the life that they have built through their successful marriage is then manifest in the future—in positive ways by their adult children—and in their growing families.

In order to claim a successful marriage, a couple must stay focused on their firm commitment to endure, or in other words keep the marriage covenant and to adhere at all cost to the foundational values and beliefs of which the marriage has been built upon from its beginning.

Mormons, as all Christians do, believe that when placing God first in our lives and walking with Him and His ways, that all other facets of our lives are blessed. The importance of a personal commitment to keep God's commandments cannot be over-stated as the one thing that each person in a marriage must stand firm upon in order to ensure the building a successful marriage.

When two people come together with the same foundational beliefs, are unified by integrity, trust one another in all actions and respect differences as they come along knowing that regardless of individual differences, you both desire the same goal. When this remains the focus and foundation of your marriage then you can most always overcome any difficulty that comes along in the marriage.


Come Follow Me

As we look to Jesus Christ as the example that each one of us must follow, to ensure our greatest happiness - we also know the important principles of repentance and forgiveness. When we as individuals, apply these Three Pillars For A Successful Marriage, in our marriages; along with repentance and forgiveness as principles that we regularly practice... then we are doing all that we can, to bring about a successful marriage and family life.

A successful marriage is the greatest gift, that two people can give and receive. A commitment to maintain as individuals, the strength of each of these three pillars; Integrity; Respect; and Endurance - will ensure a legacy of love, which will withstand, for generations to come...

As I stated earlier, I am a child of divorce. As such, endurance has been a powerful attribute in my marriage. Patterns that children grow up with, and then bring into their marriage relationship, can be difficult to overcome. Therefore, we must focus on that which we know will bring the results that we desire for ourselves, and for our children.

I am one to talk openly to my adult children about the fact, that they are to be better than me. I hope for my daughters, that they will be both better wives and mothers than I have been.

Every generation better . . . I cannot think of anything greater to pass on to my children than a mother and father who worked in building a successful marriage that would help to ensure the happiness of their futures and way of life.

These three pillars—when we as individuals commit to our own structural integrity—will do more for the building and maintaining of our happy marriage than anything else outside of the marriage.

A successful marriage for each individual, begins with building ourselves first and making sure that we are continually strengthened in commitment to our covenants. The strongest marriages will always begin first with God as our foundation, which, if we apply his teachings in our lives, will then bless us with that successful marriage of which we all desire and a true love that endures many things and will continue to do so, come what may . . .