happy couple waltzing

In 1985, the husband and wife team of Jeanette Lauer and Robert Lauer decided to find the answer to the question, “What makes marriages last?” (Marriages Made to Last, Psychology Today, June 1985, p. 22-26) At that time, Jeanette Lauer was an associate professor of social history and Robert Lauer was the Dean of the School of Human Behavior, both at the United States International University in San Diego, California.

Through associates and students, they located 351 couples who had been married 15 years or more and asked them to separately respond to a questionnaire containing 39 statements and questions about money, sex, goals in life, and attitudes toward each other and marriage in general. They each rated their marriage (300 happily married, 19 unhappy but staying together, and 32 with one partner happy). The top reasons husbands and wives gave are listed below in order of frequency chosen. Notice the top seven reasons for their happy marriages were the same for both husbands and wives.


   Male                                                                     Female

M: My spouse is my best friend
F: My spouse is my best friend

M: I like my spouse as a person
F: I like my spouse as a person


M: Marriage is a long-term commitment
F: Marriage is a long-term commitment


M: Marriage is sacred
F: Marriage is sacred


M: We agree on aims and goals
F: We agree on aims and goals


M: My spouse has grown more interesting
F: My spouse has grown more interesting


M: I want the relationship to succeed
F: I want the relationship to succeed


M: An enduring marriage is important to social stability
F: We laugh together


M: We laugh together
F: We agree on a philosophy of life


M: I am proud of my spouse’s achievements
F: We agree on how and how often to show affection


M: We agree on a philosophy of life
F: An enduring marriage is important to social stability


M: We agree about our sex life.
F: We have a stimulating exchange of ideas


M: We agree on how and how often to show affection
F: We discuss things calmly


M: I confide in my spouse
F: We agree about our sex life


M: We share outside hobbies and interests
F: I am proud of my spouse’s achievements 

Best Friend

This list brings two words to mind: friendship and commitment. Best friend status comes because of many of the other reasons on the list. For instance, friends like each other, have similar goals and interests, have fun together, share ideas, confide in each other, proud to be with each other, and are able to talk to each other. All of these things come together and the result is an abiding love for each other.

Choice is a key element in a marriage relationship because you choose to do the things that keep your friendship alive and strong. As this is done consistently mates become more interesting. The article quoted a man married 30 years who said it was like being married to a series of different women: “I have watched her grow and have shared with her both the pain and the exhilaration of her journey. I find her more fascinating now than when we were first married.” This same expression can be made about each other as we choose to walk through life together.


Commitment comes from a personal belief at the beginning of the marriage and strengthens with the deepening of the best friend status and love. It is a joint personal statement that we have a desire and obligation to succeed. It is the glue that gets a couple through the hard times and struggles. Each realizes that you may have to give more than you get. Then you find you often get more than you give.

Commitment is the obligation that goes beyond the walls of the home. As the years progress these couples have realized that what they do affects generations to come. Society is made up of and stabilized by successful marriages and families and children learn by watching the actions in the home. Many times in therapy couples will lament, “We don’t know what a good marriage looks like because our parents have been married and divorced multiple times.”

Question Asked

We had a question posed to us, “What are the keys to marriage success from those who have been married 50+ years?” First off, the answers will come from couples who have lived together for over a half a century, which have been places and done things they never imagined, faced illness and death of loved ones, and who have walked with children through many difficulties. When you have had those experiences your view is much different and your perspective of life has weathered the sands of time.

To find the answer to that question, we randomly picked a few couples we know that fit the fifty plus years of marriage category and asked, “Would you share three or four points that have helped your marriage last over fifty years?” They all had a different backgrounds such as business, academia, military, all active in the LDS church with some being converts, having served in various positions from general authority, mission presidents, bishops, presidents of various auxiliary organizations, and teachers in church classes.

The one thing they have in common is they all are happily married.


As one wife thought how couples begin, she made a fascinating comment. She said, “I think it is the luck of the draw. We are so dumb when we are young and our choices are often without real thought.” After contemplating that thought, she has a good point and the luck of the draw is helped by our choice of those we dated. Another couple said they grew up in different communities and churches, however, their family fundamentals were the same which included strong marriage examples and no divorce in extended families. They said, “Mutual commitment since day one helped us solve our problems instead of ignoring them. Failure was not an option.”

The example of divorce helped one couple talk about commitment early. They both came from divorced parents and they said, “We committed not do that to our children.We are in this for the long haul and will do what ever it takes to work out our differences.”


Marital commitment for this group has been proven judging from the number of years they have been married (almost 50 years to 64 years). However, their commitment goes much deeper into a very personal level.Most of the couples are currently dealing or have dealt with serious physical challenges of one of the spouses.  The tender care given has no bounds. The aftermath of an accident or surgery often leaves a mate unable to do some of their very own personal care duties and these spouses have been there for each other. The love and commitment show in their eyes as they look at each other. One wife married 57 years looked at her husband with tears in her eyes and said, “Thank you for being so kind and caring.”

The husband of one couple married 55 years said, “I vowed that I would tell my wife every day that I loved her. I travel a lot and I call her at least once a day to check on her and tell her how important she is to me.” She said, “It was this consistent expression of love and concern that got me through some very personal hard times.”

Three of the husbands were involved in military service. Each were grateful for the full support of their wife and how she cared for the family. One husband married 60 years stated, “I was sent to Viet Nam and we corresponded by tape recordings. My wife sent me recordings of the family and I sent back stories and thoughts she shared with the family.”

Many of the couples have been involved in business or church callings that have required extensive time away from the family. Each couple expressed mutual commitment to support each other be it General Authority, Mission President, Relief Society President, Bishop, or any calling. One couple married 64 years summed it up by saying, “We both cared more for what happened to the other than what happened to ourselves.”

All of the couples stated they were united in their faith and trust of each other, enjoyed sharing their spiritual journey, had the same philosophy in financial maters, and shared the same goals for life and family.

Additional Thoughts

There are other points couples made that we want to include. They need no explanation.

“My wife likes to take pictures and I like to paint. When we come to a scene I am interested in, she takes the pictures that I later use to paint from.”

“We have an unwavering love and respect for each other and are never too proud to say I’m sorry'”.

“We decided a long time ago to enjoy where we are regardless of the circumstances. Enjoy the memories of the past and build the new memories in the here and now.”

“We have a mutual sense of humor that keeps issues from growing out of proportion.”

“There is no one in the world I would rather be with then with my wife.” “I am happy every moment I am with my husband.”

“My daughter-in-law said, Thank you for staying married.'”

Nobody Knows How to Waltz Anymore

Some of you may be thinking these are old fashioned ideas. Consider the dance called the “waltz.” Some of you have heard of the dance but have never experienced it. It is old fashioned. A number of years ago, Steven Kapp Perry wrote a song entitled Nobody Knows How to Waltz Anymore1. It is a marvelous metaphor for marriage. Steve and his wife Johanne recorded it and it is here for you to enjoy. Read the words as you listen and see how it applies to marriage. 

Click to listen to “Nobody Knows How to Waltz Anymore”


Nobody knows how to waltz anymore

I guess it just fell out of fashion.

Cause everyone knows that the waltz is too slow,

A little too dull, and not enough passion,

So nobody knows how to waltz.


And nobody knows how to waltz anymore

As soon as there’s two, it’s the tango.

The tango is fast, but as soon as it’s past,

You’re a little bit bruised from dancing like strangers

Cause nobody knows how to waltz.


And oh, oh nobody knows

It’s the push and the pull

That makes it look easy.

Oh. Oh that’s how it goes

A few stepped on toes

When we both think we’re leading

And Oh it’s nobody’s fault,

It’s just how we’re learning to waltz.


Nobody knows how to waltz anymore

These dancers so far from their partners

They’re frantically dancing while scanning the floor

Scared there’s something they’ve missed

In the one that they’re with

That’s cause nobody knows how to waltz


And oh, oh nobody knows

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<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ /><hr class=’system-pagebreak’ />9pt;”>          It’s the push and the pull

That makes it look easy.

Oh. Oh that’s how it goes

A few stepped on toes

When we both think we’re leading

And Oh it’s nobody’s fault,

It’s just how we’re learning to waltz.


Nobody knows how to waltz anymore,

And soon there’ll be nobody left on the floor,

There’s hardly a waltz to be heard.

          But the 1-2-3, 1-2-3, one, two of us could learn.


Leo Was Right

As you compare the 1985 survey and our recent informal survey you can see these couples learned how to waltz and if we are willing they have tips to help us learn the steps to navigate the dance floor of marriage. Old fashioned ideas that work can help forge a more sure future. Yes, Leo Tolstoy, at the beginning of his novel Anna Karenina2 was right, “Happy families [marriages] are all alike.”

[For information on books and products by Gary and Joy Lundberg visit their website]

1. Steven Kapp Perry, Nobody Knows How to Waltz Anymore, 1988. From the album, available at Prime Recordings 801-377-6770

2. Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, trans. Constance Garnett (2008). 2.