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Seat Belts and Marriage

By Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP

Janaury 13, 2011

Word Format

Just a few weeks ago the Government of The Bahamas began enforcing the seat belt law.   The law was passed in 2002, but it was not enforced because of public outcry.  Isn’t that interesting?   A law that will actually save lives was criticized by the very citizens whose lives it will save.  Experts tell us that “Seat belts are your first line of defense against injuries or death.”   Seat belts prevent a passenger from being thrown out of the car and crushed by it.    Since the law has been enforced, I am excited as I drive to see that most of the drivers have their seat belts on.  It is so refreshing to see how so many of us are so obedient to the law of the land.   I wonder whether it is only because we were forced to do so or we believe that seat belts really work.  

There are important decisions we also have to make to prevent our lives from being ‘crushed’ by the unexpected ‘accidents’ of life.   Some of these decisions are about our marriages.    I wonder if we were told to do something to save our marriages, would we also refuse to do it.  Unfortunately, the answer is yes.   There are those who refused to obey the seat belt law because they argued that the fines were too high or that they had no seat belts in their cars and it was too expensive to purchase them.  Similarly, many married people refuse to strap on their marital “seat belts” of commitment and romance that will most likely prevent them from being “thrown out” of the marriage when “hitting against the wall” of disagreements.   In the few paragraphs that follow, you will read about the marital “seat belts” that can minimize catastrophe in marriage.


During a life time how many times would a driver or a passenger use a seat belt or click the seat belt lock to insert or unlock the seat belt?   I calculated some figures that are startling.  Assuming that the average length of driving is twenty-five years, a driver with children who has the regular nursery pickups, food store and family trips, etc. would click the seat belt lock at least ten times a day.  That would mean the driver would voluntarily click his or her seat belt lock 70 times a week, or 300 times a month, or 2555 a year.  After twenty-five years a driver would have clicked the seat belt lock 63,875 times.   A delivery driver who goes in and out of the vehicle several times a day would have clicked the seat belt lock more than 100,000 times in twenty-five years.  


What’s the point you might be asking?   If we voluntarily buckle-up our seat belts because the law requires it and because it saves lives, how many times a day, a year, a life-time, have we “buckled-up” our marriages with the “seat belt” of love and romance?   Just as every time we drive the car we must buckle-up, so it is with marriage.    An important major difference, though, between driving and marriage is that we secure our seat belts only when we drive in a motor vehicle.   However, we are always married, twenty-four hours a day.  There are certain things healthy couples do each moment of the day, certain times of the day, week, or month to make sure that the “accidents” in marriage will not throw them against the walls of discord, separation, or divorce.  



The “seat belts” in marriage have two elements.  The first element is right attitude.  This is the quality of heart that truly impacts the moment-by-moment relationship in marriage.  This is the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual involvement and the spirit or determination to do whatever it takes to keep the “seat belts” on.   The second element is right behavior.  This is actually doing what it takes to keep the marriage healthy and sweet.  This is doing what it takes every day, week, month, and year of the marriage.   If the first element of right attitude is present, the second element of right behavior will most likely follow.



Here are the “seat belts” of right attitude in marriage.   The first “seat belt” of right attitude is that of total commitment.   Total commitment has three components:   

1) A commitment to the marriage itself.   

2) A commitment to keeping the marriage happy.   

3) A commitment to each other in marriage.  Many individuals are only committed to the marriage itself but not committed to doing what it takes to make it happy.  These kinds of marriages fall apart very easily. 


The second “seat belt” of right attitude is having a non-judgmental attitude.  The latest research suggests that the Number One predictor of marital happiness is having a non-judgmental attitude.  When issues occur and are resolved, leave them behind and do not accuse your spouse of them again.  Also do not interpret currently perceived negative behavior through the eyes of past experiences.  That’s being judgmental.


The third ‘seat belt” of right attitude in marriage is humility.  Humility facilitates a willingness to change and adjust when it is needed for growth and harmony.  It makes it easy to say, “I am sorry,” and to forgive one another. 


Without these three “seat belts” of right attitude in marriage it will be difficult to move on to right behavior.  Or if there is right behavior, it will be perceived as cold, conditional, or forced. 



There are countless “seat belts” of right behavior in marriage.  In the automobile a person only has one seat belt to strap in to be well secured.  However, in marriage many seat belts are needed to hold down the marriage to prevent permanent “injuries” where there is an “accident.”   Let me share with you some of the “seat belts” of right behavior. 

  1. Kissing.  Kiss each other for ten seconds every day.

  2. Hugging.  Hug at least twice a day.  If you have not hugged each other within the past twenty-four hours without having sex the marriage is in trouble.  The marriage can survive a day or two or even a week or more without sex.  However, it cannot survive one day without hugs.

  3. Cuddling.  It is important to cuddle often without sex on the agenda.

  4. Sleeping together.  Healthy couples sleep in the same bed and go to bed together at least three times a week.

  5. Eating together.  Healthy couples eat together at least three times a week, if not every day.

  6. Dancing together.  Dancing together occasionally privately in your home is a really good “seat belt” for the marriage.

  7. Praying together with humility.  For Christians this is really a solid and strong “seat belt.”  Don’t go a day without it.

  8. Dating.  Healthy couples date each other and spend time having fun each week.

  9. Words and gestures of affirmation and appreciation.  Healthy couples show appreciation and give kind words of affirmation to their spouses every day.

  10. Curiosity.  Healthy couples are curious about each other’s world of work and play.  There is an intense level of sharing or involvement.

  11. Touching.  Healthy couples spend times touching each other with no strings attached.  Holding hands when walking to the store, church, or window shopping.


These are only a few of the “seat belts” of right behavior.   Each one is not a part of one main seat belt but a separate “seat belt” itself.    When one or two “seat belts” is missing, one may not feel it because so many others are attached.  This produces a false sense of security and eventually more “seat belts’ get slack and the couple wakes up one morning thrown outside of the vehicle of marriage after hitting a “wall of conflict.”



Like the number of clicks of a car seat belt, how many times would a couple clicks the “seat belts” of marriage or how many hours would be spent wearing them?   Keep in mind that the “seat belt” of right attitude is never removed and the “seat belts” of right behavior are perpetual.   Using fifty years as the length of a marriage, I calculated these figures: Waking hours (opportunity for loving):  In fifty years, a couple would have 164,250 of waking hours as compared to 50,000 hours of driving time.  Kissing – 3041 hours of kissing or a couple would have kissed 18,250 times in fifty years.  Wow!  That’s far below the 63,875 clicks of the car seat belt.   Hugging – 36,000 hugs in fifty years.   If we hug any less our marriages will be weak.  Eating – 18,205 hours of eating time in fifty years.  How many of these hours would couples be eating together?   Dating and having fun together – 5,200 hours spent in fifty years dating and having fun together.  That means that we would spend more hours eating and driving than spending time together and having fun. 


What’s the point you are asking?  If we spend so much time driving and clicking the seat belt lock, we need to make sure that we are placing even greater quality energy in keeping our marriages together.   Let’s keep our marital “seat belts” on.


Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and a board certified clinical psychotherapist.  Send your requests and comments to question@soencouragement.org  P.O. Box CB-11045, Nassau, The Bahamas or visit www.soencouragement.org  or call 1-242 327 1980













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