The Role of Spirituality in Happy Fifty-year Marriages

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)



Date of Award

Fall 2016


Most relationship research in the mental health field has focused on dating couples and early or middle marriages, and has emphasized failing or dysfunctional relationships. There are few studies of very long-lasting marriages and little research on the positive qualities of enduring healthy relationships. This doctoral dissertation was a qualitative exploration of happy marriages lasting a half century or more and the role that spirituality may or may not have played in their marital longevity and satisfaction. The researcher interviewed nine couples married 50 years or more, using a transcendental phenomenological approach and a strengths perspective. This study collected rich, thick descriptions of the lived experiences of older adult couples who self-identified as having a happy marriage and some form of spirituality. Seven themes emerged as significant factors in marital satisfaction and longevity. One theme was spirituality, which addressed the primary research question. The other themes that influenced marital satisfaction and longevity were stories, hardships, mindset, behaviors, feelings, and values. The findings indicated that the presence and positive nature of individual and/or mutual spirituality was an important factor in marital satisfaction and longevity. Differences in spirituality had not been detrimental to marital longevity or satisfaction, and couples with spiritual homogamy described it as a significant positive factor in marriage. The findings of this study have implications for the clinical practice of mental health professionals and for future research.


Chester R. Robinson

Subject Categories

Counseling | Social and Behavioral Sciences