Linda Lewis Griffith

Want a better marriage? These core values keep families close

Respect, commitment and conflict resolution are some of the shared values that make families happy and healthy, according to San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith.
Respect, commitment and conflict resolution are some of the shared values that make families happy and healthy, according to San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith. Los Angeles Times/MCT

Families come in all shapes and sizes. But regardless of their makeup, they share values that help them succeed.


Commitment is the implicit promise that the family is a team. It says, “We’re in this for the long haul. Nothing will tear us apart.”

Commitment is often expressed when a couple is married. Even if partners don’t tie the knot, they can agree with the common purpose of making their relationship work. Commitment is the cornerstone of the union, the foundation upon which other emotions and actions are built. If commitment is lacking, members are unsure about their standing or the ultimate fate of the relationship.

Folks are often reluctant to dive into commitment. Unfortunately, this very reticence can be the undoing of the family. Both members must be unequivocally committed to each other for a partnership to survive.


Stability is the solid framework of a household. It consists of the underlying rules, policies and behaviors that guarantee a calm, unwavering lifestyle for its participants. Stability doesn’t happen overnight; it’s the ongoing actions of adult leaders that make it grow and prosper.

Stability is fostered by daily routines, like holding a steady job, picking kids up on time from daycare and preparing regular meals.

It’s vital for the well-being of youngsters. Boys and girls who grow up in stable environments learn self-control, get higher grades in school and develop better eating habits.


Respect is the personal care and regard family members display toward one another.

It’s demonstrated in myriad ways: A father sets clear, gentle and age-appropriate limits for his toddler. A couple calmly resolves a disagreement in front of their children. An adult daughter uses polite language when talking to her mother.

Respect demonstrates value toward everyone in the household. It clearly states, “I care about you.” Children raised in respectful homes have higher self-esteem and make better choices regarding drug use, sexual behavior and life partners. Adults living in respectful environments feel happier and are less stressed.

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Appreciation is the recognition and value of each member’s contribution to the family.

Successful households rely on a cornucopia of divergent skills: IRAs must be funded. Pets have to go to the vet. Aging parents require assistance.The Honda needs an oil change.

Each of these chores is necessary. None can be eliminated or overlooked. Members are quick to say thank you. Hugs of gratitude abound. Recipients feel adored and competent. They recognize they’re part of a larger unit that couldn’t survive on its own.

Conflict resolution

All households have disagreements. How they’re handled determines the success of the family.

When problems are discussed respectfully and workable solutions are reached, members feel safe and satisfied. The family system thrives. If, on the other hand, issues erupt into rages or participants’ wishes are ignored, members feel frightened. Their needs are unmet. They don’t feel cherished or valued.

Of course, some issues have no answers. There’s no compromise in sight. Wise family members may choose to keep their mouths shut; the ultimate health of the family is at stake.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit