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A Relationship Positioning System for Marriage

The Couple Checkup offers couples a checkup on the health of their marriage.
By Ron L. Deal

New technology in the last decade has made GPS (Global Positioning Systems) accessible to nearly everyone around the world. Explorers looking for hidden treasures in the mountains or under the sea, for example, can use GPS guidance to constantly determine where they are on the earth’s surface and where they must go to find their treasure. Likewise, a business person traveling in an unfamiliar city can use a GPS device in her rental car to know where to turn in order to find her destination.

What if new technology created an RPS (Relationship Positioning System) that would help you identify the current “location” of your couple relationship and then map directions to help you find greater intimacy? Would you be interested? You would want this marriage to be your last, right?

In 2010 I released the The Remarriage Checkup, coauthored with Dr. David Olson, which reveals the results of the largest study ever conducted on the strengths of remarried relationships. The research, based on over 100,000 people, is groundbreaking. But when the relationship insights of our study are combined with an online relationship profile called the Couple Checkup™, the result is a Relationship Positioning System unlike any other marriage education tool. Dating couples are given a path for the future and married couples get a marital checkup on the health of their marriage.

Unique remarriage

Before revealing a key insight from our research, let me point out that not all marriages are created the same or have the same relational needs. When comparing results from our study of remarriage to a sister study of married couples conducted by Dr. Olson, we discovered that while many qualities of strong marriages are the same, the strongest predictor is different.

Marital communication proved to be most significant in first marriages while matters of personality and character rise to the top in remarriage relationships (see below). The point: Tailoring marital training to marriage in a stepfamily is most helpful. The online Couple Checkup helps you do just that.

The strongest predictor

Our research discovered that the absence of negative personality traits was the best predictor of a healthy remarriage. For example, compared to strong, healthy couples, struggling couples are:

  • Six times more likely to be moody, critical, and negative
  • Three times more likely to be controlling
  • Four times more likely to be unhappy and withdrawn
  • Three times more likely to have a temper
  • Nine times more likely to be stubborn.

In stark contrast, couples in vibrant relationships demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Dissatisfied couples in stepfamilies also have a greater degree of fear in their marriage, which is a significant factor in predicting poor marital health.

Unhappy couples are twice as likely as satisfied couples to fear another relationship breakup and five times as likely to struggle with jealousy (which can be defined as the fear of being replaced). This fear erodes marital confidence and trust, contributing to a less satisfying marriage and stepfamily experience. To make this marriage last it is essential that you find ways to “cast out fear” or it will contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy—another relationship breakup.

It’s time for a checkup

It’s important for you and your spouse to willingly examine yourself and your relationship. A dental checkup could prevent painful cavities. An oil change will help your car last longer. A cholesterol check could lower your risk of heart disease. Examining the heart of your marriage by taking the online Couple Checkup and developing a personalized RPS could significantly lower your risk for heart disease and build a marriage that lasts.

Don and Jennifer missed a number of checkup points and their relationship suffered because of it. When they first married, their inability to effectively resolve conflict over Don’s children didn’t seem like such a big deal. Even though Don often ended up feeling responsible for the problem and Jennifer felt defeated and isolated, the couple easily minimized the issues.

For a while, denying “touchy” subjects seemed to make the problem go away. What Don and Jennifer didn’t know was that the accumulation of small unresolved arguments was seeding fear in their relationship and blocking Jennifer’s relationship with her stepchildren. Their little issues snuck up on them and become big problems.

Don and Jennifer’s issues could have been avoided by a relational checkup that would have provided “early detection” to the growing problems and alerted them to take preventative steps. Have you had your checkup lately?


Taking action


A study of over 50,000 couples reveals how you can reduce your risk of heart disease.  Here are a few of the distinguishing qualities of unhappy and happy remarried couples.  Strive to “put on” these qualities in order to grow your marriage. 


Unhappy Couples

Happy Couples

Include persons who are moody, critical, controlling, and stubborn.

Include partners who are emotionally stable, considerate, and sacrificial.

Put one another down, withhold their feelings, and refuse to listen.

Listen with the intent of understanding, affirm one another’s ideas, share themselves.

Stockpile issues until they erupt and disagree on how to resolve disagreements.

Deal with problems as they arise, find unity in handling problems, and take seriously the process of problem solving.

Spend leisure time apart and emphasize personal enjoyment over couple fun.

Seek shared leisure and make time for fun together on a regular basis. 

Are more rigid in their approach to life and are more independent in decision-making.

Are creative and compromising in how they handle differences; they are willing to change when change is necessary. 


Get a free personal profile with a copy of The Remarriage Checkup and map your Relationship Positioning System.


Powered by the popular PREPARE/ENRICH program, the online Couple Checkup can aid ministry leaders trying to prevent heart disease in married and remarried couples within their church and community. Consider these options:

  • Premarital training—Whether working with groups or individual couples, pastors can use the Checkup to help couples foster deliberation before the wedding.  Their profile will help you tailor their premarital counseling to build upon their strengths and shore-up their growth areas.
  • Pastoral counseling—When struggling couples seek counseling, the Checkup can help you and them pinpoint what needs to change. 
  • Group marriage enrichment—Imagine leading a marital education class or retreat and being able to receive a group profile of the couples in your class? You can tailor your instruction to what best fits their needs while they receive personalized feedback on their relationship.


© 2010 by Ron L. Deal. All rights reserved. 

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

Meet the Author: Ron L. Deal

Ron Deal

Ron Deal is a marriage and family author, conference speaker, and therapist. He is founder and president of Smart Stepfamilies™ and director of FamilyLife Blended™, the ministry initiative of FamilyLife® to stepfamilies (for more visit and 

Ron is author of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family (and DVD series), The Smart Stepdad, Dating and the Single Parent, The Smart Stepmom (with Laura Petherbridge), and The Smart Stepfamily Marriage: Keys to Success in the Blended Family (with Dr. David Olson). A highly sought-after, recognized expert in marriage and blended families, Ron is a member of the Stepfamily Expert Council for the National Stepfamily Resource Center, and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor with over 25 years experience in local church ministry and family ministry consulting. He is a featured expert on the video curriculum Single and Parenting (2011, Church Initiative) and his material is widely distributed by a variety of family education initiatives

Ron served as a member of the Couple Checkup Research Team (headed by Dr. David Olson, PREPARE-ENRICH) which conducted the two largest studies of marital strength ever accomplished. They surveyed over 100,000 marriages and remarriages (over 200,000 people) and examined the qualitative differences between highly satisfied marriages and low-quality marriages. The results of their groundbreaking research for couples are published in the books The Couple Checkup (Olson, Larson, & Olson-Sigg, 2008) and The Smart Stepfamily Marriage (Deal & Olson, 2015), and are featured in Ron’s newest seminar for dating, engaged, married, and remarried couples, the Couple Checkup Conference.

Ron is a popular conference speaker and has appeared in dozens of national radio and TV broadcasts both in the U.S. and Canada. His daily 60-second radio feature, FamilyLife Blended, is heard by thousands each week around the country and online. He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, ABC’s Nightline, WGN-News, The Mike Huckabee Show, FamilyLife Today, Focus on the Family, HomeWord with Jim Burns, Celebration, and The 700 Club, and his work has been referenced online (e.g.,,, in magazines (e.g., Essence), and in newspapers throughout the world (e.g., USA Today, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal, and Minnesota Star Tribune). The May 2012 issue of Ladies' Home Journal featured Ron's therapy work with a blended family couple in their popular feature column “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” Ron has written feature family articles addressing a variety of family matters for a variety of publications and online magazines including Focus on the Family magazine, ParentLife, The Family Room, Gospel Today, Christianity Today, and HomeLife magazine. On a regular basis Ron trains therapists, marriage educators, and ministry professionals at conferences around the country and has spoken at the National Stepfamily Conference, and the Utah and Arkansas Governors' conferences on the family.

Ron and his wife, Nan, have three boys. Their middle son, Connor, died unexpectedly in February 2009 at the age of 12. In his memory, the Deal's have partnered with Touch a Life Foundation to rescue and rehabilitate children in Ghana, West Africa, from trafficking. They would be honored if you would help them sing Connor's song. Visit Connor's Song to learn more about this ministry and to hear Connor sing.

In addition to FamilyLife sponsored events Ron is available to present his Couple Checkup Conference or Building A Successful Stepfamily conference in your church or community. Learn more here.



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