What 'Saved by the Bell' reminded me about marriage

Cast of '80s television show 'Saved by the Bell" (photo source: NBC)

Cast of '80s television show 'Saved by the Bell" (photo source: NBC)

If you want some good relationship advice, especially for marriage, listen to the wisdom of Mr. Belding, the principal from the classic show, “Saved by the Bell.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was explaining to my daughter what was popular when I was a teen, and the iconic 80s television show came up in the conversation as an example. We frantically began searching Netflix. And they were there! I felt like singing “I’m so excited!” (See the “Caffeine Pill” episode to get that reference.) So, for the last three weeks, “Saved by the Bell” is all my daughter and I have watched.

On a recent episode, Mr. Belding was giving Zach and Slater (two of the main characters, if you haven’t seen the show) some relationship advice by explaining why he and Mrs. Belding had longevity in their marriage.

“When you young men mature, you’ll learn that relationships are an exercise in understanding, trust and compromise,” Mr. Belding explained.

I began to think about this, and if I could go back to 1992 and give myself marriage advice, I would play this episode for myself --  because it was only three years later that I was standing at the altar saying “I do” to things I didn’t know how to do. If you’re considering marriage, or even if you’re already 20 years in, like I am, let’s break down Mr. Belding’s sage-like advice and mine the truth in it.


The definition of understanding is a “friendly or harmonious relationship; an agreement of opinion or feeling: adjustment of differences.” When my wife and I were first married, we thought that because we were madly in love with each other, it would naturally produce a “harmonious relationship.” Now, while chemistry may bring a couple together, the elements that make up understanding are what will keep that relationship or marriage together. I’ve learned a simple way to tell if I’m being understanding is by how much I’m talking, versus how much I’m listening. It’s nearly impossible to be understanding when you’re talking. True understanding in a marriage starts with being a great listener.

 I’ve learned a simple way to tell if I’m being understanding is by how much I’m talking, versus how much I’m listening. 


I came across this quote recently and, while it’s a bit cheesy, it’s still really true:  “A relationship with no trust is like a cell phone with no service -- all you can do is play games.” Who wants to spend the rest of their life with someone playing a game that guarantees that the couple loses every time? Trust is the bedrock of any relationship, and that is most true in a marriage. I’ve heard it said, “Trust can be built over the course of a marriage but lost in a moment.”  Trust keeps a marriage strong, but if trust is mishandled, it can break very easily.  One of the best ways to build and protect trust is to value truth and speak the truth, in love. A Biblical proverb says, “Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.” Fight for and protect trust and honesty at all costs. Without trust, there’s only questions with no satisfying answers.

Fight for and protect trust and honesty at all costs.


Compromise is the “multi-tool” of relationships: It works for small jobs and big ones. Compromise keeps adults from devolving into children when differences present themselves. We are naturally wired to want our own way, but within a marriage, if done right, deferring to one another has a way of sanding down our selfishness --  and compromise is the sandpaper. Compromise says, “I value the other person in this marriage more than my desire to have my own way” -- and yet it is one of the most difficult but powerful ways to say, “I love you.”

As someone who will celebrate their twenty-first wedding anniversary this December, I write this post as someone who hasn’t always been understanding, trustworthy, or willing to compromise. But I’ve determined to spend the rest of my life learning to be those things for my wife.

I’m sure there are better sources other than 80s teen shows to get marriage advice, but you have to take truth and apply it, regardless of where it comes in.

Kudos, Mr. Belding!

For more wise advice on marriage, watch this short film:


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