For all you married couples and singles intending to marry, here are some guidelines to help make your marriage the most joyful, fulfilling union possible. Husbands and wives can get a little lazy at times and think everything is just hunky dory when in fact there may be problems that need addressing . It’s time to take a look and see what you can do to spruce up your own marriage and make it better than ever.
In a previous article titled “Five Secrets that Make Marriage Joyful,” we shared ideas that can bring joy into every marriage. In this article we will address four more secrets that will enhance your marriage relationship even further. As you read them see how you measure up in these areas and decide what you can do to improve. All marriages need at least a little polishing along the way.
Four more secrets:
1. Be Each Other’s Very Best Friend.
In a survey, 351 couples were asked what they thought made their marriage lasting and happy. Approximately 90 percent of both husbands and wives put the same thing at the top of their list: my spouse is my best friend.
What is it that creates genuine friendship? There are many things, but we’ll address just two that can have a powerful impact on your marriage.
A friend is someone who cares about me. “It’s not a smothering caring-it’s a feeling that you know in your heart and that becomes evident through little acts of kindness that are directed toward you. It’s knowing that your mate cares about what you are going through-your successes, your failures, your hurts.” (Love That Lasts, p. 40)
We were impressed by comments in a recent article by a young man who had fallen in love with his best friend but was now having second thoughts about marrying her. He was “filled with a paralyzing fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?” One night he shared his fears with his father, whose counsel hit the nail directly on the head.
With a knowing smile, his father said, “Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this real simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”
If you are thinking, “Yes, that’s what my husband/wife needs to be doing!” Stop it. Consider instead how you can do this for your mate. It starts with you. Be that kind of very best friend and you can’t help but find happiness. Sooner or later the caring will be reciprocated.
A friend is someone I can trust. “Trust is an essential part of friendship. It does not come immediately. It takes time to build and then becomes the firm foundation that marriage is based on. When it is intact, the marriage can endure the storms of life. The sad part is that small acts can weaken and finally break apart this foundation.” (Love That Lasts, p. 42)
One of the most important kinds of trust in marriage is that you know your mate will always be true to you. There will be no flirtations, no romantic glances at anyone else. There will be absolute fidelity. If you want that kind of trust and loyalty from your mate you must be perfect in giving that to him or her. There is no double standard here. Live so your mate can absolutely trust you.
For example, that means don’t go to lunch with anyone of the opposite sex without others being present. Too many affairs in the work place and elsewhere start with an innocent lunch “meeting”. Guard yourself. Guard your marriage by being completely trustworthy in this area of fidelity. (Other areas of trust, including trust with the family finances, will be discussed in a future article.)
2. Appreciate the Differences.
“By grand design, male and female are supposed to be different. Otherwise God would have made Addie and Eve or Adam and Steve. But then none of us would be here!” (Love That Lasts, p. 61) President Boyd K. Packer said, “We should recognize that there is a distinct masculine nature and distinct feminine nature essential to the foundation of the home and family.” (Ensign, May 1998, 72)
When you recognize and capitalize on these differences there can be more harmony and respect in your marriage.
Here are a couple of the differences that can cause problems if you don’t understand them.
Physical brain differences. Boys are generally left-brain oriented. “The logical, analytical, and factual functions are contained in the left side of the brain, which also houses the aggressive and physical tendencies. Girls are predominately right-brain oriented. The characteristics of this hemisphere are emotional, nurturing, creative, artistic, and communicative skills. Women can draw on both sides of their brain more easily and generally process information faster. A woman receives almost twice as much input from her main senses. Thus she is more sensitive to and aware of her surroundings and relationships around her.” (Love That Lasts, p. 66)
This difference explains why women seem to be more in tune with the needs of their children. Some women get impatient with a husband who is not as sensitive about what’s going on with the kids as she is. That’s not fair to him. He wasn’t made to be as sensitive. God entrusted that skill to mothers. Fathers on the other hand, with their logical, analytical, and physical skills are better equipped to keep more of a singular focus on providing for and protecting their families.
Communicating differences. “There is a basic difference in the main reason men and women communicate. Men mainly communicate to find a solution to a problem. They will try to solve the problem internally, and when they can’t find a solution they’ll ask for help. Women also solve problems; however, their main purpose in communicating is to share. They share feelings, thoughts, experiences, and needs.” (Love That Lasts, p. 68) Recognize these differences and allow your spouse to be the way the Lord designed him/her to be.
Elder Russell M. Nelson’s advice can prove helpful to couples as they navigate through their differences. He said, “Marriage brings two very different and imperfect people together.
Husbands and wives deal with their imperfections best with patience and a sense of humor. Each should stand ready to say, I’m sorry! Please forgive me.’ And each should be a peacemaker.”
A few years ago we wrote a song called “We Got Diff’rences” and sing it often at firesides on strengthening marriage. Here it is with the lyrics. See if you can relate.
We Got Diff’rences
(Words by Joy Saunders Lundberg, music by Janice Kapp Perry, available on iTunes)
3. Talk to Each Other.
“One of the great joys of married life is being able to come home at the end of a day and pour your heart out to your mate without feeling misunderstood or criticized. Marriage is enormously enhanced when each member of the couple can talk to, listen to, and understand each other. It is the relief valve in a pressurized world. The ability to talk and share helps make your home a safe place for you and your spouse.” (Love That Lasts, 113)
Even though women are generally more communicative than men, both need to participate in conversations with each other.
Why is it couples so often have a difficult time communicating with each other? One will say something and the other takes it wrong, and Whammo! There’s a full-blown argument filling the home with an adversarial spirit. There is a way to resolve this and to have effective, peaceful communication between husband and wife. It’s through the process of validation.
Validation is the ability to walk with another person emotionally without trying to change his or her direction. This simply means you don’t have to fix anything. You just need to listen. When people are allowed to share their thoughts and feelings with someone they love and trust it enhances the love they have for that person. It’s respectful. If you jump in like some almighty guru with all the answers, you shut off the communication. People generally come up with their own good solutions if they just have the chance to verbalize their problem.
Here are the “four rules of validation to help keep you on track: LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, and UNDERSTAND.
The first “listen” means give your full attention to your mate, eye contact and all. Because your mate is so important, put down the paper, turn off the TV, turn away from the computer, putdown the book-in other words, give your undivided attention. Check with your spouse to see if this is a good time to talk.
The second “listen” is to listen to the emotions being expressed.
Each of us has emotions, and it is important to be able to acknowledge what they are. Never say to your spouse, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” You can’t change the way a person is feeling by telling them to change. It only makes matters worse. Expressing those feelings is what will relieve the situation.
The third “listen” means to listen to the needs being expressed. Keep in mind that you can listen to these needs with full interest because you don’t have to fix or solve anything.
Last comes the “understand’ part of the four rules. All you need to do is understand the best you can from your mate’s point of view. You do not need to agree-although you may-just do the best you can to see your spouse’s perspective.
Put these four rules into practice and you’ll discover a new and loving way to communicate with your husband or wife. (More on this in Love That Lasts, Chapter 8)
4. Nourish the Spiritual Side of Your Marriage.
One of the most important ways you can do this is to pray together as a couple. Someone once said, “When life seems more than you can stand . . . kneel.” Why not take that a step further and kneel before life becomes more than you can stand? President Hinckely taught us that “Prayer unlocks the powers of heaven in our behalf. Prayer is the great gift which our Eternal Father has given us by which we may approach Him and speak with Him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be prayerful.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Pittsburgh, PA, regional conference, 28 April 1996)
When we were married in the Salt Lake Temple many years ago the sealer who pronounced us husband and wife counseled us to take each other by the hand and kneel together in prayer each night. Many of you likely had that same counsel. We took it to heart and it has been our practice for all the years of our marriage. We have faced a multitude of problems as we finished schooling, looked for jobs, endured illnesses, raised our family, and tried to be forgiving of each other, to mention but a few. In all of these challenges we felt we needed divine guidance to help us through them without being overcome by them. (Love That Lasts, p 199)
Here are a few other ways you can nourish your spirits and your marriage.
Read the scriptures together and privately. It’s hard to stay mad at each other when you’re reading the word of God. You will find answers to your prayers within these sacred books.
Take a walk together at night and notice the stars and the vastness of God’s creations. As you stroll along, holding hands, talk about the blessings He has given to you and your family.
Be faithful in your church meeting attendance. Elder Kevin S. Hamilton in the recent General Conference (Oct. 2013) talked about the importance of attending all our Sunday meetings as a family. He said, “We should never pick or choose which meetings we attend. We simply hold fast to the word of God by worshipping and attending our Sabbath meetings.” When members start skipping certain meetings it’s easy to form new habits that pull them away from the Church. All of these meetings are designed to spiritually strengthen our marriages and our families.
Attend the temple together. The temple is a place of peace and inspiration. When life gets too hectic, go to the temple. We are currently serving as ordinance workers in the Provo Utah Temple and recently heard one of the patrons, a young mother, say, “I have two little ones, ages two and one. They are loud and rambunctious. This is where I come for quiet, peace, and renewing.” The temple offers that and even more. What a blessing to be able to attend the temple. Do it as often as you reasonably can. It will strengthen your marriage and bless your family.
We suggest you prayerfully consider how you can implement these four secrets into your marriage. The Lord intended marriage to be happy and fulfilling. Enlist His help in making it happen. No one cares more about you and your family than He does.
To find out more about or to order “Love That Lasts: 14 secrets to a joyful, passionate, and fulfilling marriage”, click here.