coupleMaking your marriage happy and lasting needs to be at the top of every couples’ priority list. Everything else works better when your marriage is in a good place. Here are 4 ways that can help make that happen.

1. BE YOUR MATE’S FAVORITE CHEERLEADER

On a successful team, teammates work together-they are each other’s most valuable cheerleader. When one succeeds, the whole team succeeds and everyone is happy. Have you noticed how teammates in all sports are constantly giving each other high fives or fist bumps, even when they miss at the goal line? Win or lose they are there cheering each other on. That’s how it needs to be in marriage. As a spouse, you are a member of the most important team in the world – your “home” team.           

Life is full of wins and losses and it’s sad when a spouse is there cheering you on only when you win. Craig’s experience provides a good example how it should be. He said:

“I had the opportunity to buy a business with a partner who had been working with me as a fellow employee. I talked it over with my wife, Charlotte, and convinced her that it was a wonderful opportunity. Though she had some reservations, she was happy to see my excitement and gave her support. That was the beginning of one of the most difficult periods of my life. My partner and I worked feverishly for seven years, having some good years and some not-so-good years as we rode that risky roller coaster. Then we merged with another company and, though we were still involved, they took over running the business.

“Within a year of the merge the business failed and we were left with a sizable debt. It was a terrible disappointment for me, and the financial loss was tremendous. The thing I remember most about that whole experience was that not once did Charlotte criticize or blame me for the business failure. She didn’t say, “You should never have gone into that business in the first place.” She acknowledged my hard work and cried with me over the loss, with no pointing fingers that made me feel like a failure. Her loving support made the loss bearable.” (Love That Lasts, p. 134)           

These things happen in life. We need to learn from them and go on. When you fail at something it’s only half as painful when your mate bears the sorrow with you. When you achieve success, you also want and need your spouse to be supportive. Sharing each other’s happiness is simply having double happiness. It never takes away from yourself-it only adds. Having your spouse as your cheerleader, and being one for your mate, adds to the good times and will help you through the very rough times.           

Has your spouse ever mentioned something he or she would like to do that you didn’t support? Has your husband wanted to take a class or develop a musical talent and you thought it was a waste of time and money? Has your wife wanted to take watercolor lessons but you didn’t think you could afford it? Has your husband wanted to change careers, but you were too afraid of a new venture? Has your wife needed you to stand with her in a hard-to-face situation? All of these are examples of what we’re talking about. Couples just need to believe in each other and cheer each other on. If you have a concern about something, then discuss it together and get his or her perspective. Help each other see the pros and cons. If it needs a little time to save up for, then start saving. Cheer each other on in the little and big things that matter to your spouse.

In his comments at a General Conference priesthood meeting, President Hinckley said, “Find your happiness with one another. Give your companion the opportunity to grow in her own interests, to develop her own talents, to fly in her own way, and to experience her own sense of accomplishment” (Liahona, April 1982, 7). Wives need to do the same for their husbands.

2. MANAGE YOUR MONEY IN HARMONY

Mismanagement of money can create tension in a marriage. We need to be able to trust that our mates will make wise decision regarding the family income. If that trust is missing it can create a serous problem. Elder Marvin J. Ashton said, “How important are money management and finances in marriage and family affairs? Tremendously. The American Bar Association recently indicated that 89 percent of all divorces could be traced to quarrels and accusations over money. Others have estimated that 75 percent of all divorces result from clashes over finances. Some professional counselors indicated that four out of five families are strapped with serious money problems.”

Elder Ashton went on to say, “I . . . hasten to emphasize the fact that these marriage tragedies are not caused simply by lack of money but rather by the mismanagement of personal finances. A prospective wife could well concern herself not with the amount her husband-to-be can earn in a month but rather how will he manage the money that comes into his hands. Money management should take precedence over money productivity. A prospective husband who is engaged to a sweetheart who has everything would do well to take yet another look and see if she has money-management sense.” (Marvin J. Ashton, “One for the Money, Ensign, Sept 2007, 36-39)                       

Early on in a marriage, even before marriage, the use of the family income needs to be discussed with thoroughness. If it hasn’t happened in your marriage, now is the time. Usually one partner is a little more adept at managing money than the other. That’s the spouse that needs to be responsible for paying the bills. However, both need to be part of the financial decision making.

Making a plan is a necessity. The plan must be equitable for both-not too rigid, but enough agreed-upon structure to guide the flow of the funds. For a marriage to work, spouses need to pool their resources and then make a plan as to how it will be used for the good of the whole, without comparing incomes or belittling each other. What about the wife, who may be working very hard as a full-time homemaker-or in many cases, working hard out of the home and in it? If couples could only remember that love shares, their lives would be much happier.

One couple, Shauna and Ethan, realize how important financial planning is to the stability of their family. Here’s Ethan’s report of what they do:           

“I’m a schoolteacher and love it, but my paycheck is pathetic. Everyone we know earns more than I do. Fortunately, Shauna knows how to stretch a dollar like a magician. Boy, am I lucky I married her. We decided early on in our marriage, even while I was still in school and she was working as a dental assistant, that we should always have some money in a savings account. We decided that one thousand dollars would be our minimum. We had seen other couples struggle to keep afloat when troubles hit-like car brakes needing to be replaced.


They had nowhere to go. To us it was a simple decision – save so we will have some place to go. We were determined to keep it for emergencies and we did. When we used some of it, we would build it back up, no matter how hard it was. The feeling of security was well worth it. ” (Love That Lasts, p. 180)

When it comes to buying a home or car, be smart. Do the numbers so that you know what you can afford and decide together on a purchase that easily fits your income. Save for it. Put as much down as possible. Don’t let a big house or a shiny new car take the glow out of your marriage, and it will if you can’t comfortably afford it.


3. SET YOUR BOUNDARIES

There are three important areas of boundaries in a marriage. Consider the following and how they can be applied to your own marriage.

(1) Each spouse needs to feel respected by his or her mate. If you are being belittled or treated poorly by your mate you need to set a boundary. Let’s say your mate yells at you. What do you do then? Yell back at him? No! Kindly and calmly say to him or her, “Do not yell at me. I do not deserve it. Do not yell at me ever again.” If it happens again you simply calmly repeat the same thing. Do not engage in an argument. Simply make your statement and move on in the conversation if he’s calmed down, or leave the room. Your spouse needs to know you mean it, that you will not be treated poorly. Just remember to be an example of what you are requesting of your mate. It may take a little time but soon he or she will get the message and will respond. We have seen how this has saved marriages

(2) Set boundaries with you children regarding your privacy. Couples need a place that’s off limits to the children unless they are invited in. Your bedroom is the ideal place. Some couples turn their bedroom into another family room for watching TV or for kids to play in. No matter how small your home may be, you can keep your bedroom private. Make it a pleasant, clean place to be. When you are having a private time together, shut the door, even lock it. Children need to learn to respect their parents’ privacy.

(3) Couples need to set boundaries with in-laws. We saw a case where a mother-in-law was all too eager to say bad things about her son-in-law. When she was with her daughter she picked apart his every shortcoming. Finally, the daughter took a stand and said, “Mother, do not talk about my husband like that ever again. I love him and will not allow you to speak poorly of him to me anymore. I want to have a close relationship with you and will enjoy that as long as you respect my husband.” Fortunately, her mother took the highroad and made the change. Good things usually happen when boundaries are set by being kind, gentle, respectful, and firm. (For more on setting boundaries see Love That Lasts, Chapter 10)

4. HOLD ON THROUGH THE HARD TIMES                       

When we were on our honeymoon we bought a little wooden plaque that had a miserable, forlorn-looking fellow drawn on it with a cloudburst pouring down on him. Beside him were these words: “Into each life a little rain must fall, BUT THIS IS RIDICULOUS!” At the time, we thought it was very funny. It has taken on new meaning several times throughout our life together.

There will be hard times, even tragedies, in every couple’s life. These are the times that can pull you together or break you apart. If you will be determined that, no matter what happens, you are committed to each other and to your marriage, then there is no way these difficult times can break you apart. To abandon your mate when life gets tough is like throwing away an exquisite diamond just before it has been polished so it achieves its most brilliant sparkle. Holding on to each other allows the stormy seasons of life to serve as a bridge that will lead to a relationship more radiant and beautiful than you ever thought possible-a relationship that never could have had the full depth and beauty without the struggle. 

Recently we attended a funeral of a 71-year-old friend. His son spoke, and in the process of remembering things about his father, he said, “I remember my dad standing by my mom, holding her, comforting her as they went through some very difficult times, including the death of my brother and financial losses. My mom did the same for my dad. I treasure their example of devotion to each other.”           

A statement made by President Gordon B. Hinckley has been comforting to us as we face our mortal struggles. He said, “Be believing, be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.” We keep it posted where we can both see it every day, and it helps.

Sometimes when a deep sorrow or a difficult time comes into a marriage, one or the other spouse may put up a barrier that destroys the closeness you have developed. Stress and sadness do strange things. When you need loving arms around you the most, you may actually reject the effort of your mate to give you comfort, and you can’t even explain why you reject it. It can be very frustrating to the one who is trying to give the comfort. Even if you feel like you don’t want any hugs, accept them. The very act of opening up to a loving caress can break down the barrier and start to heal the heartbreak. Hold each other in your arms and allow each other to cry. If you or your mate don’t cry, don’t be critical or accusing; just hold on to the embrace. It brings about healthy healing. It’s as if energy from your mate infuses you with strength to go on, even when you’re both suffering.           

An internationally known university professor recounts the story of his arriving home one day feeling overburdened and totally distraught. As he sat on the edge of his bed his wife asked him if he was all right. He found himself unable to reply and could only sit there and weep. His wife sat down beside him and held him in her arms without saying a word. That was the greatest thing she could have ever done for him at that moment. He said, “I needed that silent nurturing.” (Love That Lasts, Chapter 14)

Holding on to each other through the hard times can be the glue that holds a marriage together. Being there for each other emotionally and physically is a healing balm.

Conclusion

By doing these four things, your marriage can’t help but be happy and solid. Give that gift of love to each other. Give that gift of example to your posterity. It will pay off eternally. 

To order the book Love That Lasts by Gary and Joy Lundberg.