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There’s an anecdote that tells of a young husband who said to his inexperienced wife, “You don’t make bread like my mom.” She retorted with, “And you don’t make dough like my dad!” Amusing as this may be, it gives a good view of what couples must not do. When you start focusing on the negative aspects of your husband or wife, it grows like a cancer. You see more and more that you don’t like. President Gordon B. Hinckley gave us wise counsel regarding this:
“If husbands and wives would only give greater emphasis to the virtues that are to be found in one another and less to the faults, there would be fewer broken hearts, fewer tears, fewer divorces and much more happiness in the homes of our people.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, Deseret Book, p.322)
Something wonderful happens when you focus on the positive attributes of your mate. Think of the good feelings you had the last time your spouse complimented you on something you did. Maybe you helped a neighbor and your wife praised you for it. Or maybe your husband thoroughly enjoyed that special dessert you made and told you so. There are endless ways you can look for the positives in your mate.
There is one area where women need to be cautioned. Because of their natures, most women seem to be more spiritually inclined than their husbands. Sadly, many women have allowed this to drive a wedge between her and her husband because she is disappointed in his lack of spirituality. If you compare your husband with another man, such as your bishop or your father, you do him a terrible disservice. You forget that it took them many years to become that spiritual person you so admire, and they’re still growing in ways you are not even aware of. We all need time to become.
We have spoken to many women whose husbands were not active members of the Church. Those who have complained and been critical of their husbands have damaged their marriage and have driven their spouses further away from the Church and other spiritual qualities—this goes for men as well as women.
One woman who was doing this learned about the need to accept her husband the way he was, and to start focusing on his good qualities. She said, “I was so unhappy with my husband regarding his lack of interest in attending church and being involved in other spiritual matters that I was close to leaving him.” Then she discovered this important principle of focusing on the positive and tried an experiment. Instead of nagging at him for not going to church, one Sunday before she left for church she said to him, “Thanks for all the wonderful things you do for our family. I love you. I’ll see you when I get back.”
She continued complimenting him on the positive things she noticed and stopped bringing up what she didn’t like about him. She said she was amazed to discover that it wasn’t long before he wanted to attend church with her. He’s now an active member of the Church. Of course, we can’t promise this outcome in every case, but what we can promise is that a more loving relationship will result, which will bless the entire family. Everything changes when you focus on the positive.
“Dear Abby” letter
There was a great illustration of this principle in the “Dear Abby” newspaper column not long ago. A woman whose marriage had been in need of repair, said that she and her husband were continually fighting and she had spent many nights crying herself to sleep. She wrote this in her letter:
One night I couldn’t sleep because I was so upset with him. All I could think about were all the things that bugged me about him. I knew that if I didn’t banish these negative thoughts from my mind, it would be a long time before I fell asleep. I decided to think instead of all the things that I loved about him. I wrote them down on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, and placed it in his briefcase.
The next morning, he called me from work to tell me how much he loved me. When he came home that evening, he put my “list” in a frame and hung it on the wall. We hardly ever fight anymore. I get love notes weekly and kisses daily. (“Dear Abby,” The Daily Herald, Provo, UT, 7 Feb. 2000, C6)
Common courtesy words
Another simple way to keep the positive focus going is to use the common courtesy words you learned as a child, please and thank you. Something important happens when you use these words with your mate: you get out of yourself by showing respect and by noticing the kindness of your mate. Saying “thank you” when you husband opens the door for you, or when your wife opens the door for you when you are the tote goat, acknowledges the kindness being shown to you. It says you notice a positive action in your behalf.
A couple whose marriage was in trouble realized that they had stopped using these courtesy words with each other and decided to try it for a week. At the end of the week the wife said, “It’s amazing the difference this has made in our relationship.” He added, “Remembering to say please and thank you caused me to focus on the good things she was doing for me.” They said that by doing this simple act of acknowledgment, the whole atmosphere of their home changed and their love for each other has increased. It’s fun to be recognized for the little things.
Begin today by looking for something positive in your spouse and then tell him or her. Positives are catching. It will soon come back to you and your marriage will grow stronger and stronger. If couples do this, there will most certainly be few broken hearts and much more happiness in our homes.
Priceless counsel from our prophet
Our prophets have given us great examples of how to build lasting love in marriage. This timeless message from President Thomas S. Monson, given many years ago is still pertinent today.
“On October 7, my wife, Frances, and I will have been married forty years. Our marriage took place just to the east of us in the holy temple. He who performed the ceremony, Benjamin Bowring, counseled us: ‘May I offer you newlyweds a formula which will ensure that any disagreement you may have will last no longer than one day? Every night kneel by the side of your bed. One night, Brother Monson, you offer the prayer, aloud, on bended knee. The next night you, Sister Monson, offer the prayer, aloud, on bended knee. I can then assure you that any misunderstanding that develops during the day will vanish as you pray. You simply can’t pray together and retain any but the best of feelings toward one another.’
“When I was called to the Council of the Twelve just twenty‑five years ago this weekend, President McKay asked me concerning my family. I related to him this guiding formula of prayer and bore witness to its validity. He sat back in his large leather chair and, with a smile, responded, ‘The same formula that has worked for you has blessed the lives of my family during all the years of our marriage.’” (Thomas S. Monson, “Hallmarks of a Happy Home,” Ensign, Nov 1988, 69)
These couple prayers are the perfect time to thank the Lord for each other and even mention the kind deeds your spouse did for you in that prayer. Focusing on the positives of your mate in prayer can be a powerful binding force in your marriage.
[Based on concepts from the book “Love That Lasts: Fourteen secrets to a more joyful, passionate, and fulfilling marriage,” Covenant Communications]
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Gary and Joy Lundberg are authors of the popular books on improving relationships, Love That Lasts and I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better. Gary is a marriage and family therapist and Joy is a writer. They are parents of five children and have twenty grandchildren. Their books are available at LDS bookstores, Amazon, and on their website https://www.garyjoylundberg.com.