Editor’s Note:  New York Times #1 Bestselling Authors Richard and Linda Eyre join forces with their daughter Saydi (an “in the trenches” mother of four young children whose contributions to this article are in blue) to produce this series on the why-tos and the how-tos of receiving the Direct-Stewardship inspiration, guidance, and revelation we need to create strong and righteous families in this difficult world.  This is article 10 in a multi-part weekly series which runs here in Meridian every Tuesday. (Click here to read article 1, here to read article 2, here to read article 3, here to read article 4, here to read article 5, here to read article 6, here to read article 7, here to read article 8, and here to read article 9.

In today’s turbulent world, and with the challenge of home centered Gospel teaching, parents and grandparents need personal family revelation more than ever before.  And since every home situation is unique, this is not a series on what to do generally—it is on how to get divine answers for your family specifically.  The series continues today in the midst of the current Pandemic, with the thought that we may all have more need for Family Revelation now than ever before.

For a summary of the top ten parenting tips and the top ten marriage tips from this and the previous article, go to https://valuesparenting.com/category/top-ten-tips/

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Home Centered:  Being Prompted by some best-practices of other Marriages Partners.

In last week’s article, we looked into the “top ten parenting ideas” with the thought in mind that even though each of our families are unique and different, we can be stimulated and inspired by the best practices of other parents, and their ideas can prompt us to seek our own personal family revelation for what will work with our own unique family situations and with our own kids.

To start off this week’s article, we want to do the same thing with marriage ideas. As with parenting ideas, we can all use good marriage ideas developed by others to spur and encourage the pursuit of Family Revelation about our own marriages.

Even though each of our marriages is unique, with our own particular set of assets and challenges, we can often be inspired by the good examples of other marriages.  The key is not to try to copy or clone them, but to watch and pay attention to how others handle their relationships and then to pray for the revelation to maximize our own marriages.

We like to use the term “marriaging” because it puts it on a par with “parenting.”  If we just say “marriage” it is a static thing, but when we say “marriaging” it becomes a verb—something we can learn about, work hard at, and improve.  

Sometimes in our lectures, we ask a provocative opening question to our audience: Which do you think you work harder on and put more mental effort into, your parenting or your “marriaging?” In our experience, at least among Church members, about 80% say that they work harder at parenting than at marriaging.

Next, we ask them if they think that is a problem, and almost all agree that it is.  We know that marriage should be prioritized over everything, even parenting; and we know that good “marriaging” almost always leads to better parenting, but the reverse is not always true.

“Marriaging.” We may need this new word to remind us that we should approach marriaging as a skill to be learned, just as we do parenting.  Marriaging can be approached proactively and as a skill to be learned and a gift to be given. 

It’s a little like the announcement that the flight attendant makes every time you get on a plane.  If your oxygen mask drops, put it on yourself first and be sure you are OK enough to help your children.  Those who take care of their marriaging first find that their parenting improves right along with their first priority relationship and covenant.

We are huge admirers of single parents, and think they are the true heroes of our society. But for those who are you are currently married, that is the relationship that deserves the first and highest priority.

Top Ten Marriage Ideas

The top ten marriage ideas listed here won’t work for every marriage, but the ones we have included are those that seem to work in the largest percentage of marriage relationships. Again, you should use these to trigger your own personal revelation for your own marriage. Pay attention only to the ideas that “ring true” to your spirit and to your stewardship and your discernment of your own marriage relationship.   

And remember one critical thing, Better marriages almost always lead to better parenting, while the reverse is not necessarily true. So, if you are debating where to start, start with marriage!

Every marriage is different, but there are certain principles, and methods that always have a positive effect.  Here are 10 practical ideas that can make a difference and that can be ordered and prioritized according to specific and individual needs. (Note: some of these are taken from our new book The 8 Myths of Marriaging)

No. 1: Develop constant, open communication about the five things that are the most common causes of divorce

This first one puts a new twist on the five most common reasons people give for splitting up or divorcing.  The thought is that if these are the five topics that cause divorce, then total, open communication about each of them may be the five best ways to protect and improve a marriage.  The five are Finances, Sex, Parenting differences, Goals, and Beliefs.  How completely to do you communicate about each of these and do you know everything there is to know about each other on each of the five?  Follow the links below for some suggestions about how to maximize your togetherness on these critical relationship subjects

No. 2:  Relish rather than Resent your Differences

What is a couple to do if they love each other but are very different from each other and frequently find that they are bothered by things the other person does?  First of all change your definition of a good marriage from “Two people who always agree and think alike” to “Two strong, independent people who have chosen to be interdependent but who remain who they are and each bring their unique strengths and views into a synergistic relationship.”

No. 3: Work Harder at Changing Yourself than at Changing your Spouse; and Work Harder at Making Your Spouse Happy than at Making Yourself Happy; and Work Even Harder at “Marriaging” than at Parenting

You may have gone into marriage thinking that you would be able to change your spouse into the person you wanted—into the person who will fulfill all your needs.  Stop thinking that and work hardest on changing yourself.

Consider these questions: First: Whose happiness do you think you have more control over, your spouse’s or your own? Work hardest on his or her happiness, and in that process you will make yourself happier. And second: What do you spend the most time thinking about, your happiness or our spouse’s happiness?

No. 4: Learn and Practice the Three Best Methods of Marital Conflict Resolution

Instead of worrying about disagreeing, worry about resolving differences positively. And instead of worrying if your children see you disagreeing (hopefully not violently or angrily), just be sure they also see you resolving things , saying you’re sorry and making up.

There are three methods of marital conflict resolution that seem to always have a positive effect:

  1.  Rogerian Technique: Have a rule that you have to paraphrase back whatever your spouse has said to his or her satisfaction before you can make your own next point.  This will force you to really listen to and understand each other.
  2. “Go to the Balcony”.  If an argument starts escalating, call a time out and each of you take a little walk—go “to the balcony”—or go change clothes or do something else for 10 or 15 minutes to re-set and get a bigger perspective. Then reconvene when you are both calmer and more collected.
  3. Have a “Sunday Session” together each week where you review the past week, plan the next week, and “clear the air” on any bad feelings or unresolved differences from the past week.

No. 5:  Discover, and Promise, and Implement TOTAL COMMITMENT

Real, full-on, no-caveat, nothing-held-back marriage commitment brings with it life’s greatest security and well-being. Complete commitment can actually become a kind of magic. It is the magic of synergy–of a combination where the total is greater than the sum of its parts; where one plus one can equal more than two. Much more.

Cohabitation or marriages that start with some kind of conditional commitment—the “let’s-see-how-it-works-out variety”—are fragile and undependable and far more likely to break up when the going gets tough. Instead of saying “Let’s see if we can get through some tough times and then make a full commitment” we should be saying (and understanding) that “it is the total commitment that will get us through the tough times!”

In the Church, our commitments in marriage should be not only stronger, but more lasting. “For time and all eternity” is a far more committal promise than “Till death do us part.” That promise, however, is dependent on the quality of the marriage (love, commitment and loyalty) not only the quantity (eternity). Without the quality, the quantity is invalid.

No. 6:  Implement The 5 Cs of Great Marriage: Commitment, Compatibility, Courtship, Chastity, and Celebration

In our four decades of working with families and observing all kinds of marriage situations, we have become convinced that there are five elements that maximize the chances for a marriage to be nourishing, loving, enduring and — yes — endlessly romantic.

If it were put into an equation, it would look like this: C+C+C+C+C=MM (Maximized Marriage.)

What we like about each of these five qualities is that they can all be worked on and progressively strengthened and improved. They also provide a good check list or an evaluation framework for your marriage.  Ask yourself the five questions:  How am I doing on C #1 and how could I do better?  It’s a question that can be asked about each of the Cs over and over, because there is no ceiling, no limit!

No. 7: Willingly Trade your Independence for Interdependence

We live in a world where independence is the perceived goal of almost everyone, and the hoped-for outcome of everything we do.  But there is something better—much better! 

And it is INTERDEPENDENCE!

In an interdependent marriage or relationship, two people essentially trade their independence for something better.  They learn that, through total commitment and genuine love, a certain synergy can develop where the total is greater than the sum of its parts.  Within the confidence and security of their marriage, they each drop their facades and egos and allow a vulnerability and accept each other’s help.  They compensate for each other’s weaknesses and complement each other’s strengths and create a new entity of oneness without losing their separate individuality. They develop a wonderful, almost magical interdependence that combines synergy, symbiosis, and synchronicity.

No 8.  Make your marriage the joining of Two Families 

Whether we like it or not, marriage is not just between two people, it is between two families—and the more that fact is honored and embraced, the better!

We have friends who began to refer to their in-laws as “in-loves” and we liked the idea so much we copied it.

If we are parents, we should think of the marriage of a son or daughter as the gaining of an additional son or daughter. And we should think of the family of that new son or daughter as a merger with our family and make every effort to make them even more than friends. Although it is not always possible, consider visits, calls, an occasional email and every other kind of communication should be proactively pursued so we get to know them and love them.  And if you are the one getting married, or even if that marriage happened a long time ago, make a point of prioritizing your spouse’s family and thinking of them as YOUR family.  Anything less will be cheating yourself as well as them.

No. 9: Make your Marriage a Three-Way-Partnership

To have an eternal marriage, we need an Eternal Managing Partner.  When a married couple begins to see a spiritual dimension to their union, it can make a two-way partnership into a three-way partnership and can bring a kind of holiness and perspective into the marriage that lifts it above the daily struggles and deepens the love and commitment.

A large majority of Americans believe in some form of higher power and engage in some kind of prayer.  It is only natural to want help from this higher source on the most important relationship of our lives. And approaching marriage spiritually gives it a dimension and a level of commitment that improves its chances of lasting and flourishing.

Getting away together as a couple to communicate and plan and enjoy each other without the kids or cares or distractions of the world can have a powerful strengthening effect, but there is another kind of getting away with a third partner, and it is called prayer. When a couple recognizes not only their interdependence with each other but also their dependence on the Divine, something wonderful happens to a marriage–a new perspective comes, and a kind of help that only the Spirit can bring.

If we think of a husband and a wife as the two lower corners of a triangle, and God as the top point, then the closer we each draw ourselves toward the top, the closer we will find ourselves to each other.

No. 10:  BELIEVE in the micro and the macro of Marriage and be a Marriage Advocate

There are plenty of discouraging statistics out there about the decline of marriage and worrisome public opinion polls showing a shocking rise in the number of people who don’t think marriage is any longer relevant.

And sometimes these kinds of statistics and polls can tend to make us lose hope for the future of the institution of marriage and even discourage us a little about our own marriages and our ability to continue to strengthen them.

But there is another side to this coin.The fact is that the very best marriages in history are happening right now. Today’s good marriages are VERY good marriages, representing more equal partnerships and the meeting of more physical, mental, social and emotional needs than marriages have ever met before. We each need to be advocates and proponents of marriage as the oldest and greatest institution on earth and as the ultimate safeguard of our society, our moraes, and our civilization.

Review of the top ten, with links for further study

Simply go to https://valuesparenting.com/category/top-ten-tips/ and click on “top ten marriage and relationship tips” and scroll down to the particular idea that you want to dig deeper into and follow the additional links given.

Home Centered: Developing the spiritual skills to make your home the Spiritual Center

Beyond the adopting of practical skills, methods, and techniques, to succeed in our families we all need Family Revelation and we need to develop spiritual skills.  Physical or practical skills and deeper spiritual skills do not work against each other.  Rather, they help develop and grow one another. 

Virtually all personal development centers on the acquisition of skills. 

We seek to learn skills from playing the piano to public speaking to crossword puzzles. We know that the development of a skill takes practice and lots of time. And it also takes powerful motivation, a burning desire and a lot of discipline.

Then we must raise our sights and our perspective to the higher and vaster level of spiritual skills. We can extend our awareness to the alternative spiritual universe and to the timeframe of eternity.

Skills and Spiritual Skills

What are the spiritual skills we need for salvation and exaltation?

Think about the word “skill” for a moment. What comes to mind? Practice? Hard work? Making hard things seem easy? Determination?

Skill is an interesting word. It implies effort but it also suggests a certain grace and ease that only come to those who attain a certain level.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes at least 10,000 hours to master most musical or athletic or difficult technical or professional skills and gives us stories about everyone from Thomas Edison to the Beatles and how their skills were attained only after seemingly endless hours of practice.

“The gifted athlete made the game look easy.”  We have all heard phrases like this, and it is true that someone with a rare gift or someone who has worked hard enough to master a skill that then turned into a gift can do incredibly hard musical or athletic or mental or social things—impossible to most—and make them look easy. 

Spiritual skills are in some ways similar. They take time and they take effort to gain.  Bruce and Marie Hafen in their book Faith is Not Blind say…”the only way to develop those divine skills is by living His teachings. Even God can’t teach us those (spiritual) skills unless we participate fully in the process, with all the trials and the errors that are inherent in learning a skill by practice.”

Going back to the question of hard or easy, most of us would say, physically and spiritually, that “Life is Hard.” Yet Christ said that His yoke was easy and His burden was light.  Could it be that we make our lives, and our parenting, and our marriages harder because we shoulder these burdens by ourselves and find that our own yoke and our own lives are heavy and hard.  And could it be that when we turn fully to Christ, they can become lighter, and in some ways easier?

Perhaps the two most useful and powerful spiritual skills are Asking and Receiving.  Neither should be taken lightly and it should never be assumed that they are easily available to anyone who wants to try.

Receiving personal revelation or family revelation is a spiritual skill—one that has to be deeply desired and deliberately and diligently worked at. Joseph Smith became so good at this spiritual skill that, to observers, it seemed easy for him. Sydney Rigdon, when experiencing divine revelation with Joseph, became so exhausted that he could not stand. Joseph who was physically unaffected, said simply, “You are not as used to it as I am Sydney.”

As a spiritual skill is developed, it gets easier and more natural as well as more frequent.

These two spiritual skills of asking and receiving are separate but can be developed together and play off of each other.  The better we become at asking the more we will receive, and the better we become at receiving, the more we will know about how and what to ask for.

Each of the methods of seeking and receiving listed in the earlier articles in this series can be thought of as a spiritual skill. We can develop the skill of meaningful scripture reading, of thoughtful temple attendance, of appreciating and being inspired by nature, and so on.

But we need to keep reminding ourselves that spiritual skills do not come quickly or easily.  They demand effort and practice and patience.  They also demand focus and attention—things that are pulled at from so many angles that, unless we deliberately apply those skills to learning to ask with specific questions and to receive with faith and gratitude, our focus becomes diffused and distracted and dissipated by the rush and demands of today’s living.

Most of us need specific times and places, set aside and held sacred, in which to hone our revelatory skills of asking and receiving.  These may be our daily morning or evening prayers, or our regular scripture reading or temple attendance, or our meditation or walks in the mountains or the woods or seacoast. As with the disciplined acquisition of any skill, we will develop our own methods of practice and our own patterns of communicating with the spirit and receiving guidance and clarity.

While they are not the same thing, Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Skills are closely related and can often be intertwined. A spiritual gift, like those listed in D&C: 46, is something for which one has a natural propensity or spiritual aptitude.  

Shouldn’t this paragraph be after the next title?

Spiritual Gifts

We are taught that we each have spiritual gifts, for healing or for faith or for discernment or simply for “believing the words of others.” These are spiritual propensities or aptitudes that we may have developed earlier in our eternities or that are simply bequeathed to us by a loving Heavenly Father.

But Spiritual Gifts can lie dormant, or even undiscovered.  Our goal should be first to find and identify them, then to develop them into Spiritual Skills. And again, they can only be developed by practice and effort and trying and failing and persevering.

Does one have to have a particular Spiritual Gift in order to develop the corresponding Spiritual Skill?  Probably not, because scripture teaches us to seek the best spiritual gifts, to obtain them—presumably through the development of one’s Spiritual Skill. In fact, we are admonished to “covet the best gifts.”

Without question, among the “best gifts” are the spiritual gifts or skills of asking and receiving personal and family revelation.

When you focus on and receive personal revelation for your family, you are working on the smallest, most intimate and personal thing on earth; and also on the biggest and most important thing in the universe and in eternity. “Marriaging,” Parenting, and Family Relationship Building are the Three Celestial skills that are associated most closely with the fourth Celestial skill of Receiving Family Revelation.

The fourth skill is the one that can be applied to the other three skills and align them with God’s will and God’s guidance. 

Whatever role or roles you play in the family you belong to—parent, child, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent, niece, nephew, spouse grandchild—all matter and all can be guided by Family Revelation.

The better you get at each or any of these family roles, and the more adept you get at drawing down inspiration and revelation for that role, the easier and more natural it will be to also receive Family Revelation for other family roles as they come to you either here on earth or in the Spirit World to come. And you will have the opportunity for all family roles either in time or beyond time. 

In simple terms then, Family Revelation and the spiritual skills and gifts needed to seek and receive it are what lights the path leading to our individual salvation and to our family exaltation.

Summary of Parenting and Marriage Ideas to prompt Inspiration

The goal of this article and the previous article (#9 from last Tuesday) has been to stimulate and prompt your pursuit of personal Family Revelation by laying out a wide variety of parenting and marriage ideas.  Do not try to do them all.  And do not feel guilty or inadequate if you have not done or thought of all of them.  The idea is to seek Family Revelation for your family, and if you seek it prayerfully, you will have the spirit of discernment that will tell you if ideas you hear will be appropriate or effective in your home as you develop marriage and parenting skills. Often the ideas of others may inspire you to find different ideas or modifications that will work for your family.  Don’t ever try to do too much at once.  If you come to an idea that appeals to you to try with our marriage, for example, focus on it—just on it—for a time, and when you are ready, move on to another idea. And remember that the best ideas will not come from other families or from “experts.” The best ideas will come from your own thought and prayer and your efforts to keep the door of Family Revelation open in your own mind.

Let us close out and summarize these last two articles by sharing one single webpage that we have put together to summarize what we believe are the top ten parenting ideas and the top ten marriage ideas (or at least ten of the best we have ever discovered.) The webpage is: https://valuesparenting.com/category/top-ten-tips/ and it will link you to articles and podcasts and other expansions of each idea.  Enjoy!  And again, don’t try to do too much at once. Stay focused on one idea and pray and seek for the help to make it work for your marriage and your family, and always rely on Family Revelation more than on the opinion of anyone else.

Next Week

Tune in next Tuesday for the continuation of this series as we turn to the meaning of “Church Supported” and how we can each take full advantage of what the Church offers us to support and sustain our families.