Nurturing Your Marriage
When Ben and I were married in the temple almost twelve years ago, our officiator, a man named President Wirkus, gave us some words of wisdom. He used his hand and fingers to help us remember his advice.
He held up his thumb and said, “We.” He wanted us to remember to be unified.
In D&C 38:27, Christ says, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” He was speaking of members of his church, but I believe this applies to marriages, as well.
Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”
When you marry, you no longer only make decisions alone. You have to consider your spouse. In this way, marriage really helps us to be less selfish. It makes us better people. President Spencer W. Kimball said:
Before marriage, each individual is quite free to go and come as he pleases, to organize and plan his life as it seems best, to make all decisions with self as the central point. Sweethearts should realize before they take the vows that each must accept literally and fully that the good of the little new family must always be superior to the good of either spouse. Every decision must take into consideration that there are two or more affected by it. As she approaches major decisions now, the wife will be concerned about the effect they will have upon the parents, the children, the home, and their spiritual lives. The husband's choice of occupation, his social life his friends, his every interest must now be considered in the light that he is only a part of a family, that the totalness of the group must be considered. (Ensign, June 1978, “Oneness in Marriage”)
You can really reach your full potential better with the help of a spouse. A famous Italian writer named Luciano de Crescenzo, said, “We are each of us angels with only one wing. And we can fly only by embracing each other.” I love the figurative language there. I know that, when I'm lagging a bit spiritually, Ben kind of helps to pull me up, and vice versa.
In child-rearing, it's best when you can work as a husband-and-wife team. Ben was in China for the past ten months for work, and I really struggled without his help. I can't believe how much easier it is to care for and rear our children with him here! We can split up the work. And when I'm exhausted or have had enough, Ben can step in while I take a breather. And vice versa.
An important part of this husband-and-wife team concept is presenting a united front, not undermining each other's decisions, and making major decisions together. Anything related to the kids really should be talked through with your spouse. My mom was such a good example of this to me while I was growing up. So many times, I remember begging her, “Don't tell Dad!” It wasn't for big things; usually it was because I hadn't finished an assignment in time and had stayed up all night working on it. But she never, ever would promise not to tell Dad. “I can't keep secrets from your dad,” she would tell me.
- Thank You
President Wirkus held up his thumb and first finger and said, “Thank you.”
Gary Chapman, a therapist and writer, said:
[Words of thanks] are powerful communicators of love. They are best expressed in simple, straightforward statements...such as:
“You must be the best potato cook in the world. I love these potatoes.”
“I really appreciate you washing the dishes tonight.”
“Thanks for getting the baby-sitter lined up tonight. I want you to know I don't take that for granted.”
“I really appreciate you taking the garbage out.”
“You did a great job on this meal.”
“I really appreciate you picking up the laundry.” (The Five Love Languages, 2004, p. 39,55)
Elder Russell M. Nelson said:
To say “thank you” is not difficult. But this expression of appreciation does more than acknowledge a kind thought or deed. It is a sign of sweet civility. As grateful partners look for the good in each other and sincerely pay compliments to one another, wives and husbands will strive to become the persons described in those compliments. (Ensign, May 2006, “Nurturing Marriage”)
Gary Chapman told a story about one of his patients who had been asking her husband to paint their bedroom for nine months, but to no avail. She was so frustrated with him! Doctor Chapman suggested something to her. He told her to thank her husband for all of the other little things he did, taking the garbage out, paying the electric bill, etc. The woman was a little bothered by this, but she came back three weeks later and reported that it worked! Her husband finally painted the bedroom! (The Five Love Languages, 2004, p.40-42)
- I Love You
It is so, so important to tell your spouse that you love them. President Howard W. Hunter said, “Marriage is like a tender flower...and must be nourished constantly with expressions of love and affection.” (Ensign, Nov. 1994. “Being a Righteous Husband and Father”)
I loved Elder Richard G. Scott's talk in April 2011 General Conference. He talked a lot about this:
Do you tell your wife often how very much you love her? It will bring her great happiness. I’ve heard men tell me when I say that, “Oh, she knows.” You need to tell her. A woman grows and is greatly blessed by that reassurance. Express gratitude for what your spouse does for you. Express that love and gratitude often. That will make life far richer and more pleasant and purposeful. Don’t withhold those natural expressions of love. And it works a lot better if you are holding her close while you tell her.
I began to do the same thing with her, not realizing how much it truly meant to her. I remember one year we didn’t have the resources for me to give her a valentine, so I decided to paint a watercolor on the front of the refrigerator. I did the best I could; only I made one mistake. It was enamel paint, not watercolor. She never let me try to remove that permanent paint from the refrigerator.
I remember one day I took some of those little round paper circles that form when you punch holes in paper, and I wrote on them the numbers 1 to 100. I turned each over and wrote her a message, one word on each circle. Then I scooped them up and put them in an envelope. I thought she would get a good laugh.
When she passed away, I found in her private things how much she appreciated the simple messages that we shared with each other. I noted that she had carefully pasted every one of those circles on a piece of paper. She not only kept my notes to her, but she protected them with plastic coverings as if they were a valuable treasure. There is only one that she didn’t put with the others. It is still behind the glass in our kitchen clock. It reads, “Jeanene, it is time to tell you I love you.” It remains there and reminds me of that exceptional daughter of Father in Heaven. (Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage, Ensign, May 2011)
I read a story about saying “I love you” by a lady named Laura Jeanne Allen that really touched me:
My grandparents were married for over half a century, and played their own special game from the time they had met each other. The goal of their game was to write the word “shmily” in a surprise place for the other to find. They took turns leaving “shmily” around the house, and as soon as one of them discovered it, it was their turn to hide it once more.
They dragged “shmily” with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio. “Shmily” was written in the steam left on the mirror after a hot shower, where it would reappear bath after bath. At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave shmily on the very last sheet.
There was no end to the places “shmily” would pop up. Little notes with “shmily” scribbled hurriedly were found on dashboards and car seats, or taped to steering wheels. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and left under pillows. “Shmily” was written in the dust upon the mantel and traced in the ashes of the fireplace. This mysterious word was as much a part of my grandparents' house as the furniture.
[When my grandmother died,] “shmily” was scrawled in yellow on the pink ribbons of my grandmother's funeral bouquet.
S-h-m-i-l-y: See How Much I Love You. Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for letting me see. (Chicken Soup for the Couples' Soul, 1999, pp. 16-18)
- What Do You Think?
It's important for you to show your spouse that you value their opinion, and to make decisions together. Gary Chapman said that, when you make major decisions without your spouse, you become the parent and the spouse becomes the child. It's demeaning. In marriage, we are equal, adult partners. (The Five Love Languages, p. 48)
I read a fabulous article in the Ensign in June of this year that invites us to apply the principles of church councils to our marriages.
D&C 107:27 says that, in church councils, we make decisions unanimously. We should strive to do the same in our marriages.
In church councils, each person participates fully. We should do the same when making decisions in our marriages. D&C 88:122 says, “Let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.”
The third principle of church councils that can be applied to marriage is presiding righteously. Elder Ballard says that the authority of the priesthood shouldn't be wielded like a club over the heads of others. We should apply this to our marriages. When one presides in the home, he doesn't rule over the others, but he ensures that the marriage and the family prosper. D&C 121:41 says, “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” (Counseling Together in Marriage, Ensign, June 2012)
- I admit I was wrong.
There are times when you and your spouse may argue. Marriage is very difficult. It's a melding of two different backgrounds, minds, temperments, etc. It's not always smooth sailing. You may be very hurt and feel that your spouse is entirely in the wrong. However, if you can take responsibility for your part of the argument, that will really go a long way toward creating peace.
Even if you feel that you had no part in an argument at all, a family counselor named John Gray recommends this: “At those times, I take a deep breath and say nothing. Inside, I try to imagine how she feels and discover the reasons from her point of view. Then I say, 'I'm sorry you feel so upset.' Although this is not an apology, it does say, 'I care,' and that seems to help a lot.” (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, 1992, p. 162)
Ben is so good at this part of our little “finger formula.” It's so difficult to admit that you made a mistake, or to say you're sorry, but he cares more for our relationship than he cares about being right. It is one of the things I love best about him.
I bear my testimony that marriage is designed to help us be better people. It can bring us utmost joy if we can learn to nurture it and show true charity to our spouses. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.