Monday, October 13, 2008

Marriage Is What Bwings Us Togethuh Today!

One of the questions from my call for questions a few weeks ago was on marriage. The commenter asked for my secrets to a happy successful marriage. Since we had a lesson in young women's at church yesterday on the subject, the subject has been brought to my mind and I thought Jon and I would toss out are thoughts on the subject. 

Please note that I am in no way claiming any expertise in this subject. I have no degrees in family sciences. I never took a class about this. But I am very happily married and have been for all of the nearly 10 years of my marriage. That does not mean Jon and I have never fought or gone through seriously difficult personal issues apart from losing our daughter Camille. We are both far from perfect and marriage can just be difficult when you are working with imperfect people. Go figure. But, we have found techniques to work through our problems. And I am perfectly willing to share.

So I will write my thoughts down and then when I am done Jonathan will fill in in italics his comments, additions, musings, and commentary. Enjoy!

Essential Ingredients for a Happy Marriage

Honesty: From early on in our friendship, I knew Jon was very honest. He always let me know exactly where I stood with him even when he knew the truth might hurt my feelings or disappoint me. He thought of me as a friend. He had no interest in more. I was interested in exploring more. But he never led me on or gave me reason to hope that someday he would like me. I really appreciated this honesty. 

In our marriage, he has been similarly honest. When he screws up, he admits it. And when he feels I need to step up to the plate in something, he only tells me when he feels it is really important. So when he does tell me about something, I listen and take it to heart.

Without honesty, it is hard to have trust. Without trust, well, it is hard to live with someone you don't trust. So being honest to build trust is in my book pretty crucial. 

Ok -- here's the interesting thing.  How many of you when reading this thought about your spouse and their honesty (or lack thereof)??  I think it's important to note that honesty is a two-way street.  Just how honest are YOU in the relationship?  Many times we withhold crucial feelings/thoughts/information because either we don't want to share or we don't find it important.  

Love: You would think this one is obvious. I mean why would you marry someone you didn't love? The trouble comes when the initial infatuation stage wears off and you have to find within your relationship that true, deep, lasting, unselfish love that is essential to keep the home fires burning through the long term.

This kind of love is born of respect and gratitude and comes straight from heaven. When you can see your spouse the way the Lord does, it is easy to love him or her in spite of all the flaws you discover after you get married. This gift of charity for your spouse makes you see your spouse for the person they can become. It makes you want to be a worthy companion and help them to become that person in any way you can.

Another part of this essential love ingredient is like. You have to like your spouse. If you aren't married yet, don't marry anyone you don't genuinely like to be with apart from the physical aspect. If you are already married and feel like you don't like your spouse, try hard to find things you do like about them. Develop new things to do together that will help you like him or her. Liking the person you spend eternity with is kinda key to being happy.

Luckily, I really like Jon. I always have. He is funny and quirky and I would rather spend time with him than anybody else.

My favorite quote on this subject is:  "Choose the one you love and love the one you chose".  Once the choice of marriage is made you have to love (this is a verb) your spouse.  I keep hearing terms like "we fell out of love" and "I don't love him/her anymore".  Now, barring some evil and/or hateful act that your spouse has committed, I really don't believe that these statements are the final word.  Love is found through the act of service and in serving your spouse you can recapture that love.  

Forgiveness: This one is huge. We all screw up. Sometimes we screw up really really big. It happens. We need to realize when we have screwed up or hurt or spouses feelings even if we thought we were right and sincerely repent to them.

Then when our spouse repents to us, we need to forgive him or her. This can be incredibly difficult depending on the severity of the injury. Sometimes their sorry just isn't enough to take the hurt away. I find it helpful to give them a way to make it better. Make something up that they can do to show you they are sorry. I find it helps to make the hurt go away, especially if it is something silly.

The second tactic that helps with forgiveness comes from the Book of Mormon. In Jacob 3:1-2: 
But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and apray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will bconsole you in your cafflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down djustice upon those who seek your destruction.
2 O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may if your minds are firm, forever.

I think these verses are helpful for anyone who has a broken heart. They give a recipe for healing the broken heart. Look to God with a firmness of mind, pray with faith, receive the good word of God, feast upon His love. But the key to feeling this love is the firm mind. We must train our minds to keep our thoughts in line with where the Savior would have them. When a person repents sincerely to the Lord, the Lord remembers the sin no more. Does this mean the Lord really doesn't remember what we did? No. He knows what we did. He just doesn't bring it back to Him mind anymore. He doesn't "remember" it anymore. 

When we are injured by someone and they repent to us, we need to train our brain to not "remember" or dwell upon their bad act or hurtful words. This is so much easier said than done. I know. This principle has been key to healing my heart in the past and it is essential now to overcoming my feelings of guilt and loss. I must train my mind to be firm in seeing Camille's death from an eternal perspective and remember no more the "if only" and "why didn't I" thoughts that so easily haunt anyone in my shoes. Yes a firm mind is essential to healing the broken heart and forgiving.

Work: Marriage is work. You have to focus on making your spouse happy. That mean self improvement and service. If you are really working hard to make your spouse happy, the love part comes more easily, as does the forgiveness when you screw up. If you get complacent, things can quickly slide into a lull that is hard to escape.

I'm going to add a trick Stephanie and I use in our "work" of marriage. We are both very stubborn and usually fight for our own way.  Many times in family life there are conflicting desires, activities, places to go, holidays to spend, etc.  When we both come to one of these occasions, one person will ask, "how important is this on a scale of 1-10" and we then quantify how important that desire is.  The higher number wins. Period.  Now, honesty is obviously important and answering 10 every time makes the trick useless...

Commitment: Every marriage has highs and lows. There are times when you are more in love with your spouse than ever before. There are other times when you go for long stretches of lulls or going through the motions. Lots of couples now days seem to get into these lulls and feel they have fallen out of love and get divorced. That is not what marriage is about. Marriage is about sticking it out through the lulls and getting you booty into gear working to make it better. Lulls can last years. They are a natural part of marriage. They are not a sign of an unhappy or unsuccessful marriage. They are the sign of a normal marriage. The couple with commitment is faithful through the lull and works to bring the joy and happiness back even if it takes a long time. Commitment is key to any successful marriage.

I just want to add one important point: that many times marriage involves doing things we don't want to do, with people we might want to be with (like say, your spouse's high school football buddy) in less than desirable places.  For me, noting that something means a lot to my wife (even though I don't care for it) means I need to make the sacrifice for her happiness.  I took my wife down to Brazil a couple of years ago and visited some of my old mission areas.  I could tell she was NOT having a good time due to language barrier, her pregnancy at the time and just how boring it was for her.  But she recognized it was important for me (and of course I tried to keep it as short as possible), so she was such a trooper.

21 comments:

Camille said...

Thank you! I always pause to comment on your blog because of my name, but please know that I am just one of many out here in the virtual world gulping from your well of words.
I especially like the part you wrote about working to make your spouse happy. I needed this little reminder. I needed to remember that it isn't just working on the household/kid tasks, but working to make HIM HAPPY. Not just get dinner made and socks washed, but making each other happy. Thank you.

The "Street" Clairs said...

I agree with all those points. I plan on pointing out this post to the brides I work with. I usually end up imparting advice I have learned and these points are awesome! The best thing about Mike and the hardest thing is his honesty. I can always count on him being fully honest with me even when I don't want to hear it, but he does it to also help me improve and grow and I do the same for him. Marriage is really work and there are rough spots but you can get through them with love, faith and hard work. Thanks for both your comments.

Kat said...

Since you are taking about marriage I want to tell all your readers to Vote yes on Proposition 8 if they are from California. It is a moral issue that we in the church are working so hard to pass to protect the definition of marriage and the family. It is so important to all of us here in California. We really don't want our children to be taught in schools that different standards for marriage are "normal and fine." Sorry if this is confusing but you wrote so beautifully about having a happy marriage and this has been on all our minds lately. P.S. I'm happily married for ten years next month.

Lisa said...

This is a great post! In the past I have struggled in my marriage but I finally found the key! It is so much more about doing for him than obsessing about what he is not doing for me. As soon as my attitude changed about this, everything fell into place. It is really too bad but I feel many marriages end in selfishness. Thanks for your insightful post!

Anonymous said...

My Mother always said "Don't choose the one you can live with, choose the one you can't live without" and it's worked for me. I have been happily married for almost 10 years. It's hard work, but there is no one I would rather spend my time with, share my children with and grow old with than my husband. I still look forward to him walking through the door and he still tells me I'm beautiful every single day (even when I'm not). Compromise is the biggest plus in our marriage. Learn to let the little things go. Yes sometimes we argue, but at the end of the day we are a couple and we can't imagine ever being apart.

Cindy

Shanan said...

Ha - you can't read the title of your post without mimicking in your head the way it is said in the movie! ;)

Thank you to both you and Jon for your insight on making/keeping a marriage healthy and happy!

www.adorn-jewelry.blogspot.com said...

Steph,
I think Sabrina's blog might overtake yours. she is so cute!
em

Heather said...

I loved your comments. Thank you.

Heather said...

Thank you.

Mandi said...

Thank You for the great insight. It has put things into perspective for me. We all have things to work on. Thanks for the insight. It's great to remember these things.. I needed this.

Noorda Notebook said...

good ideas guys. that was so fun to read.

we do a fun thing before we go on trips that helps us a lot with the whole scheduling bit. it's an idea we got from another friend - so we don't get any credit.

we sit down and make a written schedule together a few days before the vacation. we actually write down what family members/friends we'll be with in the morning hours before kids' naps, afternoon time, and evenings/dinners. this takes all the emotion out of it for us. it's also a fun way to make sure we get to spend time with everyone we want to while we're out of town.

maybe this idea will be useful to someone :)

Ben and Taryn said...

You and Jon are an amazing and inspiring couple. My heart was touched deeply by your second paragraph on Love. Would it be ok if I wrote some of it down to keep with me and remind me. Thanks for the wonderful insight.

Annalee Kelly said...

I love this concept as well for relationships: Repentance takes care of yesterday; faith takes care of tomorrow, and the Holy Ghost takes care of today.
Good insights from you both. Thanks.

Kathy said...

Thank you for your post. As someone who as been married for almost thirty years, it's good to be reminded of these things. I do love it when my daughters say that they're glad that we have such a loving marriage and home. You're giving your sweet girls the best gift ever by showing them happy parents who serve and truly love each other. The only thing I would add to you list is a sense of humor. It gets us through so many situations that might otherwise break us down. If you can find humor in it, you can get through it.

Anonymous said...

Other tips we have found helpful:
--weekly dates
--regular temple attendance
--openly sharing if we are struggling with any kind of sin or addiction so we can work together to overcome it
--making an effort to give your spouse a kiss when you come home
--praising your spouse to others in front of your spouse
--like you said, actively choosing to love your spouse (love is a verb)

Stephanie said...

I love all these comments. I was hoping you would all add your own best tips here. Thanks so much! They are all good reminders to work to make our marriages the best they can be.

love to all of you,
stephanie

jimnalli said...

I agree 100%!! I've been married 11 years now and I love the way you put all that into words. I couldnt agree more!

Heidi said...

Great thoughts you two--I completely agree!

The Esplin Boys and Kassie said...

Hi Stephanie,
This is my commenting debut! To make a long story short, I'm getting baptized on Saturday and you were a peice of my religious puzzle (more than I ever thought a 'stranger' could). I would like to email you some experiences that happened to have perfect timing with your posts. I couldn't see and 'email you' link. Would you email your email address to me? kassieannie@aol.com
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You have a gift at COMMUNICATING, not just writing.
With LoVe,
Kassie

Mindy said...

I'm not married, yet I still thoroughly enjoyed this post. :)

Anonymous said...

You are lucky. The thing about your blog that helped me the most is that I realized you were able to cope because of your strong marriage. I know if something similar happened to my family, it would tear us apart. It makes me want to work on it so we can be strong when trials come our way. My marriage is very weak right now and I feel a little hopeless because it takes two who want to work on it. My husband is struggling with a lot of issues and I don't feel like I can help him other than try to be supportive but that alone will not solve his issues (and it is very hard to be supportive at times). I guess this is a trial of my patience among other things and this period will help me appreciate the good times when they come back. I won't be giving up and I want my marriage to be strong. I appreciate your comments.