Marriage advice might not seem like the kind of topic you would traditionally find at a conference for office professionals, but it was on the mind of John Bytheway as he presented a lecture on the subject to BYU professionals gathered at the annual Office Professionals Conference (OPAC) Friday.
In traditional Bytheway style, he shared fun, topical advice for those in attendance on several things they could start doing that day—even while still in the lecture—to bless their marriages.
“There are easy things that we can do to get the love of God into our marriages,” Bytheway says.
1. First, he says, “reverse your buts.” Or in other less comical words, he explains, “change your outlook.”
The principle is simple, and he gives an example: instead of saying, “I love you, but you’re driving me crazy,” try, “You’re driving me crazy, but I love you.” By “reversing your buts,” you change your outlook.
2. Second, Bytheway advises, “write a note (or send a text; LOL)."
To set up this point, he first explains how easy it is for couples to slide from appreciation, to expectations, to demands. What is first an appreciated action between newlyweds (like when one does the dishes), later that becomes and expected and then a demanded action.
The antidote? Express appreciation.
To illustrate this point, he shares a (very) tattered note from his wife, Kim. It reads simply, “Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate the heroic lengths you go to to provide for our family.”
“That changed my whole day,” he says. And then adds, “It’s not expensive; just look at the paper!”
One sister who took his advice while listening to a seminar similar to the OPAC lecture shared with him how she texted a similar message to her husband while she listened. He replied that it was “the nicest thing [she] had ever said to him.” So much so, it brought her husband to tears.
The power of expressing appreciation, especially in written form, can be a powerful blessing in marriage.
3. Bytheway’s third point goes back to basic needs of men and women: “meet a need (find out what those needs are).”
Referencing Willard F. Jr. Harley’s classic bestseller, His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, he notes: “men and women have the same needs, but in different orders.”
From there Bytheway explains several key differences between men and women, including women’s desire to feel cherished and men’s desire for physical intimacy, as well as the different communication styles between genders (“men talk for information,” he says, “women talk for interactions").
“Harmony,” he concludes, “is being different together.”
4. Fourth in his list of tips is a very concrete idea to “turn off the tech.”
Singing a song he learned as a child concerning railroad tracks, he notes that the steps to avoiding trains are the same as those to help you engage with a spouse (or anyone)—stop, look, and listen. Stop what you’re doing (turn off the tech), look at the person, and really listen to what they have to say.
5. Last, Bytheway shares, “choose to be delightful.”
To help you feel out how you’re doing on this, he offers several questions to help take stock:
•If I were married to me, would I be happy?
•Am I easy to love?
•How well do I meet the needs of my spouse?
•Is my spouse happy he or she chose to marry me?
•What do I do that frustrates my spouse that I can and ought to change?
He notes in particular 4 Nephi—a one-chapter book of scripture. “Why so short?” he asks. “Nothing to report.” Because, he says, “of the love of God which dwelled in the hearts of the people.”
Joking, he comments, “you might think that’s because they’re not married,” but verse 11 tells us, “And they were married, and given in marriage, and were blessed.” So we know it’s possible!
“Marriage isn’t any big thing, it’s a lot of little things,” the old saying goes. What little things could have the biggest impact for you and your spouse? Rather than a deep theological study of marriage, this presentation focuses on five things you can do today to make a big difference in your most important relationship. Try a few of these simple, actionable steps, and you’ll notice a difference almost immediately! Using the scriptures, stories, and quotations from Church leaders, 5 Things is a fun “marriage retreat” experience for the cost of a single CD!