Examining Your Marriage

Do Honor Your Parents

Now just how does a wife honor her parents in her marriage? One important way is to keep them out of your marriage. President Kimball expressed this well; “You love them more than ever; you cherish their counsel; you appreciate their association; but you live your own lives.”

You should not confide private, marital things with your parents. Honor them—and your husband—by not burdening them with petty complaints about your husband and your marriage.

There is one exception to this rule: If you are the victim of abuse in your marriage, or if your husband is abusing drugs or porn, talk to your parents (or a Church leader if you feel it’s more appropriate depending on the individual case) immediately.

Matthew O. Richardson discusses separating from parents in his article, “Three Principles of Marriage”: “The first step in obtaining the heavenly form of marriage is for man to ‘leave his father and his mother.’ President Spencer W. Kimball . . . taught that ‘couples do well to immediately find their own home, separate and apart from that of the in-laws.’”

Another way to honor our parents is to emulate what worked well. What did your mother do as a wife that was good and helpful? Copy her!

My mom always looked good. She always took special care to keep her weight down and her clothes attractive. She went out with Dad a lot. She was intelligent and strong and stood her ground. The list goes on.

One day my youngest son approached me. He was all of about nine or ten. He said, quite seriously, “How am I supposed to learn how to be a good husband and daddy?”

I smiled and said, “Honey, you’re in training right now.”

“What? I am not!” he protested.

“Sure you are,” I said. “Tell me all the things Daddy does to be a good husband.”

He began, “Well, he takes you out on dates every week.”

“Yes,” I said. “And what else?”

“Well, he tells you that you look pretty!” and then he giggled.

I assured him that that worked well every single time. And away he went, listing all the things my husband did to be a great husband. He giggled contentedly and acknowledged that he was in fact being trained. 

So look at your parents’ marriage and copy what worked well. I daresay you’re probably already doing some of it (and saying, “Sheesh, I’m just like my mother!”), but if you’re like me, I realized there was room for improvement.

As we honor our parents and all that they taught us, we need to bring an awareness and understanding heart to be willing to modify those practices to fit our own marriage. Just because “My dad always did that” or “My mother never did that” doesn’t mean it always has to be that way in your marriage.

We kept the “Dad does the dishes if Mom cooked” from my parents and modified it in our home to be “He who cooks does not have to do dishes.” We totally discarded “Dad never cooks” from both of our parents’ families and added “All members of the family must take their turn cooking for the mutual survival of the family members.” We also kept “Mom gets to shop and no one complains” from his family. We totally abandoned “Mom controls the wash” in favor of “Mom does a lot of the washing but is assisted by all family members.” We kept “Families were meant to spend a lot of time camping” but gave up “and Mom does all the cooking” in favor of “Mom does all the shopping but Dad does all the cooking because Mom purposely plays dumb on how to operate the camp stove. 

When differences come up, look closely to see if they are just expectations that you’ve carried over from the way you were brought up. Honor the good stuff you brought and feel free to abandon the rest.

Do Value Him—Don’t Covet Another

Coveting another is dangerous ground. President Hinckley says, “When you are married, be fiercely loyal to one another.” Being loyal to your husband is crucial to the relationship.

Wives can covet others by either wistfully thinking of prior flames or by comparing their spouses to other men and constantly finding them wanting. Both are disloyal. Both are dangerous. And both make for a lousy wife.

Really, what good does it do? How does it help? All it does is make you miserable and messes with your head. Instead, we need to all work on valuing our husbands. Focusing on the good that we do have.

Get out a piece of paper and a pen. Write at the top “Great Things about My Husband.” Now start to write a list. Write down the way he holds your hand. Write down how he has cute feet. Write down that he took care of the whole house when you came down with the stomach flu. Write down how he took care of your dying father so sweetly. Write down how he looked across the altar when you were married. Write down how he didn’t complain when you wanted to paint the family room red. Write down how he baptized your children, and gave you a blessing, and danced with you, and walked with you, and told you he loved you.

Now go in and look at your husband. How do you feel about him now? Couldn’t stop yourself, could you? You went over and kissed him, didn’t you? See. He needs to feel valued, and you just did.

Gary and Joy Lundberg included this illustration in their book, The Marriage Balancing Act: “At one point in his marriage, Fred felt left out and unimportant. It seemed that all of his wife Janine’s time and energy were consumed in serving their young children. ‘I didn’t know where I fit,’ Fred says. ‘It felt like I was only good for a paycheck.’

“Janine found that it took some planning to help her husband feel loved and valued. She decided that instead of a quick ‘Hi, gotta run Molly to piano, bye,’ when Fred came home from work, she could greet him with a smile and a tender kiss. Taking time away from other chores to lovingly greet her husband worked. Soon Janine found that sometimes Fred would see her at the stove and kiss her. Expressions of love like these help bring order to chaos and balance into life.” These expressions showed how much she valued her husband.

Value your husband. Value him deeply. It will transform your marriage and you.

Dr. Victor B. Cline, in discussing what every husband wants from his wife, states the following:“[Here is] what, in my judgment, most husbands really want. . . . Fill his cup, and he will be yours forever.

ldquo;. . . Accept and approve the husband. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this. Most husbands are out there every day fighting dragons, and when they come home at night they want their wives to be proud of them, appreciate their contributions and sacrifices, believe in them—be on their side. The loving, understanding wife is the husband’s shelter in the storm. She should be the one who patches up bruises, nurtures him, and heals and builds his battered ego, and sees and treats him as a prince in their kingdom. He needs to understand that he is number one in her life above all other people.”

So when those little thoughts of criticism or complaint come to your mind, stop yourself immediately. Take a deep breath. And then quickly fill your mind with some of the sweet things from your list. It will banish those dark thoughts from your mind and give you a better perspective to deal with the differences that are there.

You may feel that everyone’s husband is so much better than your own. Stop that right now. Appreciate even the tiny things and over time you will value your husband so much you will wonder how in the world you could have ever felt differently.

Do Value Yourself

Now while you’re at it, you need to value yourself as well. A good wife understands how important it is to value herself so she can be her very best.

In your marriage, you must choose to be a partner in the marriage relationship—not a limited partner, not the general partner, but a full and active equal partner. If you take the time to develop yourself as a full partner, then you can have the true oneness in marriage that you desire.

The best wife is a true person. She develops her own unique gifts and abilities and is constantly evolving and growing. In an Ensign article many years ago, Ann Reese stated, “There are within each woman certain unique qualities—her intelligence, her combination of talents and positive personality traits, her inner self, her soul—which are of immense worth. It is the duty of each woman to come to know and accept and enjoy being herself. She must respect her own inner strengths and from this self-acceptance be secure enough to live courageously and righteously and to reach out in service to her family and fellow beings.”

If we make the effort to truly value ourselves, nothing can stand in the way of our developing into not only a great wife but a great woman as well. One of the great mistakes wives make is to stop growing. They tend to mistakenly conclude that they snagged their man and can now coast to the celestial kingdom. Actually, that wedding is only the first baby step in a series of steps that will lead you there. Now is not the time to sit down. It is the time to value yourself.

Do Gain an Understanding of What a Man Is

I am the fourth daughter and had only one brother. I wasn’t quite up to speed on guy-ness when I got married. (Of course the Lord, with his inimitable sense of humor, sent me four sons. I had to learn fast!)

As we study “maleness,” we learn that our perspectives are different. They look at the world differently than we do. But it’s just like glasses are different for each person. Is one right and the other wrong? No, each perspective is just different and suited to our needs and circumstances.

One of the biggest insights gained in my marriage is that my husband thinks like a guy. Wow! What a revelation! Often when he wasn’t talking, it was because he didn’t have any deep thoughts to share. Nothing personal.

So I had to learn about how my husband thinks. He’s pretty linear and uncomplicated in his thinking. He doesn’t analyze every relationship and every conversation ad nauseam like I do. He doesn’t care that much about what others think. He’s pretty straightforward. Understanding all of this helps me to let go of all the little hurts, misunderstandings, and unrealistic expectations I might harbor otherwise.

Of course, men have their differences. But it can safely be said that men in general think differently than women do. In an article about Dr. Michael Gurian and his book, What Could He Be Thinking: How a Man’s Mind Really Works, we read, “The male brain secretes less of the powerful primary bonding chemical oxytocin and less of the calming chemical serotonin than the female brain.

“So while women find emotional conversations a good way to chill out at the end of the day, the tired male brain needs to zone out all the touch-feely chatter in order to relax—which is why he wants the remote control to zap through ‘mindless’ sport or action movies.

“His brain takes in less sensory detail than a woman’s, so he doesn’t see or even feel the dust and household mess in the same way. Anyhow, the male brain attaches less personal identity to the inside of a home and more to the workplace or the yard—which is why he doesn’t get worked up about housework.

“Male hormones such as testosterone set the male brain up to seek competitive, hierarchical groups in its constant quest to prove self-worth and identity. That is why men, paradoxically (from a hormonally altered new mother’s point of view), become even more workaholic once they have kids, to whom they must also prove their worth.”

Interesting, isn’t it? Just reading a bit helps so much in our understanding of these men we’re married to.

The studies on the differences between male and female brains are fascinating. A BBC report on Science & Nature commented on the studies that have been done on the brain, “There is growing evidence that men and women’s brains are wired differently. This theory may explain the finding that, on average, men are better at some things and women are better at others.”

Brent Barlow, a religion and marriage professor at BYU, suggests that understanding these differences can help improve our marriages. He says, “Most married couples soon discover that differences arise in marriage simply because one is male and one is female. . . . The basic facts couples should realize are that the differences between the sexes are real and that they must be taken into consideration in marriage.”

Learn about how guys work. It’ll help you understand a bit more how he sees things and will help tone down reactions you might otherwise have.

Do Value Your Commitment

A friend said to me one day, “I want the same testimony of my marriage as I do of the Church.”

All our marriages are at various levels of love and commitment. Even within our own marriage, my husband and I have varying degrees from year to year. Hopefully, we can work on improving our present feelings and move them in a positive direction.

As young couples move forward into the marriage relationship, they have many experiences that test this resolve and commitment. As an elderly friend of mine jokingly commented, “I never thought about divorcing him, but I thought about killing him several times!” We have all had times when things were not that fantastic and we wondered, “Brother, are we even going to make it?”

So how do we get that testimony of our marriages? A few things can help.

First, realize that it may take time. How long did it take for you to get a testimony of the Church, even if you were raised in it? Give it time and patience and commitment.

Second, pray for your husband specifically and daily. This will add a level of commitment that you may not have felt before. As you seek our Heavenly Father’s divine blessings to flow upon your husband, you will be inspired to assist in that process and be a blessing to your husband. Your loyalty and devotion to him will increase.

Third, ask your Heavenly Father for this testimony. Again, be patient with the answer. It took me a long time to get there. It had absolutely nothing to do with my husband and everything to do with me. Patiently go through the lessons and experiences the Lord places in your life to get you where you need to be to receive it.

Finally, perform sealings in the temple and listen to the promises and blessings. Also, initiatories invite you to hear your blessings in your own capacity as a wife. These will help you see the eternal importance and value of your eternal relationship. Understanding and love and commitment will distill upon your soul as you do this.

Personally, it took me twenty years to get this testimony. As I mentioned, it had everything to do with me. While I was growing up I saw several family members go through many divorces. Needless to say, I was extremely apprehensive and worried that my own marriage would not be able to survive. I’ll never forget our fourteenth anniversary. We were eating chowder in bread bowls in Monterey, California. I looked deeply into my husband’s eyes and said, “I have now realized that you will never leave me.” He said, “No, I never will.” And I knew that was true. It was the first step in being able to trust and commit to a deeper level of the relationship.

After many more experiences, I finally received the testimony of my marriage. What a gift! The growth of love and commitment then really began to increase exponentially.

You may be a whole lot faster or you may be slower. What matters it that you are working on it and that you are valuing your commitment.

Realize that your husband is your eternal companion. Learn to look at him that way. Elder Lynn G. Robbins sums this up: “Scripturally, the Lord is very clear with us on this doctrine—you can’t ‘fall out of love,’ because love is something you decide. Agency plays a fundamental role in our relationships with one another. This being true, we must make the conscious decision that we will love our spouse and family with all our heart, soul, and mind; that we will build, not ‘fall into,’ strong, loving marriages and families. As President Spencer W. Kimball said, ‘Don’t just pray to marry one you love. Instead, pray to love the one you marry.’

“Let us hearken to President Hinckley’s counsel: ‘I lift a warning voice to our people. We have moved too far forward the mainstream of society in this matter. Now, of course, there are good families. There are good families everywhere. But there are too many who are in trouble. This is a malady with a cure. The prescription is simple and wonderfully effective. It is love. It is plain, simple, everyday love and respect. It is a tender plant that needs nurturing. But it is worth all of the effort we can put into it.’”

It is only by a constant, committed effort that we will make the love we share with our spouse a constant for eternity.

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