Friday, October 7, 2016

Want an enduring, healthy marriage?

Bill and I have been married for 14 years now, we just had our anniversary on September 16th. We are best friends, we love and respect each other. We love our marriage and we even love other people's marriages. Does that mean our marriage is perfect? No. We have things we need to work on just like anyone else. Just a hint: we have 7 kids with 1 more on the way, she's due January 16th, so we have to make our marriage work with a lot of extra bodies and sometimes divided focus.

When I decided to attend BYU-Idaho I chose the major of Marriage and Family studies because I feel it is an area that needs extra support and attention in today's world where Satan is striving so hard to attack and tear apart the family. Not just "the family", but YOUR family, MY family. It's personal. He's trying to destroy us. He wants to keep you out of your Heavenly Fathers presence. He wants to keep your spouse out as well and he is definitely after your kids.

I just read an awesome chapter of "Successful Marriage and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives" which talks about "Foundational Processes for an Enduring, Healthy Marriage". Doesn't that sound awesome? Someone has laid out foundational processes to help our marriages endure and be healthy. I bet you want to hear some of them. I know I did.

In the Proclamation to the World we are told that "Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other." (1)

President Spencer W. Kimball tell us, "While marriage is difficult, and discordant and frustrated marriages are common, yet real, lasting happiness is possible, and marriage can be more an exultant ecstasy than the human mind can conceive. This is within the reach of every couple, every person." (2)

So, how can we get there? How can we make our marriage a "more exultant ecstasy than the human mind can conceive? These foundational processes that I am about to share  are things that couples can do in  their marriage to help their marriage flourish. Let's jump in!

Foundational Process #1 is Personal Commitment to the Marriage Covenant. 

As we learn from amazing statements in the Proclamation, marriage divinely created by God. He loves your marriage, he wants it to succeed. He is on your side!

In a covenant marriage couples work through their problems together. They marry each other in the temple and commit to help each other grow, to serve their partner, they are bound by covenants to each other and to God. Covenant couples give 100%, not 50% expecting their partner to pull the rest of the weight.

You may remember a previous post where I shared Elder Bednar's "MCovenant Marriage Relationship". If not you can see it here. And here's a little reminder...
In a marriage if each partner strives to get closer to God they will also be pulled closer to their spouse. 

Processes that nurture your covenant marriage:
Here's a great one; intentional personal dedication to your spouse. This means you have to work for it. Hard. Blaine Fowers said "One of the basic ways for a person to have a good marriage is to be a good person." You may have to change bad habits, sacrifice some vices, learn to communicate better (that's what I'm working on), or any other things.

Also, exclusive cleaving and unity. Henry B. Eyring stated plainly "Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity." (3)

Practice spiritual patterns. These would include prayer, going to church, serving in a church calling, Family Home Evening, and all the other seminary answers. Studies have shown that "couples who practice their faith together generally have less conflict." (Lambert & Dollahite, 2006).

Foundational Process #2 is Love and Friendship

In D&C 42:22 we are commanded to love our spouses with all of hears. President Benson pointed out that the only other thing in the scriptures we are commanded to love with all of our hearts is God himself! Ways we can strengthen our friendship with our spouses are by figuring out what their love preferences are, talking as friends, responding to bids for connection, and setting regular goals for couple interaction. A summary given of these things comes from my text book:

  1. Respond to bids for attention, affection, humor, or support. An announcement of "I'e had a rotten day" can be met with an acknowledgement of feelings ("I'm sorry to hear that"), a hug, and an invitation to talk more about it.
  2. Make an effort to do everyday activities together, such as reading the mail or making the bed.
  3. Have a stress-reducing conversation at the end of the day. This involves reuniting at the end of a busy day to see how things went, and listening to and validating one another.
  4. Do something special every day to communicate affection and appreciation.
  5. Keep track of how well you are connecting emotionally with each other, and make enhancements when necessary.
Foundational Process #3 is Positive Interaction

One of my favorite quotes comes from Jay Trachman, 

"The formula for a happy marriage? It's the same as the formula for living in California: when you find a fault, don't dwell on it." 

Couples in positive marriages have at least five positive interactions to every one negative. On the flip side, couples headed for divorce have a ratio of only 0.8 positive to 1 negative. 

Foundational Process #4 is accepting influence from one's spouse.

Simply put, sharing the decision making process counts as accepting influence. Do this in family affairs. Turn to your spouse for advice, be open to their ideas, listen to and learn from your spouse.

Foundational Process #5 is respectfully handling differences and solving problems.

Disagreements occur even in the best marriages. It is possible however to solve these disagreements without having a full on argument occur. Skills that can smooth over these differences include prevention, getting rid of destructive patterns, staying clam, keeping discussions soft, gentle, and private (Bill and I call this being "tenderly upfront" and it is something I am working on), making and accepting apologies, soothing each other and one's self, and reach a consensus. 

The last Foundational Process which is #6 is continuing courtship through the years. 

Date your spouse! This is where wholesome recreational activities come in to play. The beginning of your marriage should not be the end of your dating, it should be the beginning of your greatest dating!

Also, it is recommended that a couple spends at least five hours a week strengthening their relationship. Four things should be accomplished in those five hours:

  1. Learn one thing that happened in your spouse's life each day.
  2. have a stress-reducing conversation at the end of each day (hmmm, this was mentioned earlier... that must mean that it's pretty important).
  3. Do something special every day to show affection and appreciation (this was mentioned too).
  4. Have a weekly date.
In closing, Elder F. Burton Howard stated,

"If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.
Eternal marriage is just like that. We need to treat it just that way." (4)

Edited: 12/10/2016 - Ideas and quotes were enhanced by the text book Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives. Edited by Alan J. Hawkins, David C. Dollahite, and Thomas W. Draper. I really recommend that everyone purchase and READ this book. It's so great.

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