Thursday, March 7, 2013
Keys to 27 years of marriage
My husband and I recently celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. Even now I find it hard to believe that we have spent more of our lives together than apart. The time has gone by so fast. It seems like we were married only a month or two ago, but six growing children tell us it was a bit longer ago than that.
I don’t profess to be a marriage expert by any means but I have noticed some patterns in successful marriages. When these patterns are strong, the marriage is—but when these patterns are weak, the marriage seems to struggle.
Make love often. What sets marriage apart from all other relationships? It’s making love. Don’t believe me? Let me lay it out for you, then.
Before marriage you can spend as much time together as you want. You can worship together all you want. You can attend the temple together all you want. You can serve others, study the scriptures, pray together, eat together, work together, shop together, play together, make major purchases together…even live together under the same roof. (Ever travel and spend time together at the future-in-laws home before marriage?)
The only thing the Lord asks us to reserve for after marriage is our sexual relationship. That is the foundation that sets marriage apart from all other relationships, whether that marriage produces children or not.
And if that is the foundation the Lord has given marriage, then it is up to us to make sure that it becomes a strong and secure foundation. We do that by making love often...not just when we want to but just as importantly when our partner wants to and needs to, too.
Swallow criticism. Years ago a female relative told me “I think you are wasting your life by staying home to raise your child. You should be going to school and pursuing a career.” I was too stunned to respond but later, that night, I wept over her words. I wanted to lash out at her, chew her out, be as sharp and vicious with her as she had been to me. I couldn't undersand how could she be so mean and critical!
Even after 23 years I have never forgotten her words--but they no longer upset me because I also have never forgotten my husband’s response. He said, “Terri, It is hard for some people to understand why a person as smart as you would choose to stay home and not pursue a career. It was her way of telling you she sees your intelligence and potential and thinks you should be using it.”
His words soothed me but, more importantly, they made me think. If this relative had approached me and said it the way my husband had, she would have made her point without hurting my feelings. In fact, she would have made me grateful she shared her observation with me.
I learned from that experience there is always a way to express a feeling, hope, concern, thought, even a disappointment, without hurting the other person. Swallow criticism and find a kinder way to express yourself.
Laugh often. One day my husband and I were having a difference of opinions yet we were still laughing together. My son, home from his mission, was sitting between us at the kitchen table. As we resolved our differences and joined together in a final burst of laughter I told our son, “I really hope you can marry a woman you can laugh with even when you are in the middle of disagreeing.”
Laughter will bring brightness to heavy situations. Laugh when the work is hard and tiring and when emotions are tense. Laugh when you want to grumble. Laugh when you want to quit. Laugh when you want to blow up. Laugh together in the car, in the kitchen, and especially in the bedroom.
But never, ever laugh at the other person. I tell my children all the time, ‘it’s only funny if everyone is laughing.’ If even one person is not laughing, then the comment or joke was inappropriate no matter how funny you may think it is. Learn to find humor that everyone can enjoy.
Focus on the Lord. Even if your spouse doesn’t want to focus on the Lord, make sure you do.
When you feel hurt or angry, misunderstood or underappreciated, focus on the Lord. When you don’t like your spouse very much and you are wondering if you should call it quits, stop focusing on their failures. Focus on the Lord instead. Keep the promises you made to Him to honor your marriage. Focus on what He would want you to do, and say. Focus on becoming the best husband or wife you can possible be and trust that the Lord knows what your spouse needs more than you do. Stay focused on Him and follow His promptings.
When you stay focused on the Lord, you will improve as a person and as a spouse…and that will, with time, improve your marriage. As you focus on the Lord you will find you will criticize less, laugh more and make love more often.