It’s hard for me to express adequately how I feel about my marriage partner. I love her immeasurably more now than I did when we were married. I trust her, respect her, rely on her, and, on top of all else, I’m proud of her.
My wife is a person I rediscovered after years of marriage—and I’m still discovering more about her.
I’ve had occasion to talk with a number of our good sisters. They shared some frustrations that had occurred in my own marriage. These sisters were active and devoted Church members. They honored and respected the priesthood. They appreciated being mothers and homemakers and felt that they supported their husbands; but, reluctantly, they confessed that they sometimes didn’t feel appreciated for their contributions to the marriage and the family. The things they personally wanted to do somehow didn’t seem to be as important as the things husbands and children wanted to do. There never seemed to be enough time for themselves. And, even though they loved their husbands very much, they still felt a lack of unity in their marriages because their husbands seemingly didn’t know and understand some of their important thoughts, feelings, and concerns.
When we joined the Church as a young married couple, we were inspired by the example of our Church leaders who had obviously committed themselves totally to serving the Lord. During the next ten years my wife and I each held three or four callings simultaneously while two more children joined the two we already had.
I vaguely noticed that we almost never talked about anything but family or household business. Increasingly, I left decisions about the children to her while I merely mumbled ratification or voiced an occasional objection. I even turned most of the responsibility for having family home evening over to my wife. By neglecting my responsibilities as a father, I was increasing her burden as a mother; and I was doing very little as a husband to strengthen her in her mother’s role.
What woke me up was a tape of a speech by Elder Paul H. Dunn, where he suggested among other things, that the husband should not always be the only source of information on scriptural, ecclesiastical, or academic questions; the wife should have time and encouragement to do her own research, increase her own knowledge, and sharpen her own learning skills.
I remember feeling surprised when I recalled how often I prayed that our children would reach their full potential in the gospel and in their secular pursuits, but I had never prayed for the same blessing for my wife. I also realized that I tended to arrange time for my own hobbies and entertainment because it was important for me to have a variety of activities but I wasn’t applying the same principles and guidelines for my wife’s life.
After a lot of thought about this and related matters, I went to the Lord in prayer. Part of the answer was in a new insight into Matthew 19:5–6, where it refers to the husband and wife as “no more twain, but one.” I saw the husband and wife endeavoring to achieve perfection together. If part of that body is starving, then the whole body suffers.
Humbled, I went home to share my discovery with my wife and suggest that she take time to do or study or learn or practice something she would like to do. She initially refused to consider the idea. She thought she already had so many important responsibilities that she wouldn’t have time for interests outside the home. We discussed and prayed about it. A week later she decided with some reservations to enroll in an evening institute course on the Pearl of Great Price.
Any misgivings soon changed. Often she returned from class bubbling with excitement, eager to share a newly learned principle or to discuss the stimulating lessons. We began to have something to talk about besides work and the children. Taking care of the children that one evening weekly for a few weeks gave me increased appreciation for her contribution in the home—and let me renew lost contacts with our children. They sensed the differences in her and looked forward to hearing about her class too. The happiness was contagious.
Later, from time to time, she took correspondence courses on other subjects and finally mustered up the courage for a dream she had cherished for years—art classes. I wondered that, in over two decades of marriage, I had missed this important part of her, and was proud to see her art talent develop. She blossomed in confidence and our relationship was enriched and bettered, and our awareness of each other strengthened.
Many couples have full and rich communication with each other and full support for each other. But there are some fine sisters who have felt and even now feel hesitant to talk to their husbands—as mine had hesitated to talk to me—because somehow they had received the message from these busy men that their needs were less important then their husband’s needs or family’s needs.
When my wife started taking classes, I noticed that we started having stimulating and insightful significant discussions of the scriptures and Church matters more frequently. In one particularly significant experience, we spoke quietly with each other in the temple after a session, and she shared with me an understanding she had of the endowment ceremony. The Spirit testified of the truthfulness of what she was saying. That shared moment was a precious one in our relationship.
Now, I don’t think her classes provided this new knowledge; rather, her increased self-confidence and increased range of interests sent her prayerfully thinking into an area that she had previously thought of as “beyond her.” As a result of her spiritual insights, she elevated and broadened my knowledge of an important eternal truth.
Appreciating my wife, not only for the things she does for me and the family, but as a person with unique talents and contributions, has made me more aware of the truth that each spouse must participate fully in the mutual goal of progression and perfection. Eternal marriage is, in a very real sense, a covenant of mutual growth toward our fullest mutual development.