My wife and I met our first and only marriage counselor on our honeymoon. He was wearing a green forest ranger’s uniform and working in a historical museum in Cedar City, Utah. We met him there while taking a break during our long drive from California, where we had just been sealed in the Los Angeles Temple.
Soon after we entered the museum, the ranger recognized us as newlyweds. He began talking to us and asked if he could share some advice. With our permission, he told us of his aunt and uncle who had recently divorced after some 30 years of marriage. He said they were good people, but over the years they had “grown apart” or “fallen out of love” because they had ceased to do things together. He suggested that even if my wife were sewing, I could go into the same room and at least be with her and talk to her—be together with her.
My wife and I have always remembered this counsel given to us on the day after our union in the holy temple. There we were taught the greater obligation and eternal nature of marriage, a union in which we are to cleave unto each other and become one—in other words, be together.
We have tried to follow his advice in the simplest of ways. We often read books together or discuss a book we each have read individually. We sit next to each other at the dinner table rather than sitting at the head or foot of the table. We sit together at church rather than dividing ourselves among our children. In the evening, we often work on our individual projects in the same room. We regularly counsel together regarding our callings in the Church, home teaching or visiting teaching families, and talks or lessons.
Some years ago when my wife was very ill and in bed most of the day for a period of months, we had little time to be together. My commute to work was long, and when I arrived home there was much work to do: dinner to prepare and children to get ready for bed—then things to clean up. But after all was done, we would regularly spend time, however short, talking and praying together as a couple before we ended our day.
During that same period of difficulty, my wife and I came to realize we had a responsibility to work together to teach our children with the little time we had available. We were often invited to socials and other fun activities. However, we came to realize that some activities seemed to take us away from each other and our children rather than strengthening us and bringing us closer as a couple and family.
It can be subtly tempting to lay aside our commitment to covenants and companion when we are diverted by difficulty and disappointment or when the activities and challenges of daily living demand our immediate attention. How easy it can be to get lost in the world’s fun diversions, the work-a-day world of acquiring position and possessions, or even in spending too much time with our children instead of our partner. It is easy to forget our direction if we are not regularly studying the scriptures along with the words of our living prophets.
President Spencer W. Kimball wrote: “When a husband and wife go together frequently to the holy temple, kneel in prayer together in their home with their family, go hand in hand to their religious meetings, keep their lives wholly chaste, mentally and physically, … and both are working together for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God, then happiness is at its pinnacle” (Marriage and Divorce , 24). Although we have never again met our Cedar City counselor, we thank him for his advice: work together, grow together, and live life together.
This article may furnish material for a discussion with your spouse or for personal consideration. You might consider questions such as:
What interests and hobbies do we each have that we might spend more time doing together?
Can we organize more of our tasks in such a way to do them together or at least in the same room?
What topics would we like to study together?