What We Did to Strengthen Our Marriage

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Members tell how they have used gospel principles to solve problems in marriage and build stronger bonds.

Let’s Talk about It

Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions. The following questions are for that purpose or for personal reflection:

  1. 1.

    Do I think more often about whether I am owed an apology or whether I owe one? Is it harder for me to say “I’m sorry” than it should be?

  2. 2.

    Do I worry too much about what I am getting out of my marriage and not how we are building for eternity?

  3. 3.

    What are some of the qualities I admire most about my spouse, and how can I help him or her build on them?

[photo] Photo by John Luke

[photos] Clockwise: Las Vegas temple photo by Blake Miller; photo by Michael McRae; photo © Photodisc; posed by models

[photo] Photo by Steve Bunderson

[photos] Inset: Photo by Steve Bunderson; photo by Derek Smith

“Wait, That’s the Old Way!”

My husband and I have been married for more than 48 years. In all that time, neither of us has done a deliberately unkind thing to the other. But this does not mean that we have always agreed. One of the best things we have done for our marriage was a plan we put into effect years ago to help us stop our wearying arguments.

First, we decided to fast together and pray specifically for help. Then we agreed that to keep misunderstandings from developing into quarrels, we would stop our discussion each time one occurred and begin again. If I said something and Bill got upset, I would say, “Wait, that’s the old way.” He would stop talking, I would rephrase what I had just said, and then he would say, “That’s not what I thought you were saying. I thought you meant …” This approach gave each of us the opportunity to be sure the messages we were sending were being received the way they were intended.

It was work. Each time one of us said something and the other overreacted, we would stop and begin again. The first year we had to do this a lot, the next less, and over time even less. Now it almost never happens.

The important lesson for us was that eternal marriages don’t just happen. They have to be built on hard work just like any other worthwhile achievement. But the work is well worth the effort.Joan B. Zizka, Sanford (Maine) Ward, Exeter New Hampshire Stake

Our Temple Dates

A few years ago the president of the stake where we lived in Las Vegas challenged bishops, including my husband, to attend the temple more often. The counsel came at a time in our marriage when it was clear that we needed more time together as a couple. One Sunday during a Relief Society lesson on temple attendance, the Spirit bore witness to me that my husband and I needed to follow that direction. My immediate reactions were “But what about my children?” and “How will that help? I’ll be busy doing ordinance work, not talking to my husband.” However, I continued to feel that prompting, and it calmed my fears. I resolved to try attending the temple with him that very week.

The best opportunity for us proved to be during the middle of a day when my husband’s work took him near the temple. He could use his lunch hour for part of the time and make the rest up later. That worked well because our older children were in school and the younger two could play at a friend’s house. As for one-on-one time with my husband, just being in the same room performing the same sacred ordinances seemed to strengthen our marriage. Going to the temple led to many interesting gospel discussions, and soon we found that researching our family tree was a goal we wanted to pursue together.

One day in the temple I thought about Earth’s first couple, Adam and Eve. When they left the Garden of Eden, they had only each other. I realized that if I had been cast out into the unknown, there was no one else on Earth I would rather build a life with than my husband. What peace and comfort I felt as I realized he could be eternally by my side.

That prompting to attend the temple with him more often has been a great blessing in our lives. Now I look forward to each of our temple visits.Laurie Denning, Jordan River Seventh Ward, South Jordan Utah River Stake

Less Worrying, More Caring

Two pieces of instruction from the Sermon on the Mount, admonitions I am trying to apply in marriage, have helped renew my conviction of the power of Jesus Christ’s teachings.

My frequent resolves to try harder and do more—to be a more loving husband, a more patient father, a better employee—did not succeed because I was trying to do too much. I realized I needed to put into practice the Savior’s counsel found in Matthew 6:25–34, beginning with “Take ye no thought for your life.” In my case, I felt this meant not to worry about the multitude of comparatively little things that were occupying most of my thoughts and draining my emotional strength. If my children acted up in church, I could do my best to help them but not overreact or fret about relatively minor problems. If my wife and I disagreed on something, I needed to focus on improving communication rather than worrying about who was right or wrong. It seemed unproductive also to worry so much about my shortcomings; instead, I needed to focus on helping others.

When I worried about petty things, I was usually thinking of me rather than others; I was comparing myself to them or worrying about what they were thinking of me. But when I focused more on caring about others—especially my wife—life was more relaxed and pleasant for me and everyone around me. More important, my marriage was enhanced because a significant number of disagreements between me and my wife simply did not happen anymore.

Quitting some of my useless worrying gave me more time to care about serving others as the Savior taught in the Golden Rule (see Matt. 7:12). I learned that when I truly tried to do for my wife what I would want her to do for me—always keep promises, think before speaking, counsel with my partner about decisions, and so forth—it was what she also wanted.

As I have practiced these principles from the Sermon on the Mount without reverting to old patterns of worry or selfishness, they have helped to strengthen our marriage.Duane L. Ostler, Snow Canyon Eighth Ward, St. George Utah Snow Canyon Stake

Between the Two of Us

Early in our marriage, I made a commitment never to criticize my husband behind his back. I had noticed that as my friends got together, conversation easily slipped into husband bashing. It seems to be an almost natural tendency to avoid marital conflict directly while gaining a feeling of support through the counterfeit relief of unloading emotional burdens on friends or family. But I had to ask myself, “How would I feel? Would I want my husband to complain about my weaknesses to others?” Hurt, betrayal, and mistrust are all consequences of verbal disloyalty.

Marital difficulties are best kept between the partners for resolution. The Lord himself counsels that we should first take a problem to the one with whom we have the difficulty; if the problem cannot be resolved at that level, others should be involved only according to a carefully specified pattern (see Matt. 18:15–16; D&C 42:88–92). If problems persist, counsel can be sought from priesthood leaders, who may recommend professional counseling if necessary.

Admittedly it takes courage to bring issues directly to our spouse. Our confidence is bolstered when we approach the situation with the humility born of a willingness to see our own imperfections, not just the flaws of our partner. Humility and courage together allow us to avoid the pitfall of verbal disloyalty and pave the way toward lasting resolutions.Kim Beecher, Auburn Fourth Ward, Auburn Washington Stake

A Living, Growing Thing

Little problems in marriage can grow to become destructive wedges if we do nothing to keep them in perspective. My husband and I have found this to be especially true when we have slacked off on having dates or spending one-on-one time together. The less time we spend together, the more those petty annoyances—little thorns in the garden of marriage—take on unrealistic importance. It is better to concentrate on the roses: the beauties around us in our day-to-day life.

Sharing time together, particularly on dates, enhances our ability to overcome those little annoyances. But with the demands of rearing a family, employment, Church callings, community service, and a multitude of other obligations, it is all too easy to let date time get crowded out if we don’t stay vigilant in emphasizing its priority. We also find other ways to spend time together. After nine children and more than 20 years of marriage, my husband and I still sit side by side at church, in the car, and wherever else we go. We are still each other’s favorite companions. But that didn’t just happen. It requires thought, determination, and work to make time for each other on a regular basis.

An eternal marriage relationship, like faith, is a living, growing thing and needs to be nurtured. Our weekly date is a good base from which our marriage can grow.Valerie Wright, Bluffdale First Ward, Bluffdale Utah Stake

Giving Birth to Oneness

Even though it was our fifth child, the beginning of labor brought excitement with each pain. I was sure it would go quickly. But as hour after hour ticked by into the night, the continuing contractions chipped away at my excitement and optimism. Nurses found a bed where my husband could rest, but in a few hours the pains intensified and I needed him. Just as I sent a nurse to find him, he walked into my room, awake and already aware of my needs. That awareness continued as 14, 15, 16 hours crawled by. Unable to carry on a conversation, I would think a thought and my husband seemed to know how to respond. When I needed ice chips, he was there to spoon them into my mouth. When I ached, he was there to massage my shoulders. When I didn’t know if I could go on, he was there to pray for me. And then, after 17 hours, when our daughter was delivered and placed in my arms, these words came to my mind a moment before my husband whispered the same ones into my ear: “We did it!”

Yes—we did it. So many of the needs that my husband met without my asking were physical, but I think I could not have endured the physical experience without the spiritual oneness we shared that night. This oneness is just one of the things my husband and I are learning as we share this life together. These words of the Savior clearly apply to married couples, along with everyone else: “If ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27).

Being one does not mean we lose our individuality. In fact, being one in this way enhances us as individuals. It means that we share the same purposes, the same desires, the same goals, but we work to accomplish them using our individual talents and personalities. It means we share each other’s joys and pains. It means that before we think of our own needs, we think of our spouse’s.

Certainly Heavenly Father wants married couples to achieve a oneness that is essential for eternal spiritual progression. And if as individuals we try to meet our spouse’s needs consistently, our spouse will be more likely to try and meet our needs. It is contagious. Just as spiritual oneness helped bring the miracle of life to me and my husband on the day of our daughter’s birth, oneness in our marriage will help bring the blessings of eternal lives.Denalee Call Chapman, Sitka Ward, Juneau Alaska Stake