President Gordon B. Hinckley has taught that “marriage … can be fragile. It requires nurture and very much effort” (“Walking in the Light of the Lord,” Liahona, January 1999, 118).
The effort of which President Hinckley speaks involves those everyday acts of courtesy and kindness that make ordinary relationships extraordinary. President David O. McKay (1873–1970) observed that too many couples come to “marriage looking upon the marriage ceremony as the end of courtship instead of the beginning of an eternal courtship. … Love can be starved to death as literally as the body that receives no sustenance. Love feeds upon kindness and courtesy” (Man May Know for Himself: Teachings of President David O. McKay, compiled by Clare Middlemiss , 289).
Serious marital difficulties often begin in seemingly minor ways. Fleeting moments of rudeness, unrepented, may become more frequent. Poor communication may allow spouses to drift apart. Unresolved frustrations can heat up until they boil into anger and even abuse.
However, nurturing love moment by moment, eventually extends loving moments into eternity. One way couples can nurture their love is simply to say “I love you”—often. Another is to pray together each day. In praying with and for one another, in seeking answers to common concerns, in striving to follow divine counsel, husbands and wives open themselves to the influence of the Spirit. And the Spirit fills hearts with the pure love of Christ (see Moro. 7:47–48).
Many of the attitudes and behaviors that weaken marriage can be summed up in one word: selfishness. President Hinckley has said: “I find selfishness to be the root cause of most [broken homes]. … Selfishness is the antithesis of love” (“What God Hath Joined Together,” Ensign, May 1991, 73).
In contrast, selflessness builds strong, loving relationships. Several years before his death, former Brigham Young University president Rex E. Lee was hospitalized for five months with cancer. His wife, Janet, was at his side virtually every day. When he “was so sick that he couldn’t even read his favorite literature—[U.S.] Supreme Court cases—Janet read the cases aloud to him while tenderly rubbing his bare feet. In a multitude of such moments, the roots of their love, including their affection, stretched ever deeper. President Lee said he knew Janet loved him before, but now their love has a depth they could not otherwise know” (Bruce C. and Marie K. Hafen, “‘Bridle All Your Passions,’” Ensign, February 1994, 17).
President Hinckley has assured couples: “If you will make your first concern the comfort, the well-being, and the happiness of your companion, sublimating any personal concern to that loftier goal, you will be happy, and your marriage will go on through eternity” (quoted in “Graduates Receive Challenge from Prophet,” Church News, 6 May 1995, 11).