I remember sitting in my church young women’s group about ten years ago (12-year-old me), feeling as hopeful and anxious as can be while my leader talked about marriage.
Since I was a little girl (like most little girls) I have dreamed of that day. What would my dress look like? How would I do my hair? What would the mysterious “he” be like? I chose then that I would be married in a Mormon temple, and that because of that, my marriage would last throughout the eternities. Today, I still don’t know what my dress will look like, how I’ll fix my hair, who mystery man is (if you have any leads, let me know), but I do know I will marry in a house of the Lord.
Back then, I thought that because I was getting married in such a beautiful place, making such special promises to the Lord and to my future husband that life would be a “happily ever after” fairy-tale after that. Since then, I have had a reality check, don’t worry.
NEWSFLASH- Just because you get married in a holy temple to a person who you love dearly does not mean life is going to be 100% blissful.
Marriage was never intended to be that way. It is a way for us to grow in love and light.
So if it isn’t easy, how do we ensure we have a happy, successful, healthy, enduring marriage?
Helaman 5:12 in the Book of Mormon tells us that if we build upon a foundation of Christ, we cannot fall. This is the same thing in our marriages. If our marriage is built upon the Lord, it will not fall. These steps help us not to just build a happy marriage, but also to become more like Christ which is ultimately the answer to a happy, successful marriage.
Here are 6 steps from my textbook ( Successful Marriages & Families:Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives by “A.” Hawkins,”D.”Dollahite,”&”T.”Draper) that may help us out:
- Personal Commitment to the Marriage Covenant. You realize that your marriage is not a contract- “if you do your part, I’ll do mine”. You give 100% of yourself to the marriage. You see it as an opportunity to serve and love and give, not to get. Your heart is in it. You realize that your marriage covenant is with the Lord, and as you grow closer to Him (to becoming like Him) you grow closer to each other.
- Love and Friendship. In chapter one of Dr. Gottman’s book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, he makes a point that friendship (respect for each other, simply loving to be together, etc.) is a determining factor of marriages that will be long lasting and happy.
We can increase our love and friendship by:
- Responding to each other’s bids for attention, humor, support, etc.
- Enjoying everyday activities together (dishes, phone calls on work break)
- Friendly, stress-reducing chats
- Serving the spouse in a way they love and need
- Positive Interaction. In a nine year study, researchers found that positive emotions and interactions were the ONLY predictor of marital stability. In marriages that worked, the ratio of positive to negative comments was 5 to 1. In marriages that were ending, the ratio was 0.8 to 1. So, how are our interactions with our spouses and those we love? Are we kind and helpful, or contemptuous and critical?
- Accepting Influence from a Spouse. Elder Nelson said “Husbands and wives, learn to listen, and listen to learn from one another.” I am not yet married, but I feel like this principle is the one I want to work on and practice most in my relationships. Accepting influence from others requires humility and a willingness to change and improve. It shows that we care about the other person- their thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
We can learn to accept the influence of our spouse by:
- Turning to them for advice
- Being open to their ideas
- Listening to and considering their opionns
- Learning from them
- Showing trust
- Recognizing points of agreement, showing respect on disagreements
- Respectfully Handling Differences and Solving Problems. We learn in the scriptures that their “must be opposition in all things”. Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. How we handle conflict is more important.
Here are some ideas for handling differences:
- Prevention- Drop it. Let go of things that aren’t a big deal.
- Couple Councils- Pillow Talk. Apologizing. (Read Counseling with our Councils by M. Russell Ballard)
- Eliminate destructive patterns
- Be calm!
- Continue Courting. Dating isn’t just for those of us who are married. After your married, you still have things to learn about each other and love to fall deeper into. That happens by still spending time with each other. I have seen the wonderful impact that “dating” has had on my own parents, and on many other couples I know.