In-laws. Transitions. “I love him, so there must be something good about them.”

Transitions in Marriage- Both sides now…

As we join to disparate lives together to form a new family, we each must change and adapt, compromise and communicate. It takes patience and kindness and willingness to open our hearts to someone new. New traditions melding the best parts of the two families, or something completely new and unique to the couple are just one way to “cleave” to each other and to none else.

One woman said,” When I met [his] parents . . . I didn’t agree with them on religion, politics, or even on how to cook a pot roast. I really wasn’t even sure if I liked them. But then I . . . remembered that they raised [my husband], and I loved him, so there must be something good about them. At that point I began to enjoy their differences and to love them too.”   This quote is from a book called The In-law Survival Manual: A Guide to Cultivating Healthy In-law Relationships, 1997, by a friend of mine named Gloria C. Horsley.

I was very blessed to have in-laws that welcomed me into the family. They had already married off five other children and had learned how to make a spouse feel a part of the family. However, there are always adjustments to be made. . .

Traditions – who’s do you follow? His or hers?

My family celebrated birthdays for everyone with a personalized menu for the day. The birthday girl got to pick breakfast, lunch and dinner and dessert! (I only had sisters until after I was married.) We usually got one big present from my parents and little things from the siblings. (I once got a sanitary napkin from my little sister who only had a dime to spend and knew only that the machine in the ladies rest rooms had things that “big girls” needed. Thank goodness we didn’t do Instagram back then!)

My husband’s family got to pick what kind of cake, but the family celebration was usually on the closest Sunday. It was the only day the family could be pretty sure everyone could be there, due to busy schedules with work, sports, music, and other events.

Traditions continue today, as my siblings still send cards and gifts, and call on the phone for each other’s birthdays. My husband gets only a card or an email from one sister usually, but our kids call – and that is enough… And to be fair to his siblings – he doesn’t call or write to them either.

My kids and their spouses get a card and gift or gift-card every year. The grandchildren do too. However, we have been thinking that with the growing number of grandchildren and the frequency of special days we may have to downsize our gifts, especially when my husband retires and we go on a mission!

I hope, and believe that if the feeling is sincere, and the wishes are somewhat timely, that the size of the gift won’t matter.

What have you done to blend traditions?

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Are we equally yoked?

This week’s readings got me thinking about some marriage relationships I have known.

The first was an older couple (the Z’s) that I looked on as grandparents, although they were not relatives. They married later in life and were fairly set in their ways. They had a strict division of responsibilities. She took care of everything inside the house and he took care of the huge gardens and corn fields, and the selling of the produce that she couldn’t can or freeze or preserve in some other way. Both were hard workers and gave of themselves to serve others and to be productive. He was infinitely patient with small children. She always smelled like Oil of Olay and face powder. They were different in looks and smells and many other ways, but they were one in heart and testimony. They also had a generous side, hosting fun parties for all ages, and knowing lots of stories and games. They adopted young people into their surrogate family. They gave selfless service in handmade gifts and served together on multiple missions.

The second couple (the A’s), were young parents when I met them. I was amazed to visit their home because they had cut through the ceiling of the formal dining room to hang a swing inside the house for the kids to play on in winter. The wife was concerned that she had spent so much of her time being a mom to her three small children, that she was neglecting her marriage relationship. She spoke once to me about her concerns and her resolution to get the romance back into their relationship. She had decided that there would be no television watching in their home in the evening. She also decided to go to bed right after her children did. And to spend that time with her husband- talking, touching, connecting, and sharing. I never had a follow up discussion with her about it, but when we moved away, they were still happily married. She had felt that she was ‘going off course’ and was unequally yoked with her husband, but she made an effort to rectify the situation.

Of course I couldn’t help thinking about different stages in my own marriage and how much we have grown together. When we first married we were so young! I looked up to my husband a great deal, and I had very little self-worth. I was so naïve, and we had a lot of learning to do together! Fortunately we have had a lot of time to grow and learn together.

We started out with the little things, like praying together morning and evening, and before meals. We read scriptures together 6 days a week. We gathered our children together to teach them and play with them at least one night a week. We went to church together. We went on dates, and learned to love each other even more.

We have learned to communicate without hurting feelings, and to listen with the heart. We have learned to enjoy the moments, to share generously, to forgive and forget, to trust each other to mean the best. We have shared history, covenants, children, jobs, losses, callings, buying and selling homes, children serving missions and marrying, and now 21 grandchildren with more on the way.

We have learned from the examples of others and the experiences we have shared. We know the value of work, and play, of generosity and of clearly defined expectations. We have learned to put our relationship ahead of other things; to be true and kind. We have learned to pray for each other and our children, to keep our promises and covenants and to keep our goals in eternal perspective. With our eyes on the same goal, we have a much better chance of reaching it together.

Making Love Last? OR Making love, Last?

Where is making love on your priority list?

And no, I am not just talking about sex. Is your partner the first thing you think of in the morning? Do you dream about your spouse at night? Do you send loving messages throughout the day, by text or email or phone? Do you help to accomplish your spouse’s goal for the day? Do you ask about a big project or meeting at work? Do you check in to see if something is needed from the store on your way home? Do you do something to serve your sweetheart every day?

If you answered yes to at least two of these questions: you are building or making love. You have learned to focus on your partner, and are creating loving, appreciative, unifying bonds. You are actually creating a stronger relationship- another way of making love, (and by the way, husbands who make love in this way are much more likely to get lucky in the other way too!)

OR- Is your partner literally only an afterthought in your day. Are you so busy or distracted or tired or other- focused that you fall into bed and just hug your partner good night and fall asleep without talking or connecting? Is love making last on your list?

Author and marriage counselor Doug Brinley, spoke at Brigham Young University in January of 2006, saying, “sexual fulfillment begins with the quality of life in the non-sexual areas of marriage.”  Back massages, or clean dishes and folded laundry may seem like they have nothing to do with sexual relations, but communicating love through service or nurturing expressions is g-rated foreplay. Giving to your partner in any way (but especially in his or her love language (See the Love Language books by Gary Chapman.)), builds unity and intimacy in the relationship.

An example was given in our reading this week of someone who ‘just’ had a friend of the opposite gender. In my retelling, I am purposely being unclear about the gender, because this situation could easily apply to husband or wife:

Although married, this person connected more often with the friend

on social media, and physical meetings through the day,

than with the spouse. Until one day, upon realizing that the

anticipation which should have been reserved for the spouse, was felt for another.

This surprising and upsetting realization came –

‘I am emotionally connected more to someone else!

My marriage is in trouble.’

No physical intimacy ever happened. But the danger was recognized:

emotional intimacy should be reserved for my spouse.

A change was made. No more social media contact.

No more taking the route that lead by ‘friend’s’ location.

Resolved: ‘I will make extra effort in my marriage relationship and communication.’

This person’s spouse never knew of the emotional affair,

but probably recognized a change in behavior.

So, back to my original question: Let’s review priorities:

Are you working to make love last?

Are you putting the spouse you love first?

Or are you making love, last.

What might need to happen to spark some love making?

Caught in Gridlock on the road to Charity ?

To follow up on what I wrote last week about “perpetual problems,” here are a few more hints from Dr. Gottman on how to communicate and overcome relationship “gridlock”. (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work) The first step is to discover what dream or dreams are causing the conflict. An example might be that one spouse is obsessive about neatness and order, and the other spouse just wants to relax for a while every day with the newspaper, and be able to find things where he or she left them last.

The dream of the first might be that “Order means peace and security and predictability to me. I want that for my children and myself.”

Spouse number two might dream of a place that is different from the authoritarian home of childhood, and a feeling of freedom to be himself.

It may take a while of talking things over to discover what feelings or dreams are the true motivation for the “gridlock”.

Then comes the step of listening to understand and trying to support each other’s dreams, even when they seem to be too different. “Acknowledging and respecting each other’s deepest, most personal hopes and dreams is the key to saving and enriching your marriage.”

Take time to discuss with each other which aspects of your dreams are negotiable and which are the “must haves”. In the example above, they might say that the kitchen and the bedroom are important to be clean, but the newspapers can sit by the easy chair for up to a week at a time. Any clutter will be moved to a personal space once a week to keep the family areas clean. A compromise is reached even though one spouse will always hate clutter and one detests complete order.

The last step to eliminating gridlock is to say “thank you”. These kinds of discussions can be hard. Let your loved one know how grateful you are for him or her… How committed you are to your spouse and your relationship. How much you appreciate the compromises that can bring your dreams more into alignment with each other.

charity pinterest

This awesome quote from a Charity board on Pinterest is the perfect intro to my favorite part of our reading assignment this week in class. Dr. H. Wallace Goddard (Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage) wrote about living with Charity in Marriage. (Of course, charity will improve any loving relationship- from friendship to parenting or siblings.)

For years when my oldest children were teens I had this quote from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, 13 in a frame on my kitchen wall. It was a constant reminder to me, and I hope to my family also, about what kind of person I was striving to be. I decided to dust it off and hang it up again, because I still need the reminder.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind;

charity envieth not;

charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own,

Is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things,

believeth all things,

hopeth all things,

endureth all things.

Charity never faileth

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

What does Charity look like in our lives? What difference can it make in a marriage?

Charity is choosing to see in a loving way.

Charity is forgiving mistakes, shortcomings, and humanness.

Charity is showing kindness, and accepting differences

Charity is being patient when someone has let you down.

Charity is compassion, acceptance and understanding.

Charity is speaking only of the good that you know and feel for one another.

Charity is not the automatic result of having an extraordinary spouse,

but it is the result of how we choose to see and treat each other.

Charity is generous and powerful. It softens us.

Charity brings us to God, and transforms us into our best selves.

Marriage Miracle Workers

According to John M. Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, 69% of all problems in marriage are perpetual. By this, he means that they are the same arguments or issues that come up time after time, year after year.

Some people divorce when these issues keep coming up, but others stay together and “fight” to stay together. ‘What makes the difference?’ – One may ask. Those that stay together have learned to keep the issue a singular problem, and to have a sense of humor about it.

happy marriage quote

Stronger marriages are made up of couples that decide to get along, forgive, apologize, and compromise. They realize that no one is going to be perfect all the time, and they each pick up the slack at times, and are grateful to their partners for grace.

These couples learn to express their feelings in a way that doesn’t threaten or demean the other person. They soften the message so their partner doesn’t feel the need to be defensive. They have learned to disagree without being disagreeable. They may make a joke about the issue, or choose to ignore it, because in almost everything else they are in agreement. There are enough things that they appreciate about the relationship, that this one thing doesn’t matter enough to argue about. They have learned to find common ground, common values, and have created a team-view of marriage.

Since these ideas are easier said than done, especially when one or both of you are tired, stressed, or sick, here are a baker’s dozen ways to reach out in love and patience: (feel free to add to my list!)

Greet your loved one warmly, with a kiss!

Give thanks, to him, and for him (or her).

Shrug off small annoyances.

Snuggle together.

Give a kind word after a long day.

Look for the good in whatever (s)he says and does.

Listen – carefully.

Serve – cheerfully.

Apologize – humbly.

Forgive – fully.

Laugh, with each other.

Learn from each other.

Give your spouse your best.

Here is a video of Kenny Roger’s “Through the Years” https://youtu.be/S4WvK442P6U

Beware of Pride

When we were newly married, we lived in a tiny basement apartment with a “Murphy” bed that pulled down out of a closet in the living room wall.  We were both full time students, and my husband worked part time. We were so short of money that I was convinced it was impossible to be guilty of the sin of pride.

I was wrong.

According to Ezra Taft Benson (late prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in 1989), “Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. . . There is, a … common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.”

Benson also said that pride wears other faces- like disobedience, selfishness, and contention.  It is being easily offended or holding onto grudges; it is judging yourself against others and others against your ideal self.   Pride keeps us from progress, from learning, and adversely affects our relationships.  All of our relationships will suffer if we are full of pride.

It is only when we are humble and full of love toward God and others, that we can conquer pride. Then, we willingly reach out and lift others up. We care about their happiness and success. We serve them, and forgive them. Then love comes in- the love of the Atonement of the Savior, that purifies our hearts, and opens them up to the love of Christ for every man, woman and child on earth. When we put God’s will for us as our choice for us, we are open to all the blessings He cares to give us. And we will not have room to receive them.

Turning toward each other

In our reading this week, we reviewed the story of the Lord Jesus Christ walking across the sea to the ship where his disciples were. Peter, recognizing his Lord, went to welcome him. Looking at this experience with an eye toward a lesson in marriage brought new insights. “While [Peter’s] eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind could toss his hair and the spray could drench his robes, but all was well- He was coming to Christ. Only when his faith and his focus wavered, only when he removed his glance from the Master to see the furious waves and the black gulf beneath him, only then did he begin to sink. In fear he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Goddard, p 58-59 Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage)
My thought is that in marriage we learn to lean on the Lord, but also, as we both come closer to the Lord, we also come closer to each other. We need to turn toward the Lord, and strengthen our faith in His Atoning power to save us. We also need to turn toward each other. At times we are “saviors” to each other, when we uplift, encourage, support and strengthen one another. When we believe in the Lord, and believe and trust in our spouse, we are built on a firm foundation. When the storms of life come we can face them together, and weather them clad in loyalty and love.
“Having faith does not make everything easy. Rather, faith makes life and its challenges both bearable and meaning filled.”

How can we build that foundation of trust and strengthen the bonds of love? Here are some ideas about turning to your partner. Feel free to add to my list in the comments! (Some ideas on the list are from The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work- Gottman, 1999)

Turning toward each other:
* You know your spouse has a big stressful day of meetings at work, so you leave a loving word of encouragement  on his or her voice mail or text message
* Read the paper over breakfast – together, instead of independently; share the crossword puzzle
* Shop together, or garden together, or go for a walk together…
* Relive or revisit memorable places or times in your courtship.
* Attend church together.
* Really care about your spouse’s success, feelings, and worries. Focus on him or her- no technology!
* You are his biggest cheerleader or her biggest fan! Celebrate each other!
* Talking to each other is the best part of your day!
* Build traditions together
* Honor each other’s dreams, even if you don’t share them.
* You are loyal, generous and kind to each other