Nurturing Fondness and Admiration

coupleIn Dr. Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, chapter 5 teaches a principle called “Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration”.  An exercise in this chapter called for my husband and I to share things we appreciate about each other.  This was an easy task for me because I found there to be endless possibilities of things I appreciate.  In my little family, my husband is the only source of income, he helps with the household chores, is an active and participating father, and he is supportive.  I am keenly aware not all are as lucky as I am to have such a partner.  However, as I shared the things I appreciate, I somehow found it strange to say it out loud.  Sadly, in spite of his excellence, my husband was unaware of how grateful I am for all that he does because I don’t typically tell him.  Because of this, he feels unappreciated and like his efforts are all for naught.  Obviously, I assured him this wasn’t the case.

After completing this exercise, I was doubly surprised by how many things I continually thought of over the next few days that I admire and appreciate about him.  While I was less quick to anger, and felt happier about these realizations, I quickly slipped back into the habit of keeping these thoughts to myself.  It is a shame people are so quick to vocalize their frustrations and slow to outwardly praise.  Surely I am not the only person who suffers of this problem, or it wouldn’t be the second principles in one of Gottman’s books.  Nurturing this fondness and expressing admiration is crucial for our loved ones to feel appreciated and loved.  Doing this can help solidify an already great relationship as well as heal those that have lost their spark and even those that are troubled.  In addition, it helps build good communication skills.  When kind words are communicated often, it is likely you will get the same in return.  So, tell your loved one why you love them, and tell them often!

Let’s Be Friends

There have been many break up scenes when one partner claims they just want to be friends, however, it turns out this is precisely what a marriage needs in order to last.  We care about our friends, we don’t want to be rude to them or hurt their feelings, we respect them and their thoughts, and have things in common.  We even enjoy the time we spend with our friends, and make time to regularly see our close friends.  If a marriage were to contain all of these aspects, most would agree they are happy and in a successful marriage.  This is why John M. Gottman, Ph.D., explains friendship and respect is so vital to a marriage.  He states, “The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is…the quality of the couple’s friendship”.  These findings are the same with men.  While most say men and women vary significantly in what they want out of a marriage, and what keeps them in their marriage, friendship is likely a strong factor.

Friendship is so powerful in keeping marriages together because of the positive feelings and understanding it promotes.  It is also what helps people to bond over any number of things, as well as helps them to know one another better, which builds trust and commitment.  Concentrating on treating our spouses like our dear friends may be the one reason marriages don’t break up.

Trying to be friends may be something couples aren’t used to, or haven’t thought about before.  It Is likely many don’t want a friend, they want something more, however, the groundwork has to be laid.  For a strong relationship to exist, it needs a strong foundation, a foundation of mutual respect, care, good communication, enjoyable time spent together, and trust.  A strong relationship cannot be so without a strong friendship.

We must learn to treat our spouses with love and care.  There will be times when one spouse feels annoyed, frustrated or angry, and there will be times when the other spouse feels the exact same way.  However, if overall, there are more positive than negative feelings about one another, and a friendship is strong, these times are likely to be overlooked and/or overcome.  It is important to focus on the good, be more slow to anger, and more quick to help.

Commit to Making the Future Better

When I was married, I was madly in love.  I knew I wanted to spend every moment with my husband, that I loved him more than I ever thought possible, and I wanted a family with him. However, I’m embarrassed to say that is about as deep as my thought process ran.  Since I had a job, I wasn’t worried about finances or my future, because things were going smoothly.   It never crossed my mind that we needed to know how each other wanted to parent, or whether or not I would be able to work forever, along with so many other things we should have been concerned about.  There was so much more my husband and I were committing to when we were committing to one another in marriage, but we were naïve, and nothing but our love mattered, so not much else was considered.

Three children later, and at least a dozen therapists later (my children have special needs that require regular therapy), my husband and I still are not on the same page with how we should parent, even though we’ve been told by professionals exactly how to parent.  This is only one small example of what we were not aware of on that day we said “I do”.  When you get married and have a family, it should naturally occur to you that how you and how your spouse treat your children will have a profound effect on their lives, but it didn’t occur to me.  I also neglected to think about how my unborn children would enjoy holidays with my spouse’s family, or if my husband was against our children playing specific sports.  Why are we so blinded by love when we are getting married that we forget to think 5, 10, or 20 years into the future when we have teenagers and are looking at which college they should attend?

Just as these thoughts should have crossed our minds, it should also occur to us that how we parent will likely determine our children’s future.  We have the ability to treat our children in such a way that they will be healthier, happier and even more educated people.  How the world needs healthier and happier people in it!  We must do our part as parents and be aware that our own choices will change our children’s choices.  The Family: A Proclamation to the World states, “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”  We are blessed with a modern day prophet who teaches us in these latter days.  By following this counsel, and raising our children lovingly as we teach them to love will change the world.

https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng&_r=1

 

Set Patterns

Setting patterns for our children will enable them to grow strong in the midst of a world of chaos.  Even though the definition of what a family is has drastically changed, and whether we have money or not, there is a guide to how we should live.  We should set the pattern of regular scripture study and prayer, as well as have family dinners together.  Another main component of raising a strong family is focusing on the Gospel and drawing nearer to our Heavenly Father.  Elder Oaks said, “So much of what we concentrate on in mortality-power, prominence, property, prestige-are things that we don’t have any evidence will make any difference in the next life.  But family will.”  Spending time focusing on how we can better our family is a much more efficient way to spend our time while here on earth since that is what matters in eternity.  Since we have the blessing to know what lies ahead for us throughout eternity, we would do well to heed to the counseling of our Church leaders.  Elder Holland said we should, “Cling to the doctrine of the Church.” Clinging to me doesn’t describe merely reading the scriptures and attending meetings, it implies holding tight to it.  Studying the doctrine closely and actually living the words that we hear in conference and read in our scriptures is the guide to which we should set our lives by and raise our families by.

Marriage

I believe in marriage.  I believe being married is our best chance of getting through this journey of life and experiencing happiness.  In life, I need someone who knows me and understands me, someone who lifts me spiritually, someone who challenges me, and someone to help me through my struggles.  Just as well, I need someone I can care for and be there for.  I want to give my love just as much as I want someone to give me theirs, and I want it to be forever.

Being married for time and eternity in the temple allows for just that.  As long as both husband and wife live according to Heavenly Father’s commandments, and uphold the covenants they make at marriage, they can be bound on this earth and throughout all eternity.  What a blessing that is that the bonds we make here on earth are not lost in death!  If all married couples understood this principle, I am curious what the status of the family in the world would be.  With an eternal perspective, would divorce be contemplated nearly as often?  If people knew they could be with their children throughout eternity if they were married and sealed before having them, would people still have children out of wedlock?  Would this knowledge change how we treat our spouses?  Our children? Our parents?

What does your family look like?

In the world today, the word  family has a loose definition.  Family may mean a singe mother and her children, a blended family, same sex couples who are married or divorced, with or without children, or a single father.  Some of the children in these families come from previous relationships or marriages, and some are adopted.  There are endless possibilities.  The “traditional” family consisting of a father, mother, and children now seems to be a rarity.  This blog describes my thoughts and experiences as a married woman with traditional LDS values raising our children.