You spend your whole life planning what you want to do and be for the remainder of life, and then . . . BAM! You get married, and everything changes. It’s a challenging experience to try to take two lives with two plans and merge …
Intelligence has been humorously defined as an adjective used to describe people that agree with oneself. The wisdom in that joke is very applicable to this entry in our marriage series: our perception of perfection will be based on our imperfect understanding of the world …
If you’ve ever started a fire with flint and steel, then you know how frustrating it can be—or at least, it frustrated me. There I was with my small steel striker, charred cloth, and the only rock I could find in the wild that barely made a spark. I hit that rock for probably an hour, bloodying up my knuckles in the process, and getting colder by the minute.
And then it happened: I started a fire, and in the process, I learned a lesson.
In life and in marriage we can find ourselves doing all the right things, striking in very different ways at the rocks (or relationships) in our life, getting a spark but no fire. It can get frustrating, and yes at times it can be easy to give up, but if you don’t keep striking, you don’t get a fire. You don’t even get sparks.
So when marriage gets hard, what do we do to keep the sparks flying and to work at keeping that fire? Here are just a few resources married couples can use.
First and foremost, your best resource is the third member of your relationship: God. Coming together as a couple to pray and receive guidance and inspiration from the scriptures should be the first thing you do when the going gets rough. Spend time searching the scriptures and praying not just on your own, but together.
This can be a Bishop if you are LDS or a Priest or other religious leader if you are of a different faith. The important part here is that you go together. Ecclesiastical leaders can receive inspiration for you and your spouse; however, it’s important to remember that if you are dealing with a more serious and sustained problem, couple those visits to the bishop with seeing an actual professional.
Therapy and professional counseling sometimes come negative connotations. However, most professional therapists advise couples to see a counselor before any problems arise. For example, premarital workshops and therapy can help prevent future problems in a marriage.
Universities will sometimes host marital workshops, as well as professional counseling organizations. These workshops can be especially insightful about communication styles and how little adjustments can drastically improve a couple’s communication. For example, BYU Counseling and Psychological Services holds a six-week marriage prep course each semester.
A couple retreat doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, even a simple date or series of dates can be a way for couples to reconnect and stay connected.
And by “good book” I specifically mean marital books (although I don’t oppose reading aloud to each other your favorite book every night). Some well-known, successful marital books have been The Seven Principles of Making a Marriage Work, His Needs Her Needs, and The Art of Intimacy. If you are seeing a counselor or ecclesiastical leader, ask them what books best meet your needs, or do this research together on your own.
Think of the last time you and your spouse were at your best. Think of all the things you were doing at that time of your life and then do it. Maybe you were serving more, or you were more attentive, or you went on more dates. Whatever it is, try to revive those good habits.
Of course, it’s always to easier to keep a fire going than to start one. Don’t be afraid to use these resources before you’re in the dark striking at a rock and praying for sparks. And if you are at that point, keep striking, keep going: the ember will catch and the fire will come.
Getting married is hopefully the best decision you’ve ever made, but like any major life change, it comes with a lot of transitions. Even if you come from the same religious background, it is likely that you and your spouse will have some differing views and traditions when it comes to religion. (Read more on merging traditions in the first installment of this series.)
My husband and I were both raised in a similar way, with religion being a top priority in our families’ lives. Despite that, we have had to learn how to make our religious practices work in our marriage.
Here are a few things we’ve learned
As my husband and I live our religion together, we feel closer together and find meaning in our marriage. As you find what works best for your new marriage, you will find that having religious traditions you can do together will increase the spirituality of your relationship and help you to be closer.
In addition to merging traditions, articulation is another important aspect of the transition to marriage. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines articulation as “the action of putting into words an idea or feeling of a specified type.” Articulation can create some of the most beautiful …
As my husband and I were discussing parenting (we often do) we realized that a large part of parenting is supporting your spouse. You may wonder “what does that have to do with parenting? Turns out it plays a large role.
There are many ways to show support to your spouse:
Parenting is a tough job. It takes time, hard work, perseverance, patience, creativity, and divine help. When you feel overloaded or alone, it’s hard to endure through the tough moments (yes, everyone has tough moments). I’ve found that the only way to get through it is to have support. Unless you are a single parent (a topic for another day), that support ought to come from your spouse.
These moments of support are not time-consuming or costly. It can be as simple as walking in the door at night and giving your spouse a hug. It might mean showing up to his or her presentation, performance, or work party. It could even be as easy as asking “What can I do for you today?” One of the best ways to support your spouse is by continuing to “date” each other. Taking the time to do fun things together allows you to remember why you got married in the first place. Weekly dates keep the fires of romance burning and they help you remember that there is more to life than parenting!
Over the years, my husband has given me tremendous support. When I held piano recitals, my husband would always be there early to hand out the programs—a huge show of support since it meant he had to leave work early. He would also hand out treats after the recital, allowing me time to visit with the parents of my students.
But how does this help our parenting? Happy spouses make for happy parents. When you know your efforts are appreciated, or even noticed, you feel valued as a person. Feeling valued as a person allows you to focus on others—the kids—and not yourself.
Another part of being supportive is being willing to sit down together and come up with a parenting plan. Although you can’t cover every possible circumstance, you can set some guidelines for yourselves that put you and your spouse on the same parenting page. When parents take the time to do this, something wonderful happens. The kids soon realize that their parents are a team. The kids will not be able to manipulate or pit the parents against each other. (If you don’t think kids do this, you don’t have kids yet!) This is a big step in positive parenting! Even though kids express the idea that they wish they could pit one of you against the other, the truth is that if they know the parents are united, they feel secure and confident.
If your parenting feels disjointed, if you feel alone even though you have a spouse, if you need encouragement or recognition, now is the time to take your honey on a date, sit down somewhere, and discuss how you can support each other in ways that matter to the two of you. Your kids will thank you for it later.
Written by: Phyllis Rosen
After coming from a city where righteous, kind, ambitious, loving young men were few and far between, I can understand the appeal of dating in Provo, where that is not the case. There are so many practically perfect men that cross your path every day, …