Friday, July 9, 2010

Five Tips to Strengthen Your Marriage ... by Russ Beck

Photo © Jason Hutchens, Wikimedia Commons

In today’s difficult world, it is often hard to take time to smell the roses. Too often we feel so thrust upon by the thorns of adversity that we neglect the very essence of our potential happiness–our spouse.

The magazine, Psychology Today, defines marriage as “…the process by which two people who love each other make their relationship public, official, and permanent. It is the joining of two people in a bond that putatively lasts until death, but in practice is increasingly cut short by divorce.”

Unfortunately, the divorce rate is far too high and seems to be growing. Couples are leaving each other for any number of reasons. I once had a couple in counseling that were on the precipice of divorce and one of his major complaints consisted of the way she squeezed the toothpaste. He started each morning with a little irritation that grew and festered until he only saw her as the source of all his frustration in life. The solution of having "his" and "hers" toothpastes never occurred to them. Of course, there were other issues, but it was very interesting that this was the focal point for his side of wanting a divorce.

In 1995, a comprehensive review of research on marriage indicated that the best predictors of divorce are negative interpersonal interactions, such as lack of respect for each other, frequent expressions of anger, and similar destructive behaviors.

What then is a couple to do living in a world where divorce is becoming so widely accepted? How are they to find joy and happiness?

As with all things of importance in our lives, the answer lies in work. We need to recognize that work is good. Without work, we do not grow. It doesn’t matter if the work is our job, our garden, our church calling, or our marriage. We have come to think of work as a negative, and that play and fun are the only positives. We need to re-frame the way we think and feel about work.

President Spencer W. Kimball, past leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “Two people coming from different backgrounds learn soon after the ceremony is performed that reality must be faced. They must assume responsibility and accept new duties. Some personal freedoms must be relinquished, and many unselfish adjustments, must be made.”

In other words, we must work at building a valuable relationship which will pay multiple dividends of joy and happiness in the years to come. Just as you would not expect much to come of a garden where you watered and weeded only every other week, so too with the marriage relationship. It must be nurtured and cared for regularly and consistently.

Listed below are five suggestions for strengthening a marriage. If practiced routinely, they will help the most important relationship in your life to grow and flourish.

Listen to Your Spouse
In most of our conversations we miss what someone else is saying because we're so busy thinking about what we want to say. For example, when you meet someone for the first time, how difficult is it to remember their name? We must work on really taking the time to quit whatever it is we are doing (computer game, texting, watching TV, etc.) and pay attention to what our spouse is saying. We live in a world where “multitasking” is held up as a skill to be sought after, but in reality, we need to recognize the need to give our spouse our full and undivided attention.

Give to Your Spouse
There are a great many pressures on our time. We sometimes feel as though we are being split into a million little pieces which are given to an endless array of tasks. From our places of employment, to tending the kids, to volunteering service, we are constantly giving of our time and abilities. It is therefore vital that at the top of our list for giving should be our spouse. Too often just the opposite is true and we end up with too little to give to the one to whom we’ve pledged our eternal devotion.

Surprise Your Spouse
Think of ways to show your spouse you're thinking of them. In our world of mass communications, there are many creative ways to accomplish this. Texting, email, written notes in a lunch sack, e-cards, notes on the pillow, small gifts, etc. All of these are just a few of the many ways you can say a quick, “I love you” to your sweetheart.

Compliment Your Spouse
Like the song of old, you must, “Accentuate the positive.” Our world can often turn negative as you listen to all the calamities caused by nature and by man. Our anxiety for the future rises and it is too easy to only see the bad. You need to be sure and tell your spouse how much you appreciate all they do for you. Tell your spouse how attractive they are to you, both physically and spiritually. Let him/her know that their daily acts of service to you and the family do not go unnoticed. Be swift with a kind word and appreciative praise.

Be Faithful to Your Spouse
You must be faithful and loyal to your spouse in all your daily actions and conversations. This includes not only physical fidelity, but emotional, as well. As you go about your daily routines, care must be taken to remain true to the covenants you've made.

The most important person in your life is your marriage partner. By adhering to the five tips above you can work at building a lasting relationship which will provide a bounteous harvest as the years pass by.

Until next time …

~ Russ


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