For Brides and Grooms
and All Married Couples
By Gary and Joy Lundberg
Since the most popular wedding season of the year is upon us, we have an important message for all brides and grooms. Whatever the wedding date is you are going to be deep into planning this most important day of your lives. Planning a wedding is exciting, fun, stressful, and can be consuming. We were talking recently with a wedding consultant and he said, “I continually see the wedding plans taking over the lives of so many brides. They want it to be such an incredible wedding with the most beautiful gown possible, with every flower, every item on the refreshment table, every draped table and backdrop, every dress in the line, and every tiny detail being perfect to the letter. This is normal, but in all of the hallabaloo the most important thing of all gets forgotten: the couple’s relationship.”
Couples need to remember that the wedding lasts for a day. The marriage is forever. The wedding is vital, but in perspective it is simply the gateway to the marriage. The marriage plans are even more important than the wedding plans.
Couples need to be aware of this and take time to carefully plan their marriage, not just their wedding. Any couple, no matter how long they’ve been married, can begin at any moment to reignite their marriage by doing the same things that work for newlyweds.
Your marriage is the most important relationship in your life and it needs constant attention. The good thing is that giving it the right kind of attention can be very fun and extremely rewarding. In our new book Love That Lasts we share fourteen secrets to a more joyful, passionate, and fulfilling marriage. In this article we’ll briefly address four of these secrets to help couples get started in their quest to make their marriage happy and lasting.
First secret: Keep your Mate at the Top of Your List. Nobody comes before your spouse. Not your parents, not your boss, not your friends, not your Church calling, and when you have children, not even the kids. Your spouse needs to know, without the slightest doubt, that he or she is the number one priority in your life.
If you’re in the wedding planning stage of your marriage, your sweetheart must be a vital part of the planning. It’s crucial to respect each other’s opinion and to be willing to compromise. Time must be taken to nourish your relationship throughout the planning. If you set this precedent early on, it will likely last throughout your marriage.
You can let each other know he or she is your priority by little things you do. An expression of gratitude for kindness shown. A call from work to meet you for lunch, or just to say “I love you.” A busy young doctor, doing his demanding residency, was determined to keep his marriage strong, so he would take a quick minute from hospital rounds and call his wife to say, “I can’t talk long, but I’m thinking of you and want you to know I love you.” She loved it. At times she would take the kids and meet him in the hospital cafeteria for lunch just to be with him. He cherished that time and so did she. At times he would buy one flower at the gift shop and bring it to her, with a kiss. That was twenty years ago. Now, five children later, he has a successful medical practice and a solid, joyful marriage.
Be creative and do caring acts of love that let your spouse know you feel like the luckiest person in the world to be married to him or her.
Second secret: Manage Your Money in Harmony. Some couples spend every cent they have and beyond. They live from paycheck to paycheck with no backup for a problem that may arise. Face it, there will be times when employment is cut back, when medical expenses increase, when the car needs new tires, and so on. Plan for it. Keep an emergency fund at all times.
We know a young couple, college students, who decided they would always keep an emergency fund of $1,000 in their savings. When they had to use it, they built it back up as quickly as possible. When he became a school teacher and she a busy mom at home, they kept up the practice. He said, “We had to do without a few things, but this gave us peace, knowing we had a backup plan.”
It’s smart to pay as you go and stay out of debt. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Remember this: debt is a form of bondage. It’s a financial termite. When we make purchases on credit, they give us only an illusion of prosperity. We think we own things, but the reality is, our things own us.” (Ensign, May 2004, 40)
When you buy a home, buy one you can easily afford. When too big a chunk of your check goes to house payments there’s nothing left for fun, and that gets old fast. Same goes for buying a car. Work together and be smart with your money.
Being able to trust your mate to be wise with the family money is vital to having a happy marriage. Many men work hard and then automatically turn the money over to their wives to use for the family expenses month in and month out. James, married several years, commented on this practice: “I never hesitated in doing this because I trust my wife, and she trusts me. We have discussions on where the money needs to go and I know she will follow our plan; and she knows I will, too, or we’ll think of an even better one.”
When both partners work to earn the living, they need to plan where the income from both paychecks will go. Sometimes women expect their husband’s check to cover all the household bills while theirs goes to things they want to buy. That’s not fair. Put the money together and plan. Make a wish list. Sometimes he gets to spend some on just what he wants, and sometimes it’s her turn. Be fair, but not rigid. After the household expenditures are taken care of, make a plan for the remainder. Allow for some fun now, and some preparation for the future. Investigate ways to save and invest even a few dollars a month. Over the long run, if it’s never touched, it can provide a sizable nest egg.
When planning your wedding, don’t spend your future. Don’t expect your parents to spend their futures either. When you show good financial sense in planning your wedding you set a standard for a happier life ever after.
Third secret: Focus on the Positive. The Critical Eye The time of courtship is such a fun time. We have high expectations and we view each other with eyes of love and gentleness. We are very attentive to and aware of each other’s needs.
Our manner of speaking is respectful and kind. Our awareness is expressed in our gratitude for even small things. It is as though our natural instincts inspire us to put our best foot forward because we have found our desired mate.
This usually continues during the first year of marriage. It seems, for most of us, we can hardly be pried apart. We want to be holding on to or touching each other all the time.Sometime during that first year, however, our vision of our mate seems to change. That’s probably why President David O. McKay gave this wise counsel, “During courtship we should keep our eyes wide open, but after marriage keep them half-shut.” (Conference Report, April 1956, 9)
Unfortunately, when we start noticing some little things that could stand improvement, our improvement suggestions begin. It’s funny that once we begin to look, the list grows. If our mate does not respond right away then the suggestions become a little more adamant. We view each other with a more critical eye and the cycle begins.
Our mate begins to dislike the critical eye and begins to respond in a like manner. After all, isn’t it all right to help your mate with the task of improving, particularly when she is so willing to “help” you? Our conversations seem to be dominated by criticism. The one being criticized starts to defend and justify what he or she does. The conversations become more and more spirited and erupt into full-blown arguments that go nowhere.
When a person gets in the critical mode toward his or her mate all parts of the relationship are affected. The communication pattern becomes unfriendly, often sarcastic and cutting, and carries the tone that implies “stupid, dummy, or idiot, can’t you do anything right?” The atmosphere in the home becomes guarded and strained. The desire to be together drops-as does the level of intimacy. The more critical we get the more wrapped up in ourselves we become.
We must guard against this ever happening. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “If husbands and wives would only give greater emphasis to the virtues that are found in one another and less to the faults, there would be fewer broken hearts, fewer tears, fewer divorces, and much more happiness in the homes of our people.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, Deseret Book, 1997, 322)
You will find that when you focus on the positive attributes of your mate, letting him or her know these positive feelings, then the positives will grow. It’s natural to want to do even better when your mate is commenting on the good things you are doing. The opposite is true, also. Focus on the negatives and they will grow.
Fourth secret: Nourish the Spiritual Side of Your Marriage. Have you heard the following saying: “When life seems more than you can stand. . . kneel”? We suggest you take that a step further and kneel before life becomes more than you can stand. President Hinckley taught us that “Prayer unlocks the power of heaven in our behalf. . . Be prayerful.” (Pittsburgh, PA Regional Conference, 28 April 1996) Take each other by the hand and kneel together as you pray each night.
Reading the scriptures together can also provide a unifying spiritual strength. Many answers to life’s problems are found in the scriptures. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “By this means, we obtain access to what our Heavenly Father would have us know and do in our personal lives today.” (Ensign, January 1995, 7) In these troubling times we can find great comfort and guidance in the scriptures.
Attending the temple regularly will also bless your marriage. Make it a priority to attend together as often as you can.
These are only four of the fourteen secrets that create a joyful marriage. Talk together and decide what will help your marriage be the best it can possibly be. Let your children and others see by your example what a happy marriage is. After all, we are training the next generation of husbands and wives.
[For all 14 secrets see Love That Lasts: 14 secrets to a more joyful, passionate, and fulfilling marriage by Gary and Joy Lundberg, Covenant Communications. To learn more or to order http://www.garyjoylundberg.com/]
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