C’mon, you like sappy movies too
Be honest, how many movies have you seen where the culminating event, the anticipated conclusion, or the “happy ending” was a wedding? Oddly, those movies often hit during allergy season (or at least that’s why I tell my kids that my eyes are leaking).
Why do we love these love stories so much?
What is it deep within us that yearns not just for marriage, but for the “happy ending” marriage we see in the movies?
Further, while we may believe that Aladdin and Jasmine (or countless other fictional couples) deserve marital bliss, do we truly believe that such a “happily ever after” exists in real life?
More importantly, do we believe that it can happen to us?
For those of you who have a serious desire to improve your marriage (a fantastic goal even if you already have a good relationship), let me share a few helpful tips.
1. Remember that marriage is largely effort based.
One of the reasons that I love being a marriage educator is that we all have the ability to be a good spouse. When it comes to constructing our own marital bliss, one of my favorite concepts is that of being intentional.
Years ago I played basketball in high school. Sure, I was a good shooter and loved scoring baskets . . . but I didn’t put much effort into defense. Unfortunately, that wasn’t lost on my coach. You could say he wanted me to be a bit more intentional about stopping the other team from scoring. I can still hear the exasperation in my coach’s voice as he exclaimed “Stewart, defense is 1% technique, and 99% ‘wanna wanna.’”
In many ways, marriage is similar (but with much, much higher stakes). For instance, there are techniques that can help us communicate better, improve the management of our finances, and more effectively handle conflict. These techniques can definitely help.
But no amount of technique can compensate for a lack of intentionality or a lack of “wanna wanna.”
2. Be patient with your spouse (and don’t nag ‘cause it never works).
Change can take time, so have patience with your spouse. While we’re at it, many of us would also benefit with a bit more patience with ourselves.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said it well: “Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!”
So, how patient are you with your spouse? Are you just enduring, or are you enduring well?
Admittedly, it may be easier to have patience with a spouse who struggles with punctuality than one fighting with some type of addiction. However, I am yet to observe a relationship that wouldn’t benefit for an extra helping of patience.
While we’re on this topic, please remember that nagging just doesn’t work! In fact it often has the opposite effect on the spouse. Recent research suggests that when one spouse begins to nag, the other spouse begins to withdraw (and thus becomes even less likely to change their behavior). So next time you feel like nagging, remember: having patience will probably be more effective.
3. Shoot for the stars!
I fear we sometimes set the bar way too low with regard to marriage. While it is an accomplishment, especially today, to be married for 50 years, should simply “surviving marriage” be our main objective?
President Spencer W. Kimball sums up the potential joy of marriage: “Marriage can be more an exultant ecstasy that the human mind can conceive. This is within the reach of every couple, every person (emphases added).”
That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout! (It’s funnier when Gru says it.)
Of course, this type of “exultant ecstasy” in marriage takes diligent and intentional effort – but that is effort wisely spent!
As you contemplate the current state of your marriage, and more importantly, the potential for your marriage, consider the words from Elder L. Whitney Clayton: “Marriage is a gift from God to us; the quality of our marriage is a gift from us to Him.”