So, last week, I was asked to talk in Church. Topic: "The Importance of Families."
Thought you might like to have a copy. Let me know if it helps.
I am very convinced that how your relationship with spouse and family is going will dramatically impact ALL aspects of your life -- even business.
Seven Secrets for a Happy Marriage
We know that families are important for a number of reasons as presented in the Church’s proclamation on the family. In that statement from the First Presidency, we learn that husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other.
The Proclamation on Families discusses the role of men and women and the importance of maintaining the family unit in order to raise righteous children unto the Lord. In it, we are told that marriage between man and woman is essential to God’s eternal plan.
I would like to suggest that if you want a family to be together forever and have eternal relevance – you must pay attention to the foundation of the family -- which is the marriage relationship itself.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of working as a marketing consultant for Dr. John Gottman, a world-renowned psychology professor at the University of Washington.
Dr. Gottman is the nation’s leading researcher on why marriages succeed or fail.
Since 1973, he has studied what he calls the "masters and disasters" of marriage.
In doing his research, he took ordinary couples from the general public for his long-term studies on marriage and relationships. What he learned is described in the more than 21 best-selling books, manuals, and textbooks and hundreds of articles he has researched and authored.
At the University of Washington, he created a research laboratory where studies included such things as measurement of the individuals’ heart rates, stress hormones, facial expressions, and how the marriage partners talked in their relationship to each other and about each other with other people.
Based on his research findings, Dr. Gottman is able to predict with a 90% accuracy rate which couples will make it … and which will not.
He and his wife Julie – also a clinical psychologist and a business partner in the Gottman Institute – provide couples’ workshops where they share the techniques and concepts that will strengthen most marriages.
So, what advice does Dr. Gottman have to offer? Here are his top seven suggestions to keep your relationship and marriage strong … along with the scriptures that illustrate his findings:
1. Seek help early. The research shows that the average married couple waits six years before seeking any help for marital problems. Now, keep in mind, that half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years. This means the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long.
If you feel there is a problem, talk with the bishop now and prayerfully seek out a life coach or marriage therapist or professional counselor who can help now. Don’t wait. The quality or lack of marital harmony will affect all other aspects of your life.
Seek God’s help with these matters. He says, “Come unto me, all ye who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
2. Edit yourself. You need to control your tongue. The research shows that couples who avoid saying every critical thought that come into their minds when discussing touchy topics with their mate are consistently the happiest.
If you feel you must criticize, denigrate, humiliate, put down your partner in all types of settings both private and public – that’s a problem. You need to back off, take a deep breath, calm yourself – and edit your comments.
In James 1:26 we are told:
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his atongue, -- (he) deceiveth his own heart, (and) this man’s religion is bvain.”
Talk radio stations typically have an 8-second loop – so if someone says something inappropriate, the host can hit the edit button and the offensive comment won’t make it over the airwaves. What a wonderful invention. Oh that we all had an edit button like that.
3. Soften your "start up." The research shows that how you begin a conversation can affect the outcome. Arguments often "start up" because a spouse escalates the conflict from the get-go by making a critical or contemptuous remark in a confrontational tone. Instead, bring up problems gently and without blame AFTER you’ve paved the road a bit with kindness.
If you start a conversation by immediately accusing someone of something that you don’t like … or if you make comments intended to demean or attack your spouse – that will escalate the problem very quickly.
It is much better to soften the start up of a conversation ... in fact, you may find that most problems are not that significant in the eternal scheme of things … and you may come to understand that often you have a beam in your eye that should be removed first.
Remember what the Lord said in Matthew 7:2-5 –
“2 For with what ajudgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be cmeasured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
4. Accept influence. The research indicated that a marriage succeeds to the extent that a husband can accept influence from his wife.
If a woman says, "Do you have to work Thursday night? My mother is coming in that weekend, and I need your help getting ready," and her husband replies, "My plans are set, and I'm not changing them" - then this guy is on shaky ground. The chances of his marital house remaining standing are slim.
A husband's ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial because research shows that women are already well practiced at accepting influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband can do so as well.
Do you hear this husbands? I think it is summed up by this little saying: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.”
Or perhaps better stated in 1 Corinthians 11:11, where we are told:
“Nevertheless neither is the aman without the woman, neither the bwoman without the man, in the Lord.”
5. Have high standards. Research shows that happy couples have high standards of behavior that they expect from each other -- even as newlyweds.
The most successful couples are those who refuse to accept hurtful behavior from one another. In fact, the lower the level of tolerance for bad behavior in the beginning of a relationship, the happier the couple is down the road.
You have the right to expect the very best from each other. Don’t compromise. You are both endowed with a touch of the divine and your destiny is to return to live forever with Heavenly Father in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.
Not there yet? Don’t worry. We are all a work in progress.
Matthew 6:33 says to us: “… seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
6. Learn to repair and exit the argument. The research done on thousands of successful couples shows that they know how to exit an argument. And it shows that happy couples know how to repair the situation before an argument gets completely out of control.
Successful repair attempts include:
• Changing the topic to something completely unrelated;
• Using humor;
• Stroking your partner with a caring remark ("I understand that this is hard for you");
• Making it clear you're on common ground ("This is our problem");
• Backing down (because in marriage, as in the martial art Aikido, you often have to yield to win);
• And, in general, offering signs of appreciation for your partner and his or her feelings along the way ("I really appreciate and want to thank you for.…").
In Proverbs 15:1 we learn: “A asoft banswer turneth away cwrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
So, what happens if you find you are in a confrontational discussion with your spouse?
Well, part of Dr. Gottman’s research revealed that if your heart rate becomes excessive during an argument – above 120 beats a minute – that your hearing is actually impaired. Hence, your partner may be saying things like: “You’re not listening to me.” … Or, “You’re not hearing anything I’m saying.” And that, in fact, would be true!
So, check your heart rate – and if it is high, tell your partner that you want to calmly continue the discussion – but that you need to take a little break so that you can more accurately hear what is being said. Then, take a 20-minute break, and agree to approach the topic again when your heart rate is lower and you are both calmer.
7. Focus on the bright side. In a happy marriage, while discussing problems, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to each other and about each other and their relationship as negative ones.
For example, they may report that: "We laugh a lot" as opposed to couples who say things about themselves, such as: "We never have any fun."
A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity. You must make regular deposits to your emotional bank accounts!
So guys, here’s how that looks. You must do five positive things before making a withdrawal from the emotional marriage bank account.
Let’s say you want to go play golf on Saturday.
My suggestions for your actions earlier in the week would include:
1) Take out the garbage without being asked;
2) Do the dishes without being asked;
3) Offer and babysit the kids so your wife can go to a special Relief Society Meeting;
4) Clean the bathroom;
5) Vacuum the house.
6) And throw in a little bonus during the week – tell her how much you appreciate her efforts in raising the kids.
Nothing that difficult in all this now, is there?
And, having done those simple but nice things, your request to have a few hours to play golf should be well received. Don’t you think Sisters?
This principal is described in 1 Corinthians 7:3 -- “Let the ahusband render unto the bwife due cbenevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.”
So there you have it – seven great ideas based on research from thousands of marriages and from the Holy Scriptures that you can use right now to strengthen your relationship.
1. Seek help early if you sense any problem in the relationship.
2. Edit yourself. Be kind to one another in thought, word and action.
3. Soften your start up when beginning a conversation that could turn into an argument.
4. Husbands – accept influence from your wives.
5. Set and keep high standards of behavior you expect from yourself and from each other.
6. Learn to repair and exit an argument. Take a break if you need it.
7. Focus on the bright side.
I believe a strong and happy marriage is the foundation for a strong and happy ETERNAL family.
May you enjoy the journey … and live life together happily as God intended -- is my prayer for you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.