Week One – Marriage and Transitional Characters
Carlfred Broderick wrote that “A transitional character is one who, in a single generation, changes the entire course of a lineage. The changes might be for good or ill, but the most noteworthy examples are those individuals who grow up in an abusive, emotionally destructive environment and who somehow find a way to metabolize the poison and refuse to pass it on to their children. They break the mold” (Marriage and the Family. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, p. 18, 1992).
One of the best examples of transitional characters in the scriptures is found in Mosiah chapter 25 in The Book of Mormon. In chapter 24 we read of Alma and his people being persecuted by Amulon and his brethren, pouring out their hearts to God for deliverance, and being led away in the night out of bondage into the wilderness and then to Zarahemla where they found King Mosiah and the Mulekites. Some of the children, or people, of Amulon must have left with Alma and his followers. In verse 12 we read:
“And it came to pass that those who were the children of Amulon and his brethren, who had taken to wife the daughters of the Lamanites, were displeased with the conduct of their fathers, and they would no longer be called by the names of their fathers, therefore they took upon themselves the name of Nephi, that they might be called the children of Nephi and be numbered among those who were called Nephites.”
The children of Amulon understood a valuable truth. Namely, that our life is not defined by those who went before us, or by those we are associated with, or by the things that any of them have done. We are responsible for ourselves, and we are in charge of what name we will be known by, and who we will be numbered among. And we can change that at any time.
These people recognized their experiences with growing up in the environment they were in for what they really were – malignant and destructive. They understood that “bad experiences are an expensive school that only fools keep going to.” (Ezra Taft Benson) They chose to learn from the mistakes of those around them and change so they wouldn’t have the same bad experiences.
The idea of transitional characters becomes increasingly important when one considers current marital and familial trends in the United States.
- Cohabitation before marriage is rapidly rising
- Between 40 and 50 percent of marriages end in divorce
- The number of children born outside of marriage is increasing drastically
If we have grown up in a single-parent home, a divorce ridden home, or a home with an unstable or less than ideal marriage, we can choose to be a transitional character and change the course of our lineage. We, like the children of Amulon, can recognize the sins or traditions of our fathers, and refuse to pass them on to our children. We can treat our own marriages as sacred institutions ordained of God, and put forth the necessary effort to make them work. We can choose to foster an environment of love, forgiveness, and charity in our own homes. Even if one has been through a divorce and is remarried, it is never too late to be an example now.
Week Two – Government Should Get Out of the Marriage Closet
This week, as I studied the Supreme Court case of Obergefell vs. Hodges where marriage was redefined, my mind was drawn to question the government’s involvement in marriage altogether. In my opinion, the government has no business being involved with marriage.
Would you go to the state to obtain a licence to be baptized? Then why a marriage license? Marriage is a private religious ordinance. Why do we have to pay a tax and obtain permission from the state to have a private religious ceremony performed? These should be left to the respective church or religious organization of each person. For a state to define what a marriage is and what it is not is a clear infringement on the protected right to the free exercise of religion. Latter-day Saints experienced a violation of this right when they were forced to outlaw polygamy in 1890.
The biggest reason that people support the state’s involvement in marriage is because of the tax benefits, but an income tax is essentially theft on the part of the government. What is wrong for one person to do is wrong for a group of people to do, and that does not change if the group is acting in the name of government. Forcefully taking someone’s property from them is stealing.
Some also say that the government is needed to deal with divorce or with death, but any legal implications of divorce or death can be handled by a private marriage contract between the parties involved. This would be created before the marriage is entered into. Individuals could set their own terms and conditions. Perhaps this is what the founders envisioned when they chose not to even address or mention the subject of marriage in the Constitution.
In D&C section 134 verses 7 and 9 we read:
” 7 We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy.
9 We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.”
This is exactly what happened to the early Saints with polygamy. Those whose religious views were monogamous were fostered, while those with polygamous views were proscribed, or condemned, by the law–depriving them of their legal privilege to practice their religious belief.
I in no way endorse or condone same-sex marriage, my religious convictions hold it to be a grievous sin. But I do not believe it is moral for a government, which only deals in terms of coercion, to force one religious view upon anyone else. In the scriptures we read of someone who tried to force people to be righteous, that didn’t work out very well for him. I believe government should get out of the marriage business altogether and let individuals practice their religions and form their own contracts. This is the only way for our own religious liberties to be fully preserved.
The best way for us to convince others of the truthfulness of traditional marriage as ordained by God is to be great examples in the way we live our lives. The fruits of the true order of the family as outlined in The Family: A Proclamation to the World are undeniable, and if we live the principles it presents then others will see those fruits and want to join with us.
Week Three – Imperfections Can Strengthen Marriage
In his talk titled Covenant Marriage, Elder Bruce C. Hafen stated that “every marriage is tested repeatedly by three kinds of wolves.” In listing the second one, he said “the wolf of their own imperfections will test them.” He then went on to give an example of a couple, more specifically a husband, who let this wolf destroy a marriage.
“One woman told me through her tears how her husband’s constant criticism finally destroyed not only their marriage but her entire sense of self-worth. He first complained about her cooking and housecleaning, and then about how she used her time, how she talked, looked, and reasoned. Eventually she felt utterly inept and dysfunctional. My heart ached for her, and for him.”
How sad that all this man could focus on was the negative. Anyone who looks can find things in their spouse to criticize. But negative reinforcement is not the way for those shortcomings to improve, nor is it the way to foster love and unity in a marriage. It only brings seeds of discord, contention, and finally resentment.
Moreover, President Hinckley has spoke candidly about priesthood holders abusing their wives in any way. “How tragic and utterly disgusting a phenomenon is wife abuse. Any man in this Church who abuses his wife, who demeans her, who insults her, who exercises unrighteous dominion over her is unworthy to hold the priesthood. Though he may have been ordained, the heavens will withdraw, the Spirit of the Lord will be grieved, and it will be amen to the authority of the priesthood of that man. Any man who engages in this practice is unworthy to hold a temple recommend.” (CR April 2002)
Instead of criticizing our spouse for where they fall short, and looking at weaknesses as things that get in the way of experiencing joy, we can look for the virtues in one another and view the faults and flaws as opportunities to grow together. Each spouse, in a spirit of love and service, helping the other to overcome the imperfections they struggle with–setting goals each week, and then holding each other accountable, while being forgiving and understanding when the other may fall short.
This is an example of implementing true charity in a marriage. In Moroni 7:45-46, Moroni quoted his father Mormon teaching:
And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and enviethnot, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
I know that if we will look for, and compliment, the good in our spouse, and view imperfections as an opportunity to demonstrate charity and strengthen our marriage, we will overcome the second wolf Elder Hafen identified. I am so grateful for a wife who is a wonderful example of living this principle–constantly focusing on my strengths and building me up, and helping me to overcome my weaknesses while remaining patient and charitable.
Week 4 – Fundamental Attribution Error
One of the most widespread natural man tendencies that we often give in to is to judge ourselves on a different, and easier scale than others. We have no problem giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt, but in many cases we deny this privilege to other people, even our spouse.
In his book Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage Dr. H. Wallace Goddard wrote:
“Social psychology has found an intriguing quirk in human thinking. The fundamental attribution error suggests that humans tend to interpret the behavior of others based on character—or lack of it. In contrast, when we interpret our own behavior, we tend to factor in circumstances as important.
For example, at the end of the day, I may believe that my partner accomplished so little because she is lazy or disorganized; I accomplished little because so many people made unexpected or unreasonable demands of me.”
He goes on to say that this bias is understandable because we usually know more about our own circumstances than others’, then states: “yet you can see the mischief caused by this natural human programming. We tend to excuse our own failures while condemning others for theirs.”
I offer three solutions to this practice—don’t judge, be humble and merciful, and try to look at things from the perspective of others.
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)
It is impossible for us to fully know the external and internal circumstances and factors behind every mistake or decision others make, we simply cannot do that. Thus we should not judge, because as President N. Eldon Tanner taught: “It is not possible to judge another fairly unless you know his desires, his faith, and his goals. . . How can we, with all our weaknesses and frailties, dare to arrogate ourselves the position of a judge? At best, man can judge only what he sees; he cannot judge the heart or the intention, or begin to judge the potential of his neighbor.” (CR April 1972)
Giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt, while assuming the worst of others denotes a sense of pride. Having an excuse for why I fell short while attributing the shortcoming of my spouse to laziness, incompetence, or malicious intent, brings out a sense of competition—a need to be better than someone else. Feeling that I deserve mercy, but someone else does not is prideful.
Feeling that he deserved compassion, the servant in Matthew 18 that owed ten thousand talents begged his Lord for forgiveness of his debt and received it. But then went out and denied one of his fellow servants who only owed him a hundred pence the same grace he had just received. Why did he feel that he deserved compassion but his fellow man did not?
We should try to be understanding and look at things from others’ point of view, especially when it comes to our marriage. Consider what they may have been going through or had to deal with, try to put ourselves in their shoes before jumping to harsh conclusions. One of the best pieces of marriage advice I have been given came from a great friend, he simply said: “Always assume the best.”
“Let each man learn to know himself;
To gain that knowledge let him labor,
Improve those failings in himself
Which he condemns so in his neighbor.
How lenient our own faults we view,
And conscience’s voice adeptly smother;
Yet, oh, how harshly we review
The selfsame failings in another! …
So first improve yourself today
And then improve your friends tomorrow.”
—Hymns, no. 91
Week 5 – She Offered the Firstlings of Her Flock
Dr. H. Wallace Goddard observed, “Every couple has some fundamental difference that threatens the relationship.” Often the solution to this fundamental difference all couples face is a compromise–a sacrifice by both parties involved. However, sometimes the difference involves a situation where no compromise is possible, and a sacrifice is required by one party involved instead of both.
While my wife Kaitlyn and I were engaged we faced a fundamental difference that almost drove us apart–dogs. My wife had two black labs that she loved more than anything, they were her best friends. They helped carry her through many hardships, and she developed a very close relationship with each of them. They were the one thing she would never budge on. They were a deal breaker.
I have never been much of a pet person, and I am not a fan of dogs. Honestly, I am scared of them. I also don’t like the way they smell, shed, drool, bark, growl, etc. I had some very negative experiences with dogs on my mission, and have not been open to liking dogs since then.
Kaitlyn’s dogs represented different things for us both, and we each viewed the purpose they served a little differently. For me, the dogs served as something that got in the way of Kaitlyn and I growing closer together. Whenever they were around I felt they were getting her time, attention, and love at my expense. I felt like they created a wedge between us. This was due to an insecurity of mine that had developed from previous relationships because I had never been anybody’s #1.
For Kaitlyn the dogs represented safety, they loved her no matter what, and would never betray her trust or do anything to hurt her. At times they served as an avenue of emotional escape, almost to the point that she was using them as a crutch. When things would go wrong, her first instinct was to go hiking in the woods with her dogs.
After much prayer, and counseling together, we decided to find new homes for her dogs. It was a tough decision to make, but we both felt it was the right thing to do.
In Moses 5:5 we read:
“And God gave unto them [Adam and Eve] commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandment of the Lord.”
Dr. Goddard commented on this scripture: “Adam and Eve were to offer God their very best, the “firstlings of their flocks.” I wonder what the firstlings of our flocks are. Is it our cherished free time that we must put on the altar? Is it our love for sports, games, reading, shopping, clothes, or money that must be sacrificed? Most of us want the prize without paying the price. We want to have a close, loving marriage, but we’re not willing to give up on our pet affections. But God has required us to make sacrifices if we are to enjoy that which is most valuable.”
For my wife, the firstlings of her flock were her dogs. They meant everything to her, but she willingly offered to sacrifice them–to give them up–for the ultimate prize of an eternal marital relationship. This was very hard for me to take part in, I felt like I was getting a slight taste of what it was like for God to ask Abraham to offer up the firstling of his flock, Isaac. Although for Kaitlyn, there was no rescuing sacrificial ram in the thicket. She came to learn through her own experience, the truthfulness of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s words when he stated:
“It is quite necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.”
She faithfully submitted her will, and let God take from her the one thing she really didn’t want to give up. And for this, I will be eternally grateful. Dr. Goddard said that “we cannot steal the fire of love from heaven. We must buy it with soul-stretching payments.” What an example of being willing to pay the price. I know that as each of us willingly offer up the figurative firstlings of our flock—whatever they may be—that our marriages will be more harmonious and in line with God’s vision for us.
Week 6 – Bids for Validation and Turning toward Your Partner
“Hollywood has distorted our notions of romance and what makes passion sizzle” says relationship expert Dr. John Gottman. The media often puts forth the idea that couples need extravagant getaways or picturesque romantic outings to keep their love burning bright. However, Dr. Gottman states that “a romantic outing only turns up the heat if a couple has kept the pilot light burning by staying in touch in the little ways.” He expounds on this idea declaring:
“[Love] is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life. In marriage, couples are always making what I call “bids” for each other’s attention, affection, humor, support. Bids can be as minor as asking for a back rub or as significant as seeking help in carrying the burden when an aging parent is ill. The partner responds to each bid either by turning toward the spouse or turning away. A tendency to turn toward your partner is the basis of trust, emotional connection, passion, and a satisfying sex life.”
Passion and romance are kept alive and nourished when each spouse does the little things that make the other feel validated. We, as people, are constantly looking for validation. We want to feel loved, important, like our thoughts, ideas, and concerns matter. Much of what we do and say in marriage involves us making “bids” in an effort to have this need for validation satisfied in some way.
When shopping at the grocery store and one spouse says “I think we might be out of milk, do you think we should get some more?” We can choose to shrug apathetically and say, “I dunno,” or we can recognize the bid for validation and reply, “Yeah let’s get some just in case, thanks for remembering that dear.” One response involves turning away, while the other involves turning toward your partner. These situations and circumstances that arise in marriage are countless.
Problems start to sprout when bids are not recognized. Dr. H. Wallace Goddard observed that “Marriage is full of tempests in teapots. We bristle over our partner’s word choice or disinterest in our story. We fret and complain about this purchase or that insensitivity. We grumble about a chore neglected or a kindness unappreciated. We may be bothered by indecisiveness, hygiene, grammar, food preferences, clothing style, personality, lack of religiosity, stubbornness . . . the list is endless!” He continues, noting the danger: ‘Over time we transform our irritations into evils. With time we come to think of our partners as disappointments or failures.”
Irritations become evils when bids for validation go unacknowledged. When analyzed closely, one can plainly see that each little tempest described by Dr. Goddard is a bid.
Bristling over someone’s word choice shows a need to be validated for the fact you choose your words carefully; telling someone a story is a bid for attention which goes unmet when one spouse doesn’t listen. A complaint about insensitivity can be looked at as a bid for affection, a complaint about a purchase can be seen as a bid for more unity and open communication—which makes spouses feel more important. And the list goes on, but if you think carefully you will find that behind each one is a bid for validation in some way.
At times bids can be hard to recognize. Dr. Gottman identifies two obstacles to turning toward a spouse and responding to a bid: 1) “Missing” a bid because it’s wrapped in anger or other negative emotion, and 2) Being distracted by the wired world.
In describing number one, Dr. Gottman gives this example: Lena says to her husband, Carl, in exasperation, “It would never occur to you to clear the table, would it?” Carl doesn’t hear Lena’s bid (“Please clear the table tonight”) [A bid for help, and possibly a bid for love in the form of service]. Instead, he hears criticism. . . So it’s no surprise that he responds with defensiveness, and from there the argument escalates. Gottman offers this solution:
“Before you reply defensively to your partner, pause for a moment and search for a bid underneath your partner’s harsh words. Then, focus on the bid, not the delivery.”
Expounding on number two, Gottman states: “This culture of distraction doesn’t benefit intimate relationships, which require the opposite: the habit of being aware and paying attention. . . The old cliché of the husband who hides behind the newspaper has been replaced by the spouse of either gender who is tapping out texts, scanning social media, or engrossed in one of those irresistible cell phone games.” He acknowledges that more often than not this is done out of mindfulness, rather than malice. However, he suggests:
“The best solutions to this growing problem is for both partners to acknowledge if it is a concern between them and to establish rules of etiquette that work for both of them.”
Even though bids may, at times, be hard to recognize, and turning toward your spouse in response to them may be even harder, it is imperative that this is done. This fact is supported by a six year longitudinal study conducted by Dr. Gottman using his Love Lab in Seattle where couples are invited to stay a weekend and are observed through hidden cameras. He noted:
“In our six year follow-up of newlyweds, we found that couples who remained married had turned toward their partner’s bids an average of 86 percent of the time in the Love Lab, while those who ended up in divorce had averaged only 33 percent. It’s telling that most of the arguments between couples in both groups were not about specific topics like money or sex, but resulted from those failed bids for connection.
There’s a reason that seemingly small events are fundamental to a relationship’s future: Each time partners turn toward each other, they are funding what I’ve come to call their emotional bank account. They are building up savings that, like money in the bank, can serve as a cushion when times get rough.”
If someone is acting in a manner that is less than what you know they are capable of, then there is a need that is going unmet. Needs can be recognized by bids. So, in order to improve the situation, change behavior, and improve love and romance, the solution is to recognize and respond to the bids for validation, and turn toward each other. If we do this, our emotional bank accounts will grow and sustain us through stress and conflict.
Week 7 – Pride vs. Love and Correction vs. Repentance
A rich young ruler once came to Jesus and asked, “Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” After having the commandments listed to him, he again looked at Jesus and said, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.”
“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” (Mark 10:17-21)
Notice that Jesus loved the young man before He told him what he lacked. From this we gather a principle that Dr. H. Wallace Goddard learned for himself, “Some years ago God taught me an ironic truth. I don’t have the right to correct anyone I don’t love.” He continues, observing the paradox this creates, “You see the irony! I am inclined to correct my partner when I don’t feel loving. When I do feel loving, irritations roll off my soul like water on a duck’s back.”
As noted in the previous post, we all seek validation in marriage. We like it, we want it, we need it. When our bids are not responded to, we become restless and bothered. We may even get angry because our needs are not being met and start to emotionally withdraw.
Dr. Goddard taught that “When we are feeling irked, annoyed, or irritated with our spouse, we have our backs toward heaven. We are guilty of pride. In a spiritual sense we are saying to our spouses, “You are not meeting my needs the way I would like them met. Don’t you realize that is your job?! Your every act is to be dedicated to my happiness. Now hop to it!”
We then immediately get to work on fixing our partner–vividly expressing what they lack. Instead of doing so in a spirit of love as the Savior to the rich young ruler where the advice was solicited, we follow the convictions of the natural man.
Dr. Goddard observes:
“When I follow the natural man’s method for marital change, I set out to tell my partner in fair, balanced ways what she is doing that irritates me. Then she can change herself based on my input, and we will both be happy. . . The natural man is inclined to love himself and fix others. God has asked us to do the opposite. We are to fix ourselves by repenting, and to love others. It is not surprising that we have difficulties in marriage. We so often do the very things that will destroy our relationships.”
We have a tendency to believe that if there is any discord or tension in our marriage it must be our spouse’s fault, and if we simply convince them of their error and correct them the problem will be solved. However, this inclination is driven by pride.
Dr. Goddard states: “While the natural man is inclined to think that the problem is our partner, the man of Christ knows that the irritation is probably the result of some faulty thinking–some troublesome assumption and expectation nested in our unconscious.” He continues, taking it one step further: “In fact, any time we feel irritated with our spouses, that irritation is not an invitation to call our spouses to repentance but an invitation to call ourselves to repent. We are irritated because of our own lack of faith and humility.”
Nobody likes feeling like they are an old car that needs to be worked on and restored all the time. If we find ourselves getting irritated because our needs our not met, the solution is to look inward and repent, rather than look out and correct. If they want our help or advice, they, like the rich young ruler, will come and ask. In the meantime, we can work on improving ourselves by reaching out in love and service, and being kind. After all, it is in focusing on meeting the needs of others that our own needs are met.
Week 8 – Score Keeping
Dr. H. Wallace Goddard has observed that “there is a popular trend toward encouraging equity in marriage. The emphasis is on sharing household duties in fair ways. There is a lot of merit in having men contribute more to the many household tasks that make a house run smoothly. In most cases women are badly overloaded and men are under-involved at home.” [In some cases it could also be the other way around] Goddard continues, stating: “Remedying the imbalance is worthy.”
A great example of someone who sought to remedy this imbalance is the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was known to help his wife Emma with household duties. Not everybody agreed with this effort. Jesse Crosby, an early Saint, observed: “Some of the home habits of the Prophet—such as building kitchen fires, carrying out ashes, carrying in wood and water, assisting in the care of children, etc.—were not in accord with my idea of a great man’s self-respect.” So Brother Crosby offered Joseph some corrective advice, stating such work was “too terrible a humiliation, for you are the head, and you should not do it.” Joseph replied, “If there be humiliation in a man’s house, who but the head of that house should or could bear that humiliation?” (They Knew the Prophet: Personal Accounts from over 100 People Who Knew Joseph Smith, 1999)
One of the problems that arises in attempts to create greater equity is the inevitable scorekeeping that comes with it. Dr. Goddard explains: “Seeking equity encourages people to think about and value their own contributions. At the same time, humans almost always under-notice and under-appreciate the efforts of others.” In continuing, he voices that there is a better way; we should gladly offer our best efforts, and appreciate all that our partners offer.
“Rather than carefully tracking every investment in our marriage, we give gladly and wholeheartedly. We give everything we have and are. And we ask God to increase our capacity so we can give yet more. . . Rather than act as a careful investor, happy marriage partners throw open the doors of the storehouse and give kindness, help, and goodness.”
Hugh Nibley has taught that “the gifts of God are to be received in the same unstinting and joyful spirit in which they are given—freely, magnanimously, never counting the cost.” Likewise, the household duties we offer as gifts of service in our marriage should be received, and given freely without counting the cost.
Mormon taught us the consequences of giving a gift grudgingly:
For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift . . . except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God. (Moroni 7:6-8)
Giving a gift, or doing a household duty, grudgingly is the opposite of freely, magnanimously, and never counting the cost. Grudgingly denotes that we 1) expect something in return, 2) are resentful of having to offer the gift, and 3) are keeping score by tracking the cost we have expended. If this is the attitude we retain while giving a gift, it has profited us nothing, and we have digressed back to the point of not offering the gift at all.
The solution, according to Goddard, is consecration. He asserts:
“Consecration is a covenant that moves us from asking how we can get our needs met to asking how we can bless and serve. We become more grateful. Rather than wondering if this marriage is a good investment that will pay us a handsome return, we ask for heavenly grace that we may love and serve as Jesus served—without thought of reward.”
Week 9 – The Birds and the Bees in Marriage
There are many messages put across in the media about sex that create misconceptions. I think one of the biggest is that women don’t like having sex, or don’t want to, and men both like and want to. We often hear that women naturally have a lower sex drive and want less sex than men. (at least I know I have heard these things)
In 2008 a study was conducted by McNulty and Fisher on sexual satisfaction in newly married couples. The research findings suggest “that women’s sexual satisfaction tends to be more influenced by cognitive than behavioral factors (expectations vs. frequency), whereas men’s sexual satisfaction is more influenced by behavioral than cognitive factors (frequency vs. expectations).”
The findings seem to convey that women don’t necessarily want less sex than men, but that their sexual satisfaction (possibly including sexual desire) is linked, or driven, by something entirely different. Women receive sexual satisfaction from expectations turning out the way they perceive [and I think this includes being validated for that by their spouse]. Maybe they expect to have sex because all the things on their to-do list are done, or they’ve been treated very well. Then when they have sex, they are satisfied. Or, maybe they expect not to have sex because they are stressed out with things that are not done, or worries they have, or have not had the emotional connection they feel they need.
This is hard for men because, like the findings showed, the sexual satisfaction for them comes from actually having sex. The emotional connection is fostered from intimacy. It seems with women it is the opposite, the emotional connection has to be there first before they want to have sex.
Dr. John Gottman stated that regardless of how sex is initiated, “it’s imperative that there be no negative consequences if the partner says no.” He then gave the following hypothetical situation modeling likely frequency of sex based on his research:
“Jim is always interested in having sex; Mary not so much. My calculations determined that if Jim complains, sulks, or otherwise subjects Mary to a “negative payoff” whenever she declines his overtures, they end up having sex about once every three weeks. But if he actually rewards her “no” with a small positive payoff (perhaps he expresses understanding or asks what she would like to do), their rate soars to four times a week. Counterintuitive as it sounds, the results suggest that husbands who reward their wives for saying no will end up having a lot more sex!
Of course, the exact frequency of sexual encounters between a particular couple is impossible to predict. The point is that, for both husbands and wives, the more you can hear, understand, and respect your partner’s “no”. . . the more “yes” there will be in your relationship.”
Gottman’s position is consistent with Dr. H. Wallace Goddard’s theme of doing what is in your power to change yourself, rather than trying to change your partner or fix them. A friend of his wrote to him:
“I have realized that much of my unhappiness in marriage is due to my expectation of love to be shown in a certain way and my withholding love when not feeling loved myself.”
Goddard’s advice includes a reference to the Savior: “according to the scriptures, we love Him because He first loved us. The same can apply in marriage. Our partners will love us because we first love them. Love first. Don’t wait to be loved.”
Week Ten – Emotional Fidelity
After posing the question, “What does it mean to love someone with all your heart?” Ezra Taft Benson answered, “It means to love with all your emotional feelings and with all your devotion.”
When we think of marital infidelity, physical intimacy with someone other than a spouse is what often comes to mind. However, full obedience to the law of chastity entails more than just physical faithfulness, it includes emotional fidelity. In fact, an emotional affair can be just as damaging to a marriage as a physical affair.
This type of infidelity can happen very subtly, and can even begin with good intentions. BYU’s Kenneth W. Matheson notes: “Emotional infidelity doesn’t usually happen suddenly; rather, it occurs gradually—often imperceptibly at first. This is one reason why those involved often feel innocent of any wrongdoing.” However, even if it starts small, I believe that any emotional connection deeper than a friendly surface level association with someone of the opposite sex is potentially dangerous. H. Wallace Goddard observes:
“Today Satan attacks us with subtle and indirect means. He gets us inappropriately close to someone who is not our spouse under the guise of missionary work, friendship, or helpfulness. He subtly builds inappropriate emotional bonds while quieting our consciences with weak rationalizations. Perhaps this is Satan’s favorite ploy with those who desire goodness and are filled with compassion.”
How can we be sure if the connection is inappropriate? Brother Matheson offers 8 questions to consider:
- “Are you turning to your friend for comfort rather than turning to your spouse?”
- “Do you find yourself thinking about your friend even when you’re at home?”
- “Do you seek opportunities to be with [or talk to] your friend even when work doesn’t require you to?”
- “Do you e-mail and text your friend when you’re not together?”
- “Have you told your spouse about these messages?”
- “Does the relationship with your friend take more of your time and energy than your relationship with your spouse?”
- “Do you compare your spouse to your friend?”
- “Would you be uncomfortable introducing your spouse to your friend?”
One other question I would add to this list as an out of bounds line is: Would you say or do that if your spouse were next to you?
Whatever the circumstances, the Savior’s words in the sermon on the mount are always a safe guideline: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). It is just as possible to lust after someone emotionally as it is to do so physically. We should, as King Benjamin has counseled, watch ourselves–our thoughts, our words, and our deeds–and observe the commandments of God. (Mosiah 4:30)
Week Eleven — Executive Family Councils
Communication is vital in marriage, and miscommunications can cause confusion and frustration. It is important to develop a pattern for communicating effectively in order to ensure each spouse’s concerns are heard, opinions can be voiced, and needs can be addressed. In my experience, the executive family council between my wife and I has been very helpful.
In his general conference talk Family Councils, Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke of four different types of family councils. He stated:
“The second type of family council is an executive family council that involves only the parents. During this time together, parents can review each child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and his or her progress.
The executive family council is also a good time for wives and husbands to talk about their personal relationships with each other.”
This council meeting is great to address issues that have arisen throughout the week, or to bring up things that frustrated you, or ways that you wish things may have been handled. It also provides opportunity to build each other up and compliment each other’s strengths.
My wife Kaitlyn and I like to hold our council meeting on Sunday nights. We plan the coming week, and then set personal and couple goals that we will work on and then report on at the next council. We usually set the goals after discussing things we may have done that bothered the other person or changes or adjustments that need to be made. Then we hold each other accountable for the goals. It gives us a chance to progress together, and we each feel like we are playing integral role in our spouse’s growth. We also discuss the needs of those around us, and ways that we can help and make a difference, and reach out and serve.
This council method has been a great blessing to us in our marriage. We have come to learn, by our own experience, the truth of Elder Ballard’s words:
“A family council held regularly will help us spot family problems early and nip them in the bud; councils will give each family member a feeling of worth and importance; and most of all they will assist us to be more successful and happy in our precious relationships, within the walls of our homes.”
Week Twelve — Relationships With In-laws
One of the toughest things to adjust to for newly married couples is the responsibility of juggling time with extended family while still forming your own identity.
Spencer W. Kimball taught:
“Frequently, people continue to cleave unto their mothers and their fathers and their chums. Sometimes mothers will not relinquish the hold they have had upon their children, and husbands as well as wives return to their mothers and fathers to obtain advice and counsel and to confide, whereas cleaving should be to the wife in most things, and all intimacies should be kept in great secrecy and privacy from others.
Your married life should become independent of her folks and his folks. You love them more than ever; you cherish their counsel; you appreciate their association; but you live your own lives, being governed by your decisions, by your own prayerful considerations after you have received the counsel from those who should give it.”
This certainly does not mean that all ties need to be cut, and a balance cannot be found. Elder Marvin J. Ashton stated: “Certainly a now-married man [or woman] should cleave unto his [or her] [spouse] in faithfulness, protection, comfort, and total support, but in leaving father, mother, and other family members, it was never intended that they now be ignored, abandoned, shunned, or deserted. They are still family, a great source of strength.” He continues, offering advice to parents of newly married couples: “Wise parents, whose children have left to start their own families, realize their family role still continues, not in a realm of domination, control, regulation, supervision, or imposition, but in love, concern, and encouragement.”
In Creating Healthy Ties With In-Laws and Extended Families, James M. Harper and Susanne Frost Olsen observe that the relationship between families can be like a tug-of-war. They offer suggestions for what couples, specifically the husband, and parents can do to reduce conflict and promote cohesion in these new relationships:
“Married couples should discuss what they will do to protect, maintain, and repair (if necessary) the invisible boundary or fence that guards their marriage. The husband needs to realize that strengthening his marriage and making certain that his wife feels secure with him is the biggest single thing he can do to help his wife and his mother develop a quality relationship.”
“One of the great gifts parents-in-law can give to their married children is to recognize early that they must help define and protect the boundary of this new couple. . . Parents can help by genuinely not pressuring their grown children to be at every family gathering, even though they will be missed. . . [and recognizing that] . . . intrusion by in-laws , both physically by too many visits and phone calls, and emotionally by too many strongly held opinions, is a major concern of new daughters- and sons-in-law.”
The also noted, “Married children are entitled to receive revelation for their stewardship in guiding their families, and parents and grandparents should support and encourage their married children as they do so. . . When asked, they should offer their opinions, but even well intentioned parents or other family members should use great caution in assuming that they have more powerful or immediate access to the Spirit than their married children.”
It is important for those on both sides of the issue—the parents and the couple—to have, and respect, healthy boundaries. This will provide opportunities for growth and progression on both ends. With boundaries in place, the couple will be able to become their own family unit who makes their own decisions. The parents will grow by letting go of how things used to be, and embracing the roles under the new boundaries. It may be a tough process in the beginning, but if both sides exhibit compassion and respect, the process of leaving father and mother and cleaving unto a spouse can be a happy one.