“Seven Steps to Strengthen a Marriage,” Ensign, Mar. 2002, 24
Marriage demands work. A happy marriage exacts the very best of us. Yet above all, maintaining a successful marriage is a choice.
At every opportunity, the adversary will cunningly, quickly supply us with negative responses to events and people around us, especially our spouses. After all, the breaking down of a marriage is one of his prime opportunities to inflict eternal damage on Heavenly Father’s children. But we can thwart Satan’s efforts. In the moment that the adversary suggests to us evil, unkind thoughts, we can choose not to accept them—not to respond to our spouse in an unkind, out-of-control way. We can choose instead to respond with love and charity.
As my husband and I strive to develop the celestial attributes within ourselves and the celestial potential in our marriage, we try to abide by seven gospel-centered truths that help us choose righteous responses.
We visualize ourselves one day standing together in the eternities as husband and wife. Whenever we encounter a challenge with regard to our children, we try to remember that the goal of building a celestial marriage and gaining eternal life is the most important, meaningful part of life together on this earth.
No matter how much effort we spend, without Him we will always fall short. We sustain and nourish our marriage when we pray together as husband and wife, ask for His help, and express love for one another to Him.
We have come to realize that we must be on constant lookout for his sabotage. There is no event or no failing he would not exploit to weaken and overcome us.
I remind myself, “He would not purposely do anything to hurt me.” He takes the same attitude toward me. This empowers us to be in control of our thoughts and responses, and it takes control from our enemy.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “An ideal marriage is a true partnership between two imperfect people, each striving to complement the other, to keep the commandments, and to do the will of the Lord” (“Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women,” Ensign, May 1999, 39). My husband and I try to remember that each of us is imperfect. Much of the pressure in our relationship is released when we both allow for the other’s shortcomings.
Respecting the opinion of one’s spouse honors and builds that individual. Elder Nelson mentions “striving to complement” each other. Complement, spelled with an e, not an i, means to complete or make perfect, not to be exactly alike. Two people who are not exactly alike in thought can still build a harmonious, enduring marriage. Recently, as my husband and I witnessed a temple sealing, we were reminded by the sealer’s counsel that it is more important to be loving than to be right.
Dwelling on negative thoughts about a spouse or about wrongs inflicted fosters unhappiness, damages friendship, and can eventually lead to divorce. Instead, each spouse must feel safe and free to openly and honestly express thoughts and feelings. My husband and I have found that the sooner our concerns are expressed to one another, the sooner harmony can be restored to our marriage.
Practicing these seven principles can help shield us from the adversary’s attacks. There are times when Satan wins a battle in the homes of married couples. But as we align our hearts and our actions with eternal truths, we can win the war.
“The secret of a happy marriage is to serve God and each other. The goal of marriage is unity and oneness, as well as self-development. Paradoxically, the more we serve one another, the greater is our spiritual and emotional growth.”
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), “Fundamentals of Enduring Family Relationships,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 60.
More on this topic: Carin Lund, “Four Principles of a Joyous Marriage,”Ensign, Aug. 2000, 24; Marlin K. Jensen, “A Union of Love and Understanding,”Ensign, Oct. 1994, 47; N. Eldon Tanner, “Celestial Marriages and Eternal Families,”Ensign, May 1980, 15.
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Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions. The following questions are for that purpose or for personal reflection:
Do I sometimes blame or get caught up in negative thinking? For example, do I ever blame my spouse in my heart for something that was really no one’s fault?
Do I truly value my spouse’s differences and recognize the ways they help strengthen our marriage?
What things are happening in our marriage that are not based on righteous, eternal principles?
What can my spouse and I do to build a marriage relationship that will help us look forward to continuing it after this life?