“Six Ways to Keep Your Marriage Strong,” Ensign, June 2006, 53–55
My husband and I were at his parents’ home talking with his mother about his younger sister, who was contemplating marriage. She had been wondering if you were supposed to have “fireworks” or “tingles” when you were with the person you intended to marry. As we were talking, our seven-year-old son came in and wanted help with a yo-yo. My husband became a big kid and proceeded to show our son many yo-yo tricks. I laughed as I watched him and realized there were still some “tingles,” but that our marriage—any marriage—was like the yo-yo with its ups and downs. And it takes both partners working together to make it through the “down” times.
Every situation is different, and my husband and I are far from perfect, but we’ve found a few things that help us remain focused on making our marriage work.
1. Attend the temple together. There is nothing quite like sitting in an endowment session, looking across the aisle, and seeing your spouse, all in white, smiling at you. Going to the temple is a great way to build spiritual unity. After you complete a session, it is hard to be negative or to find fault with your spouse. The eternal perspective comes into view, and you are reminded of the covenants you have made.
We have found that when we attend the temple, we are more likely to do the things that keep the Spirit of the Lord strong in our home. We need all the help we can get to fight off the forces of Satan, and going to the temple helps us invite the Lord’s Spirit into our marriage.
2. Help each other in Church callings. Some callings require more time away from family than others, putting a strain on family relationships. My husband and I have made it a point to serve together. We support each other in our callings and share some responsibilities. Each of us is willing to watch the children when the other has an activity or meeting. We try to be positive about each other’s callings and to offer helpful ideas.
I am currently serving in Young Women, and my husband is a counselor in the bishopric. He comes and listens to some of my lessons and helps me prepare for certain activities. I keep track of his meetings so I can have dinner ready for him. I also allow myself to be flexible when bishopric responsibilities come up. When we support each other in our callings, we both know what the other is doing and we feel closer to each other.
3. Watch what you say. Words can be cruel. They can damage and tear your marriage apart very quickly. When you allow yourself to become angry, you may say things you wish you could take back. But once spoken, words are very hard to erase from your partner’s mind.
My husband and I do not yell at each other. This is not to say that we don’t have disagreements. But when we are upset, we usually take a while to work things out in our own minds before discussing the situation with each other. If we were to talk immediately, we might say something mean or cruel just because we are caught up in the heat of the moment. When we take time to analyze what made us upset, we don’t dwell on unimportant words or acts that may have triggered the disagreement but really have nothing to do with the root of the problem.
4. Lean on each other. Every family will face some sort of difficulty. They come in all forms—sudden unemployment, a rebellious teenager, a vehicle accident, a very sick child. Whatever the problem, it is important to lean on each other and strengthen each other.
When our second child was almost two, he went into respiratory failure due to an infection and was put in intensive care. This was hard on all of us. My husband couldn’t afford to take a whole week off from work, so we decided it would be best for him to continue working while I stayed at the hospital during the day. I became very worn out, both physically and emotionally. But my husband would hurry in after work to relieve me so that I could shower, have a nap, and spend a few minutes with our oldest son, who was staying with grandparents. This did wonders for my well-being. I made sure I was the one to stay at the hospital at night so my husband could get a good night’s sleep and be alert at work. It would have been easy to turn on each other because of the stress we were under, but by leaning on each other we grew closer and were able to deal with having a very sick child.
5. Be a couple. Getting married and leaving the single life can be quite an adjustment. It takes sacrifice and love to make marriage work. One thing that has helped us is to remember we are a couple. This means we both have had to sacrifice and give up certain things. All too often married couples try to continue with the separate activities they participated in while they were single without giving much regard to their partner. My husband loves to play softball and basketball, and he would participate in one or the other every night if he could. But he realizes that leaving me with the children while he focuses on his own interests is not fair to me.
We have to compromise in marriage. Each partner needs to realize that being a couple should take priority over individual interests. This is not to say that once you get married, you have to give up all individual hobbies and interests. But they need to be pursued carefully, so that they don’t cause contention or frustration in the marriage relationship.
In addition to separate interests, the busyness of life can sometimes prevent you from being a couple. A marriage relationship can quite easily become secondary to children, work, callings, or household duties. My husband and I try to have at least one date every week. Sometimes we go out to dinner or some other activity, but other times we just put the kids to bed and watch a video together. Making time for each other is not easy, but it is vital to a marriage.
6. Remember why you fell in love. During the down times it may be difficult to remember why you married your spouse. Those are the times, though, when you most need to remember. Stop and think about the things that made you fall in love. When I find myself being critical of my husband, I think about his smile, his musical abilities, or perhaps our first kiss. Anything positive about him helps me remember that this is the man I want to spend eternity with.
Yes, marriage could be like a yo-yo, but if we work on this most important relationship we can avoid many of the down times. One yo-yo trick is to let it “sleep”—the yo-yo just spins in place at the bottom of the string. All too often married couples let their marriages “sleep.” They don’t try hard enough to get back to the “up” side of things. It is a constant struggle, one that takes daily effort, but the rewards are eternal. And if you work at it, no matter how long you’ve been married, you can still have the “tingles.”