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Lesson 3: How can my spouse and I build a strong marriage?


“Lesson 3: How can my spouse and I build a strong marriage?” Becoming a Self-Reliant and Resilient Family (2016)

“Lesson 3,” Becoming a Self-Reliant and Resilient Family

Lesson 3

How can my spouse and I build a strong marriage?

The purpose of this lesson is to give couples the tools they need to develop a strong relationship that will continue during times of challenge and separation.

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Courtship and marriage

Resources

Following is a list of resources that you can use to study this topic.

Videos:

Additional Internet Resources:

Learning outline

Read the following quotation from President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Marriage brings greater possibilities for happiness than does any other human relationship. Yet some married couples fall short of their full potential. They let their romance become rusty, take each other for granted, allow other interests or clouds of neglect to obscure the vision of what their marriage really could be. Marriages would be happier if nurtured more carefully” (“Nurturing Marriage,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 36).

Principle 1: Successful marriages require careful nurturing.

The following four steps can help you strengthen your relationship with your spouse and build a successful marriage.

  1. Make Jesus Christ your first priority, then your spouse.

  2. Practice good communication and conflict resolution.

  3. Nurture your respect for and friendship with your spouse.

  4. Develop healthy coping mechanisms for times of loneliness.

Make Jesus Christ your first priority, then your spouse.

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Couples

Read the following from the proclamation on the family: “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other. … In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129).

The family proclamation describes the marriage relationship as sacred. What blessings have come to you in your marriage?

What are some things that distract you from building a stronger relationship with your spouse and children?

How does focusing on Christ strengthen your marriage?

Watch the video “How Do I Love Thee?”

What do you learn from this video about different ways to show love to your spouse? How does showing love to your spouse show that your marriage is a high priority?

Read Mosiah 18:8, 21.

What does this scripture teach about how we should care for one another? What are you doing in your relationship with your spouse to follow Alma’s counsel?

Practice good communication and conflict resolution

Read the following quotation from President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Good communication includes taking time to plan together. Couples need private time to observe, to talk, and really listen to each other. They need to cooperate—helping each other as equal partners. They need to nurture their spiritual as well as physical intimacy. They should strive to elevate and motivate each other. Marital unity is sustained when goals are mutually understood. Good communication is also enhanced by prayer. To pray with specific mention of a spouse’s good deed (or need) nurtures a marriage” (“Nurturing Marriage,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 37–38).

How can you increase and improve the quality of positive communication within your relationship?

What are ways you can include couple and family prayer during times of separation?

You may want to consider why communication in marriage is sometimes difficult. Some difficulties in communication arise from the specific needs of individual personalities; some difficulties arise from spouses being accustomed to different cultures. You may want to read the following quotation from Sheri L. Dew, formerly a member of the Relief Society General Presidency, to understand why these differences are important:

“Our Father knew exactly what He was doing when He created us. He made us enough alike to love each other, but enough different that we would need to unite our strengths and stewardships to create a whole. … Thus, no marriage … is likely to reach its full potential until husbands and wives … work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other’s strengths” (“It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 13).

Discuss how to hold a family council. This council could include your children, or it could be an exclusive council between you and your spouse. The following guidelines may be helpful as you carry out your family council (for more ideas, see Nichole Eck, “Family Councils for Couples,” Ensign, Jan. 2015, 24–27).

How can holding family councils help you to stay committed to each other?

Read the following quotations from members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and consider how their teachings relate to communication in your marriage.

Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote:

“True love of man for woman always includes love of God from whom all good things issue” (Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham, 3 vols. in 1 [1960], 297).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:

“In the teachings of men—without Christ at the center—there will soon be a slackening sense of service to others.

“… Men do not usually love a neighbor simply because he is there; some discover that he exists only after they become persuaded that God exists” (Of One Heart: The Glory of the City of Enoch [1975], 15).

What can you learn from these statements about showing love to your spouse?

How can you keep the Savior at the center of your home and relationships?

Read James 3:13–18.

What principles about communication are taught in this scripture? How have you used these principles in your relationship with your spouse, and how have you been blessed by them?

Nurture your respect for and friendship with your spouse.

Read Ephesians 5:28–29, 33.

How does this scripture apply to your relationship with your spouse? What does this scripture teach about unity in marriage? How can respect and friendship help you to achieve that unity?

What can you do to nurture your respect for and friendship with your spouse?

Watch the video “Expressions of Love” and record your thoughts about how showing love in different ways can help spouses build respect and friendship.

Develop healthy coping mechanisms for times of loneliness.

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Young Man

Loneliness is a feeling of emptiness or isolation that occurs when you want to connect with others but are unable to for various reasons. Military duties often lead to separation between spouses, and these periods of separation can create feelings of loneliness within your marriage. It’s good to remember that spouses may feel lonely even when they are physically together and in a healthy marriage. You can keep a good perspective on your feelings of loneliness if you learn to develop healthy coping mechanisms for when you feel lonely or discouraged.

Read the following quotation from President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“I believe that for most of us the best medicine for loneliness is work, service in behalf of others. I do not minimize your problems, but I do not hesitate to say that there are many others whose problems are more serious than are yours. Reach out to serve them, to help them, to encourage them. There are so many boys and girls who fail in school for want of a little personal attention and encouragement. There are so many elderly people who live in misery and loneliness and fear for whom a simple conversation would bring a measure of hope and happiness” (“Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 68).

What is the difference between being alone and feeling lonely?

What can happen when we allow ourselves to dwell on our sad, discouraged, or lonely feelings?

List some healthy and unhealthy ways to cope with negative emotions, such as loneliness.

Healthy

Unhealthy

Your list of healthy coping mechanisms could include service, meditation, physical exercise, creative projects, learning new skills, and social interaction. You could also refer back to the steps to develop resilience that you learned in lesson 1. Many of the healthy coping mechanisms are similar to the steps to developing resilience.

Your list of unhealthy coping mechanisms for loneliness may include using drugs or alcohol, persistent negativity or criticism in your communication, overeating or undereating, turning away from the gospel, using pornography, and social withdrawal and isolation. Using pornography is an especially destructive behavior for both men and women and should be avoided. You may experience peer pressure to view or read pornographic material, but that is never an acceptable way to cope and can lead to serious problems in your marriage and in your other relationships. If you are struggling with pornography, speak to your priesthood leader about how to obtain help.

Watch the video “Watch Your Step.”

What did you learn about how to respond to the temptation to view or read pornography?

The website OvercomingPornography.org is an excellent resource both for those who struggle with pornography and for the family members who are affected by their choices. It also includes family home evening lessons that you could use to teach your children about how to respond when they come across pornography.

Together with your spouse, develop a plan to deal with times of loneliness. Identify any unhealthy coping mechanisms that you currently use and begin trying out some healthy coping mechanisms to find a few that work for you.

Principle 2: Your marriage will become stronger when you draw close to the Savior.

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Courtship and marriage

President Spencer W. Kimball said, “If [each spouse] is forever seeking the interests, comforts, and happiness of the other, the love … will grow” (“Marriage and Divorce” [Brigham Young University devotional, Sept. 7, 1976], 6, speeches.byu.edu). Consider whether you are willing to put the interest of your marriage and spouse first.

Look at the illustration of the triangle that shows a couple as the base points on the triangle. The Savior Jesus Christ is the apex of the triangle. As the couple moves closer to the Savior, the distance between them grows smaller.

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What does this illustration teach you about how your relationship with the Savior affects your relationship with your spouse? How have you seen this to be true in your own life?

Decide to act

What is one thing you and your spouse can do to strengthen your relationship?

What activities can you do to nurture your friendship with your spouse?

What things do you want to discuss in your family council this week?

End of the week

What did you learn from this experience?

Summary of Key Points from Lesson 3

  1. Successful marriages require careful nurturing. Here are four ways that you and your spouse can build a strong marriage:

    1. Make Jesus Christ your first priority, then your spouse.

    2. Practice good communication and conflict resolution.

    3. Nurture your respect for and friendship with your spouse.

    4. Develop healthy coping mechanisms for times of loneliness.

  2. As you draw closer to the Savior, you will also draw closer to your spouse.

Notes