Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the idea of love and marriage. How can you live together with one person for your entire life and still carry that spark? You hear these old couples all the time that talk about how they love their spouse more and more with time, but how do they do it? I want to make sure that happens to me!
Payson and I are currently one year and seven months into our marriage. We are really blessed to have such a strong love for each other, but it’s honestly something that we work really hard for. Not everything is going to just fall into place, and I think it’s unrealistic to think that way. Sure there are some things in life that magically work out, but why leave love up to such chance?
One of the things we do to become more successful is constantly seek relationship advice. You are NEVER too good for advice from someone else. Even if they seem much less fortunate or educated than you (mini tangent over).
Robert Walz, a professor of mine from BYU, wrote an article about relationships and gave me permission to share it. I think he makes some great points about enduring love and what it really means to become a devoted spouse. The following is all Walz.
“The first trait I call selflessness, meaning putting the needs of others ahead of your own needs. This starts by putting God first in your life. “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart-mind- might and strength,” the first and greatest commandment. A person who does not put God first in their life will not likely put you first in your marriage. Let me say that again. A person who does not put God first in their life will not likely put you first in your marriage.
An unselfish person puts the needs of their spouse, their children, friends and even strangers ahead of their own, they work hard everyday to protect and provide. Unselfish people say things like, “Oh no you go first,” “let me get that for you,” “you are so smart,” “I’ll do that,” “No, really it’s fine,” “lets do it your way” and “How do you feel about that?” They cook and clean and make beds, they mow lawns and rake leaves and clean toilets, take out the trash, they read stories at bed time, pick up stuff you need, they make you feel like you are the most important person in the room, and they help you solve your problems seeking nothing in return. We live in the culture of the selfie, people more worried about how they look than how they act. Winning at all costs has become the common standard. But that standard does not produce life long loving relationships. Selflessness does.
2. The ability to forgive and seek forgiveness.
This comes from the second greatest commandment. To “love your neighbor as yourself.” That is easy to say but difficult to do. It is always easier to blame others for what happens and to hold a grudge against those who have wronged us. A father I knew made a big mistake, he betrayed his wife and family, lost his job and was facing criminal charges. His wife was so angry that she kicked him out of the house and started divorce proceedings. He was very contrite, took responsibility for his actions, and embraced the atonement. He feared he had lost his wife and family forever. We spent a lot of time crying together. But during one meeting we had a revelatory experience as we realized that while he could not change his wife’s heart, God could. We fasted together and petitioned the Lord. He excitedly called me from the courthouse, with tears in his voice, he said his wife was willing to forgive him and try to work things out. She did and they continue to raise their family together. What was broken became whole again.
A woman I knew could not forgive her husband after he had an affair. Everyone, even me her bishop understood her pain and anger. They separated and then divorced. No one wins in a divorce, especially the children. I stayed in touch with them and now years and years later they have both remarried other people, but I can tell they still love each other. I can tell they wish they had found a way to work it out. But now they can only look from a distance and regret their selfish actions and inability to forgive.
In your heart don’t you want to spend your life with someone who is selfless and forgiving? But the better question; In your heart do you want to become someone who is selfless and forgiving? The good news is that developing these two important traits costs you nothing, you don’t have to sign up for a class, buy a textbook or go to the testing center. You just do it, and you can start today. You just have to learn to love others more than you love yourself. Try it for a week and see how much better you feel. Couples who are selfless and forgiving find that problems can bend but not break a marriage and they can learn to love again.
3. The third trait is the ability to communicate.
It seems so simple but can be so difficult. Couples communicate in many ways, in what they say and what they don’t say to each other. Silence can communicate a lot, so can touch. Kissing is a form of talking, just really close. I am afraid many young people are looking for the wrong things in a potential spouse. A lot of my female students at Brigham Young University tell me that as a youth activity they made a list of what they want in their husband, and not to settle for anything less. This list often includes things like: college graduate, makes lots of money, athletic, handsome, superhuman and drives a nice car.
Some men do the same thing. My brother in law’s list included blond hair, brown eyes, enjoys French cooking and looks good in a bathing suit. But those traits not indicators of a life long loving relationship. If you marry a rich person who is selfish and unwilling to forgive you will not likely be happy and looks fade with time. So here is what I want you to do – throw out the list! Those are all good things but that person doesn’t really exist, it is fantasy and marriage is a reality. Instead replace your list with the one I just gave you.
Just three things – Selfless, forgives easily and can communicate. I promise you that if you find someone who is selfless and forgiving and you can communicate you will fall deeply in love. It won’t matter if they are tall or short, rich or poor, educated or not. So just remember, the car they drive or how they look in leggings will not get you through the difficulty times in your marriage. Selflessness, forgiveness and communication will. Become that person and then look deeply for someone with those traits. Look beyond what you would put in a Facebook post.”
Me again– moral of the story. You can do it! Marriage is amazing and magic on earth. I recommend it to literally everyone. Being completely commited to someone else allows you to see a new side of yourself, one that’s better than you ever could have imagined. and if YOU have relationship advice for me, leave it as a comment! I’d love to hear from you!