3 Keys That Will Strengthen Your Marriage
Michael G. Allen, LCSW
Struggles will come to every marriage at one time or another. These trials could include stress, financial concerns, parenting challenges and fertility issues – just to name a few. I would like to share three keys and their associated scriptures I have found will help remove wedges that could drive couples apart.
1 – Mark 10: 6-9 “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
When I read this scripture in Mark, one word comes to mind: loyalty. It is God’s expectation that men (and women) leave their parents and create a new family with their spouse. The husband and wife shall “cleave” to each other, meaning (according to the dictionary) they are to link, embrace, hold on, cling and “stick like glue” to each other. Many who read this scripture believe that it refers to loyalty related to physical intimacy between a man and a woman and, that is true, but I believe it also refers to loyalty related to emotional intimacy.
Many couples struggle because one spouse does not emotionally “leave his (or her) father and mother, and cleave to his (or her) wife (or husband).” For example, let’s say that a married couple has an argument. They are angry at each other and both stomp out of the room. The husband then calls his mother to complain about the unfairness of the situation. He shares details of the argument and his thoughts on how stubborn his wife is. He begins to attack his wife’s character in other ways and mentions flaws in her personality. Is this husband loyal to his wife? How should he have handled the situation?
Let’s be clear. I am not advocating cutting off ties from extended family members. Quite the opposite, in fact. I believe that when couples are loyal to each other their relationships with extended family members are improved. In these situations there is a heightened sense of trust and safety. Neither spouse feels the need to be on-guard and can fully participate in family activities because he/she knows that their marital “dirty laundry” has not and will not be aired.
Key #1 – Be loyal to your spouse.
2 – Jacob 2: 21 “…And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other.”
I believe that this scripture from Jacob refers to families as well as beings. Families come in many variations and there is no specific size or type of family that is better than any other. Our Heavenly Father is pleased with any righteous family situation and wants us to be happy and content (and eternal!). However, as mortals here on earth we tread on dangerous ground when we begin to covet what other people have – and that includes the family situations of others. Maybe we desire a certain size of family or desire that our spouse act a specific way.
Here’s my advice: Don’t covet. Don’t compare. These are Satan’s tools for making you feel inadequate. Instead of coveting and comparing, focus on being thankful for the uniqueness of your family.
I recently read of two psychologists, Dr. Michael McCollough, of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, whose scientific study indicates that gratitude plays a significant role in a person’s sense of well-being.
McCollough and Emmons conducted the Research Project on Gratitude and Thanksgiving, a study which asked several hundred people in three different groups to keep daily diaries. The first group recorded all of the events that occurred during the day, the second group recorded only their unpleasant experiences and the third group made a daily record of things for which they were grateful.
The results of the study demonstrated that keeping a daily record of blessings resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the group that recorded things for which they were grateful experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals.
Let’s practice being a little more thankful. Whose marriage wouldn’t be strengthened by more energy, optimism and enthusiasm? Giving thanks is one of the quickest ways to see beyond our own problems and bask in the abundant blessings we have all been given.
Key #2 – Be thankful for what you have, rather than focusing on what you don’t.
3 – 1 Nephi, 17:41 “…and the labor which they had to perform was to look, and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.”
This scripture from 1 Nephi reminds me that our Heavenly Father has provided a wonderful and simple plan for us to return home to Him. It is not difficult or complex. We are expected to receive certain ordinances and make covenants which prepare us for life with our Father. But we are not expected to do it alone. We have the wonderful opportunity to choose a spouse and build a life together while growing toward eternal glory.
The road home may have rough patches, but I would like to suggest a few basic gospel activities that will help us along the way:
- Personal Prayer
- Family Prayer
- Personal Scripture Study
- Family Scripture Study
- Family Home Evening
- Temple Attendance
In my experience as a therapist, I never had someone come in for counseling who was doing all of these basics all of the time. When they began to do them, their lives became better.
There is something to be said for regularly participating in these basic “Primary answer” kinds of activities. I believe that as we take care of these fundamentals, other problems – including struggles we may have in our marital relationships – will take care of themselves. The Lord will help us.
Let’s not get caught up in the “simpleness of the way” and ignore the labors we are to perform. These basic gospel activities will help set our marital relationships on a sure foundation that nothing can shake.
Key #3 – Stick to the gospel basics.
Great marriages take a great deal of work but the Lord has not left you without help. I believe there are three scripture-based keys that can help strengthen your marriage: be loyal, be thankful and stick to the gospel basics.
Marriage is hard yet it is also one of the most rewarding experiences in life. I hope that you find these suggestions helpful as you strive to improve your relationship with your eternal companion.
Michael G. Allen, LCSW, is a husband and father currently living with his family in Colorado Springs, CO. He has been a licensed therapist for over 16 years.