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When Phillip and I were first married, we lived 20 minutes from my parents’ home for about six months. We routinely went over for Sunday dinners, because we knew that we would soon be moving to another state when the school year ended.
On one occasion, just a few weeks after we were married, Phillip and I were discussing a family reunion that was coming up on his side of the family. Each time they had one, there was always a talent show.
I made the mistake of trying to fish for compliments by stating, “I enjoy singing, but I don’t think I sing very well.”
Poor Phillip: he is a man, and he is an engineer. He just wants to fix things. Instead of reassuring me that he loved my singing voice, he said, “Well, I have things that I don’t do very well, either. I just practice them and do better.”
(Yes, that was very Elizabeth Bennett of him.)
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Since we had only been a couple of weeks, I was still extremely sensitive and insecure about what my new husband thought about me (now that we were living in the same state!), and I began to silently cry.
We showed up at my parents’ house with my red eyes and my husband’s confused expression. My dad (who happens to like Phillip more than he likes me, I think) asked me if I was alright.
I tried to brush it off and flippantly replied, “Oh, I just haven’t trained my husband how to talk to his wife yet.”
Now, to be clear, I don’t usually ever talk about my husband this way. Even before I was married, I made a promise to never say things to others that would demean my husband or make him look lower in someone else’s eyes. So I don’t know why I said this – I was just trying to brush the matter aside and replied flippantly.
My father, instead of laughing it off and moving on, stopped walking towards the kitchen, looked me straight in the eye, and gave me the most valuable marriage advice that I have ever heard.
It isn’t your job
“Tiffany, it is not your job to train your husband in anything. That is the Lord’s responsibility.
“Your husband is going to go out into the world, and the world will teach him some very difficult lessons because he isn’t perfect. He will mess up. Your job is not to teach him. Instead, let the Lord teach him through the world.
“Instead, your responsibility is to make your home a safe place of refuge. When the world is showing your husband all his shortcomings and failings, you need to be a safe place for your husband to come back and work on those things.
“Don’t try to teach your husband; be a refuge for him to go to when the Lord is teaching him and he needs to work on it in safety and love.”
I was instantly humbled.
I have never considered myself to be a strong feminist (in spite of my very Type A personality). In fact, I have always admired and respected the position of head of the household as belonging to my husband.
It was a concern I had when we were dating, actually. My husband is a very passive, calm person….and I…..well, I’m just not.
I was worried that if we got married, I would just run right over him (and that he would let me).
It actually was the biggest factor in why I broke up with him. Obviously, we have a happy ending in spite of that….but that’s a story for another day.
Where was I?
Oh yes, it’s not my job to train my husband.
That bit of advice from my father has shaped my entire marriage.
When I feel frustrated that the garbage hasn’t been taken out again, I remember that my role is make our home a safe place. As a result, I kindly remind him to take it out, instead of venting my anger about how he’s forgotten again.
The purpose of families
Even when it’s something that’s a bigger problem than forgetting the garbage, I try to focus on what the purpose of the family is.
You see, our God knew that this life would be difficult. After all, we are here to work on our imperfections. And so He gave us our families.
Within our families, we have a safe place to learn, grow, and develop. Just as a musician has to practice a song over and over again in order to play it to perfection, we need to practice our life skills over and over again.
Our spouses are going to go out into the world and play wrong notes in front of others. It’s going to be difficult and embarrassing.
When they return home to us after a concert where all they did was play the wrong note over and over again, we can react in one of two ways. We could browbeat them about the notes that they also misplay at home, or we can give loving encouragement to keep practicing.
Which is going to be of more use?
Our sacred responsibility
When we moved after those six months of living near my family, I was very ill. I actually ended up on a feeding tube shortly after our move.
I know that my parents were worried about me. They loved Phillip, and they were entrusting me to him. They hoped and prayed that he would care for me as they would care for me (which he did!).
Our Heavenly Father has given us the care of our spouse. He hands us His most precious child, and He pleads with us to care for them, to help them grow and develop, the way He would if He were here.
He pleads with us to guard their hearts, to nourish their souls. We are the most important person in our spouse’s life. Are we treating that stewardship with the reverence and love it deserves?
I’m the oldest of 10 children, and my siblings will tell be the first to tell you that I’m pretty overprotective. In fact, one of my sisters was more afraid of her fiance meeting me than she was about meeting our dad!
Think about who you are the most protective of. Now imagine that they are getting married and moving to the other side of the world. How do you want their spouse to treat them? That’s exactly how God wants you to treat your own spouse.
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Now for this post’s homework assignment. I want you to get out your study journal and answer these questions:
Are there changes you need to make in your relationship with your spouse?
Or, if you aren’t married, what is your ideal for your future relationship?
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What is the one thing that is currently frustrating you most about your spouse? (You know you have something.) What changes can you make in how you handle it?
One example of this was when I was pregnant with our first child. We would read scriptures together each night as a couple, taking turns reading aloud. Phillip would always yawn, and keep reading through his yawn! Between hormones, Houston heat, and 8.9 months of pregnancy misery, I wanted to take the scriptures and shove them into his gaping mouth.
Instead, I remembered what my dad said, and I mentioned it casually to him. Even though he wasn’t perfect at it (in fact, he still yawned as much as ever), just the fact that he quickly apologized each time made all the difference.
Is there anything in your relationship with your spouse that you think God would want you to change?
This may involve some heavy prayer and deep soul-searching.
Does your spouse feel like there is anything in you do or say that helps your spouse feel safe? Is there anything that may make them feel a bit unsafe, as in they can’t make a mistake?
This may be a difficult conversation to have. After all, none of us wants to hear things that we are doing wrong. That is why it is important to start with the things that you are doing right first!
As always, this advice is meant for healthy relationships where both partners are working to improve. If you are in an abusive relationship, please reach out for help. If you don’t know who to reach out to, start with your local Mormon bishop. Even if you aren’t Mormon, he can help you. You can find him by putting in your address here.