So usually I would not being emailing you today since transfers are on Thursday. But we have a busy Wednesday nights because of interviews and wednesday night activities. With pday we only would have had an hour of proselyting time. So we got permission to move some of out pday today to the unproductive hours.
So it was a good week! Tom is working towards the 13 of September for baptism. And the work is progressing! It was a great week.
So here is something I have been pondering lately (I wrote majority of this in my journal a few days ago):
Most people (members for the most part) don't know that when missionaries come into your home, the missionaries observe your family dynamic. Or this could just be something some of my companions and I do and it might just be in the American missions. But it does happen. I have been pondering upon many of the things I have learned while observing the marriages of others. I have been pondering this not because I am girl/marriage trunkie, but this past week I have been counseling a few members in their marriage. Honestly, it is still weird to me to be helping people with their marriages. I feel like it could be a funny tv show: Marriage Advice from a Missionary. But the following is some things I have learned from observing and counselings other in their marriages.
1. Communication means success. I think this principle is universal in all relationships. It is sad to hear people say things like, "my wife just won't sit down and talk with me" or "they won't take the time to get to know how I feel". The worst is when I see it in the lives and homes of members and nonmembers when we go to their house for lessons or dinner. Sometimes the discords in marriage are easy to see and sometimes they are deep within.
Communication does not just mean talking. Talking usually does not solve a problem. The difference I believe in just talking and effective communication is listening. Something I have learned on my mission is a way of listening called LAER. It stands for Listen, Acknowledge, Explore and Respond. Listening is so important in all relationships. Many times as we listen to others we are not truly listening. Our listening usually consists of us "hearing" what they have to say, and while they are still talking we are thinking of our own response. Usually we go from listening straight to responding. Rather after listening we should be acknowledging with words of comfort and understanding. Then we need to explore with inspire, thought provoking questions. And surprisingly after Acknowledging and exploring you listen again! You listen, acknowledge and explore many times (2-3 times on just one point of interest) before you ever respond.
The other part of listening is equality in listening. It confuses me when one spouse wants all the attention and effort when they are talking. But when it is the other spouse's turn the same desire they have is not reciprocated. That is when you fall into one fo the greatest sins of all, hypocrisy.
The scriptures state, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your month, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." (Eph. 4:29). Sadly I have seen "corrupt communication" between husband and wife when I go to dinner appointments. Most of the corrupt communication that is publicly present is sarcasm. It is one fo the most prevalent "corrupt communications" in our society today and I believe is the beginning to the world of verbal conflicts in marriages within and outside the church. It degrades the self esteem of the hearer. Not one once of sarcasm "minister[s] grace unto the hearers"
Lastly I have not quite decided if corrupt communication or no communication is worse. One openly attacks while the other inwardly destroys. Communication is so necessary in marriage. You can not just stand idly by and hope the problems will fix themselves without communicating. Many of life's problems can be solved through effective, Christ-like communication.
2. Principle v.s. Preference. I learned this concept from an old companion of mine. It is something I have taught many missionaries about and how to use it in companionship inventory. This concept is very similar to the common phrase "pick your battles". The concept here helps you to decide what battles to pick. The concept is this: Before bringing something up to your companion (spouse or child as well) that is bothering you or something you feel they need to fix decided if it is a preference. I have seen during my mission preferences like: the way they store bread, brands of items to buy, hay they wash clothes, how they load a dishwasher, how often someone brushes their teeth (I still believe this is a principle being the son of a dentist), and many other things. Some people's preferences may bother you but you have to realize that it is their way of doing it and it is not hurting anyone. As a missionary, and I can see as a parent, the preferences need to be overlooked and forgiven. Many of the preferences we have are how we are raised. Now in marriage some of the preferences need to be discussed and settled upon. I remember I was talking to a couple one day. They told us when they were first married they had to resolve some of their preferences. One of them they mention was how their Christmas was celebrated. She grew up taking time opening presents. They showed everyone what they had received. On the other hand he grew up" free for alling: it. Just opening up the presents that were yours in a mass mayhem. They had to come to a conclusion on how they would celebrate their Christmas as their own brand new family.
Principle is what is morally or ethically wrong. In the case of members of the church, what is against the principles of the gospel and the words of prophets modern and ancient are principles. An example of both in a family situation is this. The sport your child plays is a preference. They many want to play one sport while you would prefer them to play another sport. A principle with this child may be his activity at church. "Our prophets have told us that we should not shop, hunt, fish, attend sports events, or participate in similar activities on that day [Sunday]" (Gospel Principles Manual pg.161). Based off this principle you may need to discuss with your child the sport he should play based off the principle of Sabbath day observance.
3. The love language actually exists. Sister Peirce (the senior couple in the branch) taught a lesson the love languages of marriage. They are as follows: words of affirmation, quality time, giving gifts, meaningful service, and physical touch. During the 5th Sunday lesson to the branch, Sister Peirce brought up couples to the front and asked them to share what they believed their spouse's love language is. Then their spouse will tell them if they were right. Well a couple that I love were called to the front and they had been married for a long time. They served as mission president and wife in the Dominican Republic. Of course they got the love language correct for each other. But something she said afterwards was interesting. She told us that through life your and your spouse's love language will change. Then she could name the love languages of his at certain times in their life. It is so important to know the love language of our spouse (and in the case of missionaries companions). I believe the biggest problem that arises with love language is when you think you know your spouse's love language and you don't. For example a husband may continually buy gifts for his wife, believing that is what makes her feel the most loved and happy. Yet what she would feel is the most loving this he could do is put down the iPhone and iPad for work, get a babysitter, and pend quality time with each other.
4. Sharing Spiritual Experiences. I think this brings a couple together more than anything. The mission companions I am closest to are the ones that we shared spiritual experiences that we had had in our own lives. As well we had spiritual experiences together. It is so important to have spiritual experiences together on major decisions. As I have counseled with some couples it is interesting to me to see the lack of shared spiritual experiences on major decisions. One spouse says "I have felt that we need to...." or "The Lord has shown me that we need to..." or "God wants us to..." While the other spouse feels nothing similar to that in their life. Now it could be the issue of the other spouse not being open to the will of the Lord. But we need to make sure that the Law of the Two Witnesses is prevalent in our marriage, that the spirit touches both husband and wife before serious decisions are made.
Another spiritual experience that I will forever do with my future wife is reading 10 pages of the Book of Mormon every day. I have read 10 pages everyday for almost 9 months and have read they every day with my companion almost 4 1/2 months now. I learned this from the Nilsens and is something that brings the spirit quickly into any relationship.
5. Your wife is right. In the petty preferences of life your wife is correct. I have learned this best from Elder Peirce. The most common phrase Elder Peirce uses is "yes dear". And they have been married for 46ish years. So he must be doing something right. It is smart to take counsel from the Old Testament, "It is better to dwell in the wilderness, then with a contentious and an angry woman" (Proverbs 21:19).
6. Be forgiving. Everyone make mistakes. You have to be forgiving towards your spouse. I think it is the most important but the hardest thing to do, when infidelity creeps into the life of a marriage. No matter the sin that is committed we have to forgive. "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men" (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10). The lord is quite clear there. Forgiveness is a gift we have to give to everyone. Is it easy? No. I feel so sad for the spouse that has been cheated on in any way, verbally tortured, physically abused, or left with or without reason. but I also feel bad for the one that cheats, or verbally tortures, or abuses or leaves a spouse. Mainly I feel for them because, in the words of Jacob, " ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, your brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives (or husbands), and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And becuase of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds" (Jacob 2:35). But I also feel bad because of understanding. Many of those that commit such wrongs in their marriage because they feel that is the only place to turn. The lack of effective communication, the fact that their marriage has been run by preferences and not governed by principles, the absences of love languages meaningful to one another, and most importantly the little to no forgiveness given, has caused them to feel they can only turn to iniquity. Rather they should turn to the Atonement. Rather as individuals, couples, friends, and companions we should "come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him" (Moroni 10:32).
Now these are just the things I have observed. I might be totally wrong in my naive observations. Let me know if I am so I can better counsel those within my branch. But I believe that these six things are very important in marriage. But I also think they are important in any relationships we have. I keep pondering a quote from President Hinckley in a Conference address in 1998. "The truest mark of success in life will be the quality of your marriage."