A friend confided in me once and told me her story. She graciously is allowing me to share it with you.
“I felt like a failure once again. It was the third time this week that I witnessed my husband get into the faces of our children and demand respect and dictate to them what to do. This was not a new problem in our marriage. This had been going on for several years. It was something we tried to work on, but never could come up with a positive solution and the problem kept surfacing. We both had different views mine being based on the Proclamation to the World, which says,
‘HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.’ And his was more based on the fact that children should always show respect no matter what. I often wonder if this fight would eventually destroy our marriage or if we could somehow someway break free and overcome this problem.”
There are two types of conflicts marriages face: perpetual and solvable. In the Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work we learn that unfortunately 69 percent of all conflicts suffer from perpetual problems. My friend is among them in this statistic. A perpetual problem does not go away. In an unstable marriage perpetual problems will kill a marriage. These couples face gridlock rather than cope with the problem effectively. We must recognize the signs of gridlock so that we can overcome them to protect our marriage. They are:
• The conflict makes you feel rejected by your partner
• You keep talking about it, but make no headway
• You become entrenched in your positions and are unwilling to budge
• When you discuss the subject, you end up feeling more frustrated and hurt
• Your conversations about the problem are devoid of humor, amusement, or affection
• You become even more unbudgeable over time, which leads you to vilify each other during these conversations
• This vilification makes you all the more rooted in your position and polarized, more extreme in your view, and all the less willing to compromise
• Eventually you disengage from each other emotionally.
In order to overcome our marriage conflicts we must communicate acceptance of your spouse’s personality according to Gottman, in his Book, In the Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work. Before we expect or even try to get our spouse to change we must make them feel understood in the conflict. My friend understood the conflict; her husband did not feel respected and the kids felt hurt by his actions, but yet she could offer no solutions because of the pain they all felt. She did not know how to express to her husband the pain she was feeling being in the middle, being misunderstood, and worrying their kids would begin to dislike their dad and not want to be around him or the family. She feared her own kids would leave because of this perpetual problem they could not solve. The next step, which takes longer, is people can change only if they feel like they are liked and accepted how they are. In conflict people react and dig their heels to protect themselves. We must acknowledge emotions to promote change. We must remember that open lines of communication are crucial in marriage especially in conflict. This is why strengthening your love maps with your spouse is key to any successful marriage. The final point we must remember that might come as a surprise is that no one is ever right in an argument.
I asked my friend the other day whatever came of her dilemma she was facing, she smiled and said patience and forgiveness. She said that she suffered lots of tears and sleepless nights, but found great peace knowing that if she kept trying and trusted in God she would have love, peace, and joy back in her marriage. She spoke of the commitment she made the day she got married to always be by her husband’s side and consecrate all her time, talents, and strengths to making her marriage work. She quoted Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage and said, “In the day-to-day struggles of marriage we may fail to see that this ultimate sacrifice qualifies us for the ultimate reward. We shall ‘inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths’ all that the Father hath.” She said this is what kept her going knowing that through her hard work and dedication she could overcome the most difficult of struggles that she faced in her marital conflict. She knew that no sacrifice was too great in her life. She had promised God that she would do everything to protect her marriage, so she kept fighting. She sought forgiveness not only from her husband, but also from God. She learned that she needed to let go of “festering resentment” like Elder Faust spoke about it his address entitled Forgiveness because she knew that her marriage would be destroyed if she could not forgive.
In the scriptures it says, “And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead thee along.” (D&C 78:18). This was my friend. She cheerfully continued on bearing the burdens she could being lead by her Father in Heaven.
My friend said that there was one other thing that helped her overcome conflicts in her marriage. She said that she did the 30-day challenge that she read about in, Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage. She said that for 30 days you only show love, kindness, and appreciation to your partner. Are you willing to commit to the 30-day challenge to improve your marriage? Are you willing to only see the good in their intentions?
Are we willing to consecrate your marriage like my friend?