Achieving Happiness in Our Marriage
In the movie “Fiddler on The Roof”, Tevia asks his wife Golda, “do you love me?” He asked the question because theirs was a marriage made by a matchmaker, as was their custom. But one of his daughters had rejected that custom as old fashioned and wanted to marry someone that she loved. He had thought about that and so he asked his wife, “do you love me?”
Golda responded by telling him all of the things that she had done for him for 25 years. But Tevia persisted, “Golda, do you love me?” She went on with another list of things that she does for him. But Tevia again says, “no Golda, do YOU LOVE ME?” Golda then replies, if that’s not love, then what is? And Tevia responds: “Then you love me?” And Golda replies: “I suppose I do” Then Tevia says: “Then I suppose I love you too!”
I’m sure Tevia loved his wife for all the things that she did for him, but that was not what he wanted to know. He wanted to know if, in spit of all the problems and rough times they had, was their 25 years together worth it? Would she do it again? They loved each other enough to sacrifice temporary and fleeting things for those things that would bring true happiness and eternal blessings.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said in his book, “Standing For Something”:
“Too many who come to marriage have been coddled and spoiled and somehow led to feel that everything must be precisely right at all times, that life is a series of entertainments, that appetites are to be satisfied without regard to principle, that no one could be expected to endure the hardship and challenge that comes at one time or another into most marriages. How tragic are the consequences of such hollow and unreasonable thinking! . . . I fear that marriage, which was once regarded as a sacred sacrament, is increasingly becoming a secular experiment – if it works, great, if not, try something (or someone) else. People seem to be losing a sense of accountability, not only to one another but to God.” (Standing For Something, p.131-132.)
In a broadcast fireside given on January 29, 1984,President Hinckley gave us four cournerstones for our foundation that we should build our homes (“Cornerstones of a Happy Home, Gordon B. Hinckley, 29 January 1984).
1. The first cornerstone: Mutual respect and loyalty to one another.
“I have long felt that happiness in marriage involves a willingness to overlook weakness and mistakes. I like what one man said: ‘Love is not blind – it sees more, not less, but because it see more, it is willing to see less.’ “If husbands and wives would only give greater emphasis to the virtues that are to be found in one another and less to the faults, there would be fewer broken hearts and promises, fewer tears, fewer divorces, and much more happiness in their homes…Cultivate that kind of respect which expresses itself in kindness, forbearance, patience forgiveness, true affection and without show of authority.”
President Hinckley mentioned forgiveness as part of that cornerstone. One of the problems couples have is they do not let their spouse know that they have done something to hut them and it festers until things explode. One speaker at a BYU devotional told the story of a couple he was counseling. He asked the wife to give some examples of something her husband had done to hurt her. They had been married for 10 years and she said when they were first married and she was in labor having their first child her husband said to her: “I hope this is not going to take long because the game is starting.”
Now I’m sure some of you guys out there are saying: “What, what’s wrong with that?” If you are thinking it, stop don’t say anything! She had held that in for 10 years and never said anything. And now their marriage was about to end. I wonder what would have happened had she said something to her husband instead of keeping if bottled up until the pressure of everything popped the lid off and now there was little they could do to fix things. We need to forgive and allow our spouses to be forgiven.
2. The Second cornerstone: The soft answer.
“Quiet talk is the language of love. It is the language of peace. It is the language of God. Who can calculate the depth and pain of the wounds inflicted by harsh and mean words spoken in anger? . . . In every marriage, there are occasional differences. But I find no justification for tempers that explode at the slightest provocation.”
3. The third cornerstone: Financial honesty.
“I believe that money is the root of more trouble in marriage than all other causes combined. We live in an age of persuasive advertising and skillful salesmanship, all designed to entice us to spend. An extravagant husband or wife can jeopardize any marriage. . . I am confident that there is no better discipline, nor one more fruitful with blessings in the handling of our resources, than obedience to the commandment (of tithing).”
One of the things that help with our finances is paying an honest tithing. I have heard some say that they can’t afford to pay tithing or other offerings. My response to them always is I can’t afford not to pay tithing. Tithing has never been a problem for my wife or me. We have always paid a full tithing and we have been blessed because of it. We have never gone with out. It has been difficult many times, but we have always had sufficient for our needs. I know that paying tithing works. It really does.
We must learn to live within our means. We must avoid dept, we must be willing to pay our tithes and offerings, and we must be willing to set aside enough to carry us through when the storms rage around us. I remember Elder Hartmon Rector Jr. once said that if we would pay 10% to the Lord first, then if we would put 10% in the bank or savings, or whatever. That when we retired we would be independent and never have to worry about finances. That is a wonderful promise and a true principal to strive for - 10% to the Lord and 10% to savings.
4. President Hinckley’s fourth cornerstone: Prayer
“I know of no other practice that will have so salutary effect on our lives as will the practice of kneeling together as a couple in prayer. The storms that seem to afflict every marriage become of small consequence when we are kneeling before the Lord and addressing Him as suppliant sons and daughters.”
I remember reading a story about a family that was transferred from Salt Lake City to New Jersey. In addition to culture shock, they also experienced “sticker shock” as they searched for a new home. They knew what area they wanted to live in, but found that they only qualified for a home in the least expensive homes in the area. They were shown one home that was a “fixer upper”. It was so filthy that they couldn’t get out of it fast enough. Several days later their real estate agent called to tell them that the price had dropped another $15,000. That put it in the price range that they were looking for, so they decided to take another look at it. It was still as filthy as before. After looking at it thoroughly, they went back to their rental to pray about it. The father was inspired to ask his three-year-old daughter to say the prayer.
“During her prayer, Katie said, ‘…Heavenly Father, should we buy this house?’ And then she paused. She paused so long that both my wife and I opened our eyes to see what she was doing. At about that time, she peeked up at us and whispered excitedly, ‘He said Yes!’”
Going back to the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”. Tevia is having a conversation with the Lord and he asks if it so wrong to be rich. He asks: “would it spoil some vast eternal plan, if I were a wealthy man?” Well like Tevia, we have never been wealthy, nor do we expect that we ever will be. But we are happy – well, most of the time anyway. We are confident in the Lord’s promises to pour out his blessings on us as we keep the covenants that we made in the temple. We are confident in the bond that keeps us together as husbands and wife. We are confident in the covenant that our children will be ours for all eternity if we as a family can endure through our mortal trials and endure to the end. While the storms rage and howl around us, we are confident in the knowledge that our house is built on a solid foundation - the foundation of temple covenants and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And so I go back to what Tevia and Golda finally concluded: “if that’s not love – what is?” Then they both sing: “After 25 years, it doesn’t change a thing, but even so – it’s nice to know!”
It is nice to know that our spouse really does love us; do we tell our spouse that we love them everyday? Our love for each other is as tender as our testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we are not spiritually fed everyday, we can lose the spirit and we become prey to those in the world that would pull us from the gospel path. The same is true of our marriages. We need to do something everyday to nurture the love we have for each other and then show our spouse how we feel by doing something for them daily.
There was a reason that we were attracted to our spouse. We fell in love and got married because of that love. If for some reason that love is not as it was when we were first married, then we need to remember why we chose to marry. We need to go back and court our spouse as we did before we were married. Everyday we are together is precious and we must treat each other that way. Only then can we have eternal happiness in our marriages.