“Good communication includes taking time to plan together. Couples need private time to observe, to talk, and really listen to each other. They need to cooperate—helping each other as equal partners. They need to nurture their spiritual as well as physical intimacy. They should strive to elevate and motivate each other. Marital unity is sustained when goals are mutually understood. Good communication is also enhanced by prayer. To pray with specific mention of a spouse’s good deed (or need) nurtures a marriage.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) Nurturing Marriage, Liahona, May 2006).
The best class I ever took in my life was a “family living” class in high school. I took it because it was the only class open when I had to drop geometry, but it turned out to be the class that would keep me married. The best thing I learned there: “If you have bad news, feed him first.” Good communication doesn’t happen in a marriage when one or the other walks through the front door after a hard day, the kids are fighting, and there’s a pot boiling over on the stove. Feed the family, send the kids off to play (or wait until they are in bed), and then discuss important matters.
Communication is a two-way street—that means listening; not just speaking. You are not two individuals; you are one couple—equal partners. Communication is cooperation. When I think my husband and I aren’t communicating, it is usually because I want to be right, as opposed to wanting to listen and work things out. Maybe I’m not hearing what he is communicating, or maybe I’m too busy planning what I’m going to say next. Is he even ready to talk? Maybe he wants to talk to me but doesn’t have his own thoughts together yet and needs to think things through before making the attempt. Do I need to give him a little space and not push? My husband was married before and had been hurt deeply. It took him a number of years before I gained his total trust so he would completely open up to me. Patience was essential in eventually learning to communicate with him.
Nurture Spiritual and Physical Intimacy
I’m a people watcher, and young couples are cute to watch. Their love is fresh and innocent. They look in each other’s eyes and giggle. Elderly couples often make joyful tears come to my eyes. Those are the couples who have been through the refiner’s fire. They have seen it all, felt it all, and experienced it all. When they look in each other’s eyes, there is more than a giggle; there is Christ-like love. There is devotion. There is trust. There is honor and respect. They have had a lifetime to nurture each other. They have prayed together. They have prayed for each other. Many nights have been spent discussing the ways of the world and the ways of God. As they have grown spiritually together, physical intimacy means much more than it did when they were young. A gentle touch brings back memories of long ago. Life is somehow sweeter—kinder. There is power in the knowledge of what is important, and that only comes with time, age, experience, and a lifetime of nurturing, elevating, and motivating each other.
How can you not love someone who prays for you and with you? My husband asked me to pray with him each night when we were first married. I had been taught to pray as a child, but couple prayers or family prayers were not something that was part of my upbringing. My parents came from two separate faiths. Although they joined the Mormon Church when I was ten years old, they were never active church members. So when my husband asked me to pray with him, it was a little strange for me, but I did it because it was important to him. Looking back, if I could pick just one thing that we did that kept our family together, it would be prayer. I will always be immensely grateful for a husband who knew the importance of praying together. When our oldest daughter went off to college, she would often call at 9:00 p.m. on the dot. She knew it was prayer time at home—something she sorely missed. As we held the receiver up to whoever was offering the prayer, she would participate in family prayer with us.
Nurture your marriage with prayer. Pray with your spouse. Pray with your children. Pray over meals. Pray morning and evening. Pray when you’re angry or upset. Pray when you’re grateful and joyful. Pray when you’re driving. Carry a constant prayer in your heart.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.