In a day and age where the institution of marriage is subject to more attacks from the devil than ever before, it is more imperative than ever for us guys to approach the search for Mrs. Right with the most important parts of a marriage at the forefront of our attention.
In my search for my wife, I had some guidance from my patriarchal blessing, but it wasn’t until I was engaged to my then-to-be wife that I realized my interpretation of my patriarchal blessing was a far cry from what it actually meant. If I had known then what I know now about what I should have been looking for, the process would have gone much more smoothly. There are quite a few aspects of my marriage that have become indispensable, and I wish I would have began working on them sooner. For now, I will summarize three of them.
1. Learn How to Balance Trust and Vulnerability
Every marriage counselor will tell you that one of the most important skills you can possibly gain to build a wonderful, blissful marriage is communication. I know there are plenty of guys out there who are not good at talking about emotions, whether it be their own or their wife’s. However, one thing I have learned from experience is that if you want a happy eternal marriage for you and your wife, you must learn to have conversations where both of you are completely and totally vulnerable about your opinions and feelings while speaking in a way that makes it easy for you both to trust and love each other even more.
This can be a difficult skill to develop. Your version of “yelling” or “raising your voice” can be very different from that of your wife. Nobody hears how they sound to others in a conversation. Also, some words or phrases that felt normal and common to you growing up may accidentally come across as offensive, hurtful, or rude to your spouse.
One example I remember is when I used to say “You’re going down, clown” to my brothers while we were playing a competitive game together. Back then it was interpreted innocently enough, but the first time I used it while playing a game with my wife, she interpreted it as rude and name-calling—and technically, she was right. The most important factor in developing this skill is to learn what really makes your wife tick and for her to do the same with you. Both of you need to be willing to make some emotional sacrifices and learn to find a balance between not taking offense easily and deciding what is truly rude and offensive in conversation.
2. Society’s Version of Equality in Marriage is Not the Lord’s
The core issue I’m getting at here is based on gender expectations and how tolerant or intolerant we expect one gender or the other to be about sarcastic and demeaning humor.
In renowned marriage and family therapist’s Dr. John Lund’s book, Without Offense: The Art of Giving and Receiving Criticism, he wrote:
“The word [sarcasm] originally came from the Greek sarkazein, meaning, literally, “to strip the flesh.” People justify the use of sarcasm because it is infused with humor. The one being sarcastic can always claim humor as his or her objective, while removing a strip of flesh from the one lashed by the tongue of the critic. For example, a husband might say, “I like your hair, dear. I wonder how it would look if you combed it.” It’s a funny line. Everyone laughs. Even the one who is the target of the joke may laugh, but inside, where self-worth abides, she bleeds a little and feels less worthy as a human being.”
Similarly, just because society expects men to be able to humorously accept stereotypical insults like, “Oh, just let them do the dumb guy thing,” as okay doesn’t make it right. Of course men and women have divinely engineered, biological differences in the way we communicate. That doesn’t mean, however, that husband or wife should deal out or accept commonly accepted stereotypical insults just because the corresponding weaknesses in one gender or the other are ever prevalent. Expecting those weaknesses is a far cry from exploiting them or, worse yet, weaponizing them.
I grew up in an environment where phrases like “You’re my better half” were common and used humorously and even affectionately. The intent was, admirably, to emphasize how highly men thought of their wives—but anything that elevates one spouse by sacrificing the worth of the other is not the Lord’s way. As “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” states, “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (emphasis added). So find out what that means for you and your wife or fiancée.
As men, we are expected to (and we certainly should) treat our wives like queens, the goddesses they will one day be. But I don’t think it is wrong to say we should also expect our wives to treat us like kings, the gods we will one day be—and neither at the expense of the other.
3. Expect (and Even Hope) That Some Differences Between You and Your Wife Are Not Just Different, But Totally Opposite
This might sound a little weird to some people, but I only found the true value of this after my wedding. Some things beforehand were more obvious: I am very outgoing, while my wife prefers to blend into the background. Other things were not so obvious at first: we both love music, but our approach to practice, teaching, and performance is vastly different. Our learning styles are polar opposites. In order to really understand what I’m learning, I have to go through things hands-on, doing the whole “fly by the seat of my pants” thing. I audibly and visually process things very quickly, focusing on the big picture, but sometimes I miss little details. My wife, on the other hand, learns better by reading things through, meticulously going from the ground up. I get the most out of studying my scriptures by simply going cover to cover over and over again; my wife gains more by going topic by topic.
Many of these differences come up frequently when we are spending time together participating in the interests we have in common. On more occasions than I can count, we have learned to find the value of each other’s contrasting strengths. When some of our more pronounced character traits becomes excessive and damaging to our marriage, we have seen a great need to use these complimentary differences to balance each other out.
Jesus Christ Himself is the epitome of balance, and even though it sounds uncomfortable at first, finding a wife with contrasting traits (both diametric and complimentary) is often one of the best favors we can do ourselves. It can help both you and your wife learn humility and patience more effectively.
It certainly helped me.
Paul served a mission in the then Canada Toronto West Mission and currently lives with his amazing wife, Lorraine, in Hamilton, Ontario. He serves as the Ward Organist and Assistant Ward Music Chairman. He loves missionary work, piano, blogging (you can find his personal blog here!), and gaming. He can solve a 5x5x5 Rubik's cube, and puts a lot of time into gospel scholarship