DIY: Building a Better Marriage
Written by Bethany Bartholomew
Worried that your marriage is feeling flat? Not feeling the same newlywed excitement you did years ago?
Some people’s first response would be to search for a marriage upgrade. But don’t give up on your marriage! This isn’t like trading baseball cards or trying to trade in an old phone. We’re talking about marriage here! This is something you make better from the inside.
A great religious leader, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, recently said, “In so many societies around the world, everything seems to be disposable. As soon as something starts to break down or wear out—or even when we simply grow tired of it—we throw it out and replace it with an upgrade, something newer or shinier.
“We do this with cell phones, clothes, cars—and, tragically, even with relationships.
“While there may be value in decluttering our lives of material things we no longer need, when it comes to things of eternal importance—our marriages, our families, and our values—a mind-set of replacing the original in favor of the modern can bring profound remorse.”***
So, if you want a better marriage, upgrading is not the answer. But you can still have a better marriage! The solution is to work on your marriage.
Don’t exchange for something better. Change for something better.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained it this way:
“Those who save their marriages understand that this pursuit takes time [and] patience.… In other words, it requires charity…All this won’t just happen in an instant. Great marriages are built brick by brick, day after day, over a lifetime.
“And that is good news.
“Because no matter how flat your relationship may be at the present, if you keep adding pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness, eventually a mighty pyramid will begin to grow.”
So here are some DIY steps to building a better marriage:
1. Add “pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness.”
This one seems simple. But it will feel hard sometimes. And that’s okay! Just start one pebble at a time. What’s one kind thing you can do for your spouse this week? Is your husband super busy but the car needs to be washed? See if you can fit a quick trip to the car wash into your schedule instead. Is your wife stressed about helping the kids with their schoolwork but the dishes need to be cleaned…badly? Surprise her by cleaning those dishes or at least unloading the dishwasher so that it’s ready for the next load.
And there’s more! It’s the little things that count. Like listening when your spouse needs to vent about a crazy driver on the freeway. Or taking a breath and trying to think from your spouse’s perspective when they get frustrated about something that might seem insignificant to you. Just one of these pebbles a day is enough to create that “mighty pyramid” of a marriage that lasts forever.
2. Celebrate differences.
We’re all different. Really different. When you were dating your spouse, you probably said, “Wow! We just have so much in common!” And that’s hopefully still true. But the small differences might have surprised you after you got married. Like how he brushes his teeth before flossing when you’ve always done it the other way. Or how she only eats oranges in slices but you really enjoy the satisfaction of peeling an orange yourself.
Cherish the differences! Instead of letting them frustrate you, let them make you laugh or even teach you something new.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf counseled, “Rather than attempting to force everyone into a mold of our own making, we can choose to celebrate these differences and appreciate them for adding richness and constant surprises to our lives.”
Life would be boring if we were all the same, even in our marriages. So enjoy being different. That’s probably what you’ll remember most about your spouse and what you’ll laugh about together in later years.
3. Have charity.
We usually think of charity as giving to a humanitarian organization or donating food at Thanksgiving time.
But what is charity in marriage? Charity is pure love. It is thinking more of your spouse than yourself. It’s giving your time, your attention, and your love completely and unconditionally.
And this takes work, but it’s worth the effort. Dieter F. Uchtdorf reassured, “Whatever problems your family is facing, whatever you must do to solve them, the beginning and the end of the solution is charity…. Without this love, even seemingly perfect families struggle. With it, even families with great challenges succeed.”
4. Be okay with being wrong.
This one can be really hard sometimes. But it starts with one of the simplest phrases: “I’m sorry.”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Sincerely apologizing to your children, your wife, your family, or your friends is not a sign of weakness but of strength.”
This is one pebble in the pyramid that can be so hard to lift. But it’s also one of the sturdiest building blocks of the whole pyramid. Being okay with being wrong, or even just starting with agreeing to disagree until the heat of an argument blows over, is one of the best ways to love selflessly.
5. Look for the good.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf cautioned, “If we look for imperfections in our spouse or irritations in our marriage, we will certainly find them, because everyone has some. On the other hand, if we look for the good, we will surely find it, because everyone has many good qualities too.
“Those who save marriages pull out the weeds and water the flowers. They celebrate the small acts of grace that spark tender feelings of charity.”
There’s plenty that you are doing right, even if you don’t always see it. And there’s plenty that your spouse is doing right. If you’re frustrated with your spouse or just feel like you can’t think of anything nice to say to them, start making a mental list. Did your spouse wake up to their alarm this morning? That might have been extra hard today. Give them a mental gold star. Did your spouse take their plate to the sink after dinner? Bonus points for remembering!
You’ll find what you’re looking for. So look for the good. It’s in there somewhere.
And now you have some steps to building a better marriage! You don’t have to upgrade to anything better. You can build your marriage into something better yourself. And, as Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,
“If it appears to take forever, remember: happy marriages are meant to last forever!"
“It may be a gradual work, but it doesn’t have to be a cheerless one. In fact, at the risk of stating the obvious, divorce rarely happens when the husband and wife are happy. So be happy!” And make your happy marriage pyramid stronger, one pebble at a time.
Photo Credit: Jason Corey Photography
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