In the most recent semi-annual conference for our church, one of my favorite leaders and speakers, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, aka "the silver fox", gave a talk titled 'In Praise of Those Who Save'. There were a lot of great talks given during conference, but I'd have to say that this one was by far my favorite. While the talk centers on a lot of the beliefs that we as Latter-Day Saints have in regards to marriage and family, the overall message of his talk is very applicable to couples, families and individuals no matter their faith. I'd encourage you to read the entire thing when you have some time, but I've picked out a few of my favorite quotes and shared them with my thoughts below.
President Uchtdorf starts his talk by telling a story of an elderly couple that he once noticed. They were holding hands and obviously cared for each other deeply. I think a lot of us can relate to an observation like his. I hear people admiring couples who have been married for years and are still outwardly showing signs of affection and love. It's hard to see an older couple out and about, interacting with each other in such a loving way without smiling and admiring them. President Uchtdorf then notes that although he's not sure why exactly he was so affected by this couple, there are a few things that may have contributed to his feelings. He notes that "the sweetness and love these two people shared for one another....[is] a compelling symbol of perseverance and commitment" which, in today's world, where so many societies are treating objects and even relationships as disposable, is becoming more and more rare.
"Strong marriage and family relationships do not [just happen]...they require constant, intentional work... [We must be inspired to] dedicate our best efforts to saving and enriching our marriages and families."
Can you see why this talk was my favorite?! Making your marriage, your spouse and your family a priority is something that I'm extremely passionate about. There are so many reasons why these relationships should be at the top of your list and so many simple things you can do to make them that way. This talk laid it all out better than I ever think that I could. Those in society who think that beta-marriages are the way to go, or who go into marriage assuming that it will end at some point, are far and few between, I would hope, but their casual attitude toward such an important relationship is discouraging. We need more people with a strong dedication to their marriages and families!
"We are not so much looking for someone perfect, but for a person with whom, throughout a lifetime, we can join efforts to create a loving, lasting and more perfect relationship. That is the goal."
No person is perfect and I'm willing to be that there isn't someone out there who has all of the qualities, talents, looks and abilities that we might have put on our list of things that we were looking for in a future spouse when we were younger. I know that Joe far from meets my teenage self's idea of who the perfect man was for me, but he is more perfect for me than I ever could have planned or hoped for.
Through everything that we have gone through in our five years of marriage and will go through in future years, we have a goal to conquer challenges and grow together rather than letting the obstacles we face push us apart. Those things that we've experienced together already have made us the couple that we are today and strengthened our relationship in so many ways!
This year, since we were celebrating five years of marriage, Joe and I thought that it might be a good idea to set some goals for the things that we want to accomplish over the next five years. We'll review our list each year and make plans that will help us reach those milestones we've set for 2021! It's a very practical anniversary tradition but one that I really love. Along with the goals that we've set as a couple, we have our own personal goals, but in a way, they are joint goals as well. They are things that we want to accomplish individually, but because we have made each other a priority, we have also made each other's endeavors a priority as well. Our goal in life is to create a happy home and provide an environment that helps build a happy family relationship which will result in happy children, a happy marriage and happy individuals.
"Great marriages are built brick by brick, day after day, over a lifetime."
Your relationship isn't instantaneously finished and perfect the day that you get married. Saying, 'I do' doesn't change the state of the strength of your marriage, it only changes the nature of your relationship and your titles. Just like you worked hard to build your relationship while you were dating, you have to continue to work hard to build your relationship while you are married. It will ebb and flow and there will be ups and downs, but over time, if you are putting forth effort every single day, you will look back and see that you have been on a gradual incline and have come so far from where you started. I look back on the beginning of our relationship, and it was good, but it has grown and matured and gotten even better over time because we have been constantly working on it. Strong marriages don't just happen because you have been together for a number of years. Strong marriages happen over time, but they require constant, consistent and intentional effort in order to become great.
"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."
There you go, right there, a list of all of the things that you can be working on daily to help you become a better person and contribute to creating a better relationship! Yes, marriage is a team sport and family relationships take more than one person to make them work, but if you aren't doing the above things on your own, as an individual in those relationships, you aren't doing everything you can to make them work.
I feel like selflessness and sacrifice go hand in hand. If you are willing to make a personal sacrifice for the good of your relationship, you are most likely being selfless. And you have to set aside your selfish desires in order to be willing to make those sacrifices. The last couple of years have required Joe and I to make many personal sacrifices, and some joint sacrifices in order to help each other accomplish something or to achieve a goal that we'd set as a couple. Sacrificing hasn't always been easy, especially when it has required one of us to carry more weight in the relationship or make a great personal sacrifice when compared to the other. We have to keep the end goal in mind, recognizing the ways that the current situation will benefit us as a whole in the end.
Really, all six types of "pebbles" go together. no person will be perfect at them, but making a concerted effort every day is what really matters and what will make the difference in your relationship.
"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."
It's like I said in my grounds for marriage post on Monday, if you are looking for things to hold against your spouse, those will be the only things that we notice. But if we start to look for the things that make us love our spouse and want to remain married to them, those annoyances will seem insignificant and we will have a harder time dwelling on them.
Joe has been putting a lot of time into his lawn care business this summer, in addition to working full time at his day job. A lot of nights, he doesn't get home until I'm almost ready to go to bed and almost every night, he's home after Bensen is asleep. There was a week earlier this month when I took time off work to be a stay-at-home mom and wife for a bit, but I joked with Joe that I really just felt like a single, stay-at-home mom because he had so many emergency projects and was gone every night until after bedtime, so I was taking care of all of the parenting duties on my own. I loved spending so much time with my little guy, but it was exhausting! The last couple of months, but that week especially, have helped me recognize and appreciate everything that Joe does in our home, for our family and in our marriage. I knew that he'd done a lot to support me while I was in school, but I appreciated it even more once the roles were reversed and I was taking on more so that he could get caught up on the things he'd been neglecting so that I could achieve my goal.
I'm not perfect, and I still find myself getting irritated with Joe for leaving a mess in the kitchen that I worked so hard to clean or some little thing that he's done that has annoyed me. I'm working really hard to be better about this though and I know that focusing on more positive things has made me more aware of them on a daily basis.
"Remember why you fell in love. Work each day to make your marriage stronger and happier."
One of my favorite things to do is read my old journal entries, the love story here on the blog, or the many posts that I've written that tell our whole story in detail. I love thinking back on the early stages of our relationship, how giddy we were and why I fell for Joe as quickly as I did. I also think about all of the reasons that he is the perfect man for me and the qualities he has that I never thought I wanted or needed in a husband.
Thinking back on the beginning of our relationship and all of the moments that went into us falling in love makes me more determined to make my marriage a priority and keep those feelings of love alive! And the best part is, the more that we work on our relationship, the better it gets, so we're really more in love and happier than we were when we first fell in love and got married!
President Uchtdorf goes on to talk about making your family a priority and like I said, the entire talk is amazing. These are just a few parts that really stood out to me, especially as it relates to prioritizing your marriage relationship and the things that I talk about here on the blog. I'd encourage you to read the rest of it, whether you are a member of our faith or not!
What can you do today to make sure you're not treating your marriage relationship as if it's disposable?