A Family that Plays Together Stays Together

Successful marriages are established and maintained by . . . WHOLESOME RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES

This post is part of a 10-part series celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, specifically the sentence, “”Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”

I met Kerry on a Facebook group for LDS bloggers.  I always noticed Kerry was always so kind to share everyone’s posts and give such genuine, thoughtful comments on everyone’s work, expecting nothing in return.  I’ve been so impressed with her.  I love her post on the importance of having fun together and how to make it a priority!  – Celeste

My sister often displays a crafty sign at her house during the winter season that reads, ”A family that skis together stays together.” It fits their family. Our family might insert the verbs bikes, walks, or reads. Other families would add plays, swims, camps, or a whole host of other recreational options. It’s not really what you do that’s important. What is important is that you unplug from electronics and the chores of daily life and plug in to family time.

Here are some ways our family and extended family members enjoy wholesome recreational activities together:

Pick a sport.

As I mentioned, my sister’s family enjoys skiing every year, each family member in their own way. My brother-in-law hits the daredevil slopes with the boys and one of the girls. The youngest daughter prefers the gentle slopes with her mom and the hot chocolate back at the lodge. But they all rally at the lodge for meals and spend a night together at a nearby cabin.  Dad and Mom have incredibly busy schedules, so a winter weekend night away from home with family is just what they need, and their kids will always remember this family tradition.

Work together.

Growing up, we didn’t have a ton of opportunities to play. I don’t think we even heard of the term “wholesome recreational activities” for families. We lived on a farm and we worked. But we enjoyed the work, mostly. We raised sheep and crops. There’s something to be said about working together as a family. You can’t replicate the lessons learned working side-by-side with your kids. You talk. You work. You talk some more. So don’t just assign chores. Do them together.

Be simple and improvise.

I remember one windy spring day when my dad and his friend hooked our kite up to a fishing pole. The kite’s string was fairly short, so the kite wouldn’t go up very far in the sky. But with fishing line . . . Well, it seemed we had miles of opportunity! So that kite went up and up, seemingly for forever. It was amazing! I remember that incident like it was yesterday. It was so much fun. It didn’t cost anything, just a little time and some creative ingenuity. This simple example goes to show that not every activity has to be extravagant or planned. That can be tiring, especially for Mom. Sometimes simple and impromptu is better.

Go for walks.

Fast forward to my adult years, and I now have a wonderful husband and two handsome boys. We love to enjoy family walks together. Recently, we discovered that we particularly love to take walks right after rain storms. Why? Because that’s when the snails are out. Boys and snails go together, you see. Suddenly, the walk becomes a treasure hunt, an opportunity to spot snails and squash them! While this may not exactly be considered a “wholesome” activity, it’s amazing fun! You should try it, even if you’re not a kid.

Read good books.

We love to read good stories together and follow up with related field trips. Brainstorm ideas together. Family members will be more interested if they contribute ideas. Visit the library together. Explore different book formats. Talk about the storyline together. This will help children to develop language, reading, and comprehension skills as you’re building family unity.

Cook together.

Some parents shoo their children out of the kitchen. But that’s a mistake. Cooking is a prime time to teach math concepts and a much-needed life skill. Choose a time when you’re not hurried to make a meal, and select an easy recipe that everyone would like to eat. Then take your time making it.

Grow a garden.

We recently adopted a neighbor’s peach tree and had a lot of fun picking fruit together. The true reward was when we ate the delicious peach pie, which was even yummier because we’d made it all from scratch with peaches we’d grown ourselves. Our current home doesn’t have a garden spot, but in prior years, we’ve loved gardening as a family. It’s a great way to get picky eaters to eat their veggies, and it gets the whole family outside together.


Play board games, outside games, any type of games. Our family likes a variety of traditional games, but one you may not have heard about is Blokus. It’s a simple strategy game where you try to corner your opponents by blocking their plays with your own blocks. It has few rules, which I like, is easy to learn, and a game is quick to play. You only need two players, but it’s more fun with at least three. We also really like and recommend Phase 10 and Loaded Questions.

Join memberships.

Do a little research on activities that are close to your home. This year our family has enjoyed frequent visits to a nearby amusement park. The season passes are expensive, but with the amount of times we’ve gone, it’s now an inexpensive family activity. We’ve definitely gotten our money’s worth. So if you can afford it, consider a membership to a gym, zoo, aquarium, nature center—whatever is in your city. Seasonal passes are great too. Think of summer swim parks and ski passes, for instance. An added bonus? Some memberships are reciprocal, meaning they’ll work with multiple attractions. Click here for an example.

Families do need to play together. Sometimes we forget that. During hard times, we need good memories to fall back on. So it’s important that we create them.

Family fun. It matters.

What does your family enjoy doing together? What new things would you like to try?

Kerry Smith is a former editor for the
Ensign magazine. She currently writes for MyRandomSampler.com and TheSoulSpa@Sugardoodle. She and her husband, Cole, live in Utah with their two sons.

Successful Marriages are Established and Maintained by Work

Successful Marriages are Established and Maintained by . . . WORK.

By Lea Child

This post is part of a 10-part series celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, specifically the sentence, “”Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”

I’m so glad I asked Lea to guest post for this series. I’m also glad she was willing to talk about “work” in marriage. To be honest, sometimes when we hear about how hard marriage can be and how much work it takes … well it comes across like, “man, marriage, what a drag!” But I love how Lea is honest about how much work a successful marriage takes without making it sound like a drag at all 🙂  Such great examples and suggestions in here. Thanks Lea!       -Celeste


Sometimes (read: most of the time) when I see someone who is slender, healthy, and fit, I am a little envious. I think to myself, “Why can’t I look like that?” Then later, when I’m sitting on the couch eating chocolate, I admit that I probably could look like that if I actually put in the work and effort necessary.

Similarly, how many times do we see a happy, loving couple and we think, “they’re lucky” or “they’re blessed” or something similar? What we don’t see is the work and effort they put into their relationship. And that is the key to any relationship:


A simple word that carries so much meaning and importance. I think sometimes we tend to overlook it or brush it aside. It isn’t a word like faith or love or respect that carries a spiritual significance. Nonetheless, work is a vital aspect of marriage. Without it, honestly, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish all those other principles.

Happiness in marriage isn’t something that just happens. It takes work. Hard work. In looking at this I want to break it down into two sections: how successful marriages are established by work and how successful marriages are maintained by work.

Successful marriages take work. 

Successful Marriages are Established by Work

I want all of you to think back to when you first started dating your spouse. I personally enjoy thinking back on those first couple of months with my husband Greg. It was hard for either of us to believe that we might have actually found the person we would marry. There were certain things that were definitely effortless. We could talk and talk and talk. Conversation on dates and in between dates was never a problem. Other things, however, took effort. Like getting him to ask me on a date. Phew! Talk about work! Then further establishing our relationship by making sure that we did have time to go on dates in the midst of a very busy semester.

Once we were engaged, it seemed that the hard part was over. We had found one another! Of course, we were wrong. Dating was the easy part. Now we had to plan a wedding and a life together. I think we all know the work that goes into planning a wedding so I’m not going to talk about that.

What I am going to talk about is the time that we spent discussing our future. This took what I call a more abstract type of work. It wasn’t physical labor, but an emotional kind of work. I had to learn to open myself up and share with my future husband my goals and dreams for the future. Which, believe me, when you’re telling your future husband (who attended and taught public school) that you want to homeschool your children, it takes an emotional toll. Luckily, I was blessed with a man who was not only open to the idea but supportive of me. We discussed many things in the weeks leading up to our wedding – our opinions on child rearing, discipline, different gospel topics, etc.


While we were similar in some areas, we were different in others. Discovering those differences was vital and took work. We didn’t have a lot of time that summer, but we found the time to go on walks and have these discussions. Some of the differences weren’t significant, others we discussed in more depth.

All of this time spent talking about what is truly important helped us to establish a relationship based on open communication and trust. Of course, once we were married we had to further establish our relationship as we worked together to truly understand each others expectations, strengths, and weaknesses.

I wish I could say it was a seamless transition and everything was perfectly wonderful. We had our moments. My husband discovered my snappish side (usually fixed with food) and I discovered that his wonderful gift of the gab could result in him coming home a little later (30 minutes) than expected. However, we worked hard to maintain the open dialogue we had started prior to our marriage, further establishing our marriage.

Which leads me to the second part:

Successful Marriages are Maintained by Work


I think by this point, most of us are to the maintenance point of our marriage. With this in mind, I reached out to my siblings and their thoughts on work and marriage. My sister made a valid point when discussing the role of arguments in a marriage. She said that you shouldn’t let things fester. If your spouse is doing something that annoys you, let them know (preferably in a very loving and non-confrontational way).

This is better than letting it fester and then exploding. As my sister put it, “I would end up keeping things inside and then a teeny little argument happens and I just go off, leaving my husband thinking “Dang, I didn’t realize she cared about toothpaste so much.” I think we have all been there at one point. Or two or three or fifty. Just remember, there’s a big difference between “Hey, honey, would you mind doing such-and-such?” and “Why do you have to drive me nuts? You NEVER do such-and-such!”

Reaching out to our spouse, trying to understand one another is not an easy task. This is in large part because we are always changing. As we grow and develop, so should our marriage.

My brother said something which I found perfectly illustrated the point of maintaining a marriage. He said, “It…helps to think of a marriage relationship as a living thing. If you want a fruit tree to produce good fruit you have to work at keeping it healthy and pruned. There never comes a point where the fruit tree doesn’t need attention.”


As with any gospel principle, there will never come a time where we are completely done with maintaining a marriage. The minute we think that is the minute our marriage starts to take steps backwards. I do believe that there will be times when our marriage will be stronger than others.

As long as our overall progression is forward, then hopefully we will be the couple people look at and think how lucky and blessed we are.

How to Expand Your Capacity for Compassion in Your Marriage

Successful marriages are established and maintained by . . . COMPASSION.

By Amber Anderson

This post is part of a 10-part series celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, specifically the sentence, “”Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”

Amber has been my good friend and neighbor for the past four years and wow, I’m blown away by her post.  I feel like all the good marriage advice given on this blog somehow is summarized in Amber’s post.  Awesome stuff like how to really listen to your spouse, appreciate their feelings, see things from their point of view, pray for them, pray for compassion.  Guys, if we follow this advice, we will be SET!     – Celeste

PS  Today is actually and officially the 20th anniversary of the Family Proclamation!  Happy birthday Proclamation!  Celebrate by posting a picture of your family on social media with the hashtag #ILovetheFamilyProclamation

PSS  Another awesome giveaway of your choice of any three prints from Wild Berry Road at the end of the post!


Compassion in our families, specifically within our marriage, is not something that just happens. How does compassion strengthen my marriage? Does it strengthen my marriage? Well, I have to say, what I know about compassion in a marriage—and don’t dismiss this as cliché or mushy—I’ve learned from my husband.

When I asked my husband what he thinks of compassion and if it’s important to our marriage, his response was, “Yes.” But nothing more. He doesn’t think about being compassionate. He just is. He always shows me compassion, and it really helps me feel more at ease. I don’t feel like I’m trying to prove myself, or live up to some ridiculous standard, or pretend like everything is always gumdrops and sparkles. A few examples:

  • I have hard pregnancies that leave me practically useless for about 5 months. My husband picks up the slack, takes care of the house, the children, and me, without complaining. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him groan when he has to hold the bowl for me as I throw up, or clean up any messes. He’s never complained about having to cook me crazy sounding meals, or go get me one thing from the store because it’s what I need. I could go on and on with this list, but you get the idea. It’s not pretty. But he always shows more concern for me than for himself.
  • Dinner not cooked: “Fine, let’s just eat pancakes!”
  • House not clean: “It’s okay, you played with the kids today.”
  • Discouragement with my imperfect self: “I love you.”
  • Lose my cool: “Just keep trying. How can I help?”



His compassion strengthens me, which in turn strengthens my trust, love, and compassion for him. So, you see, it strengthens our marriage (key question answered: yes!)

Just because it does strengthen our marriage, doesn’t mean it’s a strength for me. I struggle with showing compassion for my husband. I have to pray for it, sometimes even within the moment. So, I’m no expert. I’m just trying to grow and better myself, in turn bettering and strengthening my marriage.

Some ways I try to show compassion for my husband:

  • When he’s worried about something or upset about something from work, I try to listen and appreciate his feelings.
  • When he’s tired, I try to help him relax, or in the least, let him feel at liberty to relax (and in his own way).
  • When we disagree, I really try to understand his perspective and opinion.
  • He doesn’t wear his feelings on his sleeve, so often my compassion is simply understanding his obligations and doing what I can to ease his stress level before it gets too high. Because if he’s talking about it, then it’s already too high! (Your spouse might be a bit more vocal.)

We are two different people. We feel compassion differently, and I think we both need compassion shown in different ways.

4 Ways to Show More Compassion in Your Marriage 

Here’s what I’ve gleaned from my husband’s wonderful example. How to be compassionate, even if the other person isn’t reciprocating, or you aren’t sure what they’re feeling, or what they need.

1)     Love them.

Love who they are, now. Don’t be upset that they’re not what you want them to be, or what you think they could be or should be. Just love them. Frozen says it best, “Throw a little love their way, and you’ll bring out their best!” Say it, show it with little notes, speak their love language.

2)     Listen to them.

Some people don’t wear the emotions on their sleeves. That can make it hard to know what they’re feeling and what they need. So listen. A small comment about a stressful day might be the only insight you have to giving them some leeway. Or the mentioning of a big project or responsibility might actually be a declaration of an overwhelmed spouse. Compassion is having empathy, pity, and concern. Can you feel that way if you don’t know what someone is experiencing? You can’t have compassion for someone if you don’t see the world through their eyes. It helps a lot if you allow them to paint a picture for you, rather than trying to imagine it all on your own. Along those same lines, don’t negate their concerns. It might not be something you’d be worried about, but if your spouse is worried about it, then you can practice showing that care and concern for them.

3)      Pray for them and for yourself.

Even if you’re not the praying type, consciously work the thought process in your mind. But if you are, work that thought process and plead for heavenly help to bless your spouse and aid you as you attempt to enlarge your compassion for the person you are committed to love. You’ll see miracles in yourself, in your spouse, and in your marriage.

4)     Do something.

The scriptures often use the phrase “moved by compassion” or “moved with compassion” or “moved to compassion.” Once we feel compassion, it’s still just warm fuzzies unless we act on it, unless it causes us to move. It’s one thing to hear your spouse say, “Wow, I have so many dishes to do tonight!” and you respond by showing sympathy, “oh yes, you do!” But that doesn’t mean you’re showing compassion. You need to respond with action. Help with the dishes, or just do them. I’m not saying you have to take over all chores, but be aware of what you can do to not just feel compassion, but to show it.


I’m trying to improve my compassion every day because I know how much it strengthens me when I’m shown compassion. If you better yourself and your capacity for compassion, and see your spouse in a softer light and better light because of those feelings, then your marriage will be better and stronger too.

If you are enjoying this series on my blog, be sure to check out the other awesome blogs participating in this series:CranialHiccups and Being LDS

You can also share your love of family by sharing photos online this month under the hashtag #ILovetheFamilyProclamation.

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The Wild Berry Road design shop is full of affordable digital prints perfect for so many spots in your home and they make great gifts as well. These designs are made to inspire and make you smile and hopefully find a little spot in your home to remind you of the power of words to inspire. Your can view our designs here www.thewildberryroad.etsy.com

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Choosing Love Over Fear When You Notice Your Spouse’s Imperfections 

Successful marriages are established and maintained by . . . LOVE.

By Celeste

This post is part of a 10-part series celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, specifically the sentence, “”Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”

I initially wrote this post last year, but I’ve shined it up a bit and given it a new title for our Celebrate the Proclamation series.  I think it fits well in talking about love because the opposite of love often is not hate, it’s fear.  If you find yourself fearing your spouse’s flaws- catch yourself and try to replace the fear with love.


Guess who has two thumbs and has no flaws…….. nobody.  That was a trick question.  Nobody is flawless.  Unfortunately that includes you.  Equally as unfortunate, that includes your spouse.

When you live together and have to make all major and sometimes minor decisions together, those flaws are bound to peak out and call attention to themselves.  When you see your spouse’s flaws, it’s all too easy to let fear take over.

“Wait a minute,” you say, “How long is this imperfection going to last?  Will you EVER get over this?  Why are you like this? Can you just get over this imperfection of yours, PLEASE?”

It can be really easy to fear not only each others flaws, but also the potential trajectory we fear that those flaws will take.

For example, if our spouse shows a tendency to be a little… unconcerned with neatness. We can fear that not only do they leave their socks lying around now, but we’re probably just stuck with a slob forever, who will never do the dishes or even notice that our house smells like feet.  They’ll never change.

Or if our spouse shows a tendency to be a little…. overly concerned with checking their phone.  We can fear that they would rather be alone with their phone than with us.  And we’re sure they’re not doing anything productive.  And probably they’re just addicted to it.  Yes, it’s become an addiction and we will be left to raise our children completely alone because our spouse is now married to their phone.  They’ll never change.

choosing to choose love over fear in your marriage 

Or if our spouse shows a tendency to be a little unconcerned with promptness or budgeting, or overly concerned with sports or nights out with friends or whatever.  The examples are endless.

One problem with letting fear creep into our perception of our spouses is that we start to lose HOPE in them.  Hope that they can change.  And when we do that, we start not believing in them. They can feel our loss of hope in them.  They may even start to believe it about themselves.  Then what are you left with?  Hopelessness, distrust, fear.

Don’t ever give up hope in your spouse’s ability to change.  They need you to believe in them.  You need you to believe in them.  Even if they don’t want to change yet (or ever), don’t doubt their ability to do it.

I think sometimes we get confused of our role in our marriages.  What is our role exactly?  Their parent?  Their buddy?  Are we responsible for THEIR self-improvement?

Could be.  Sometimes.  But I think more times, no.  I think feeling like we are responsible to correct our spouse’s flaws will lead to nagging, frustration, hopelessness and fear.  And it will probably lead our spouse to the crazy house (because it will drive them CRAZY) or at least to want to sleep on the couch.

So what is our role?  I think it is to love.  I think it is to have faith in our spouse, to believe in them.  And when it’s hard?  And when we think they’ve done nothing to “deserve” it?  Believe in them anyway.


And when you see flaws* and fear rears its ugly head?  Say, “Flaws?  Yeah, I see them.  I’ve got plenty of my own.  I choose now to set those aside, see past them and remember all the reasons to love my spouse and choose to believe in them.”

Sometimes we need to remember why we married them.  Remember how smart, funny, attractive, inspiring we found them.  Remember they still are smart, funny, attractive and inspiring.  Sometimes our lens just needs a little cleaning.

Everyone can change.  You can change.  I can change.  And even if our spouses don’t choose to change as quickly as we would like or in the exact way we would like, remember- that’s ok.  You can love them anyway. Choose to hope. Choose to love.

Remember perfect love casteth out fear.

* I’m not talking about abuse or serious addiction flaws here.  If those are their flaws, seek some professional help.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T and Marriage: It’s What You Need (and Baby, I Got It)

Successful marriages are established and maintained by . . . . RESPECT.

By Rich

This post is part of a 10-part series celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, specifically the sentence, “”Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”

You guys- Rich is posting again!!!  Huzzah!  I’m very excited about it and of course I love it.  While he was working on this I jokingly said, “You writing the respect article?  It better involve Aretha.”  To which he said, “You have no idea.”  🙂  Love him.

PS  ANOTHER Giveaway at the end of this post! And you could win a T-shirt of the sentence from the Proclamation we’ve chosen to do this series on. Then you’ll never forget!  🙂  -Celeste


It’s very likely that the Aretha Franklin song “Respect (R-E-S-P-E-C-T)” is the most famous spelling-lesson-that’s-actually-a-song of all time. It was released in 1967, almost 50 years ago now, but remains such an undeniably awesome song that over those nearly 50 years a few of things have happened.

1) Everyone knows how to spell “respect”
2) As soon as you hear Aretha, the Queen of Soul, belt out “WHAT you want” you instantly know what this song is:

Oh, and 3) her song became so popular that you might not know that it’s not actually Aretha Franklin’s song at all (whaaaaa?).

The original song “Respect” was written and performed by the KING of Soul, Otis Redding (if you’re not familiar, his most well-known song is probably “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”). Otis’ original version of the song is the story of a forlorn man with a partner that runs around on him, but he’s still willing to give her anything she wants, anything she needs. He just wants a little respect when he comes home. It’s not a healthy relationship to say the least, devoid of respect from both partners (and when he does mention “respect” in the song’s chorus, it’s mostly likely a sad, ironic… um, euphemism). It’s sad.

Aretha’s version, while technically a “cover,”flips the song and it’s meaning entirely. It’s now from the perspective of a confident, secure woman who is sure that she, herself, is EXACTLY what her partner wants and needs (“What you want – baby I got it!”). She is invested in the relationship (“Ain’t gonna do you wrong, cuz I don’t wanna”). She’s not even demanding equal investment of resources into their relationship (“I’m ‘bout to give you, all my money”). But the thing she needs? The thing she won’t compromise on? She needs respect. And so do the rest of us.

For being so crucial to a healthy marriage, respect is interesting because it’s an emotion that in a lot of ways is completely separate from the “love” and “romance” aspects of marriages. There’s probably a long list of people you respect, only some of whom you might say you love. But you also respect treacherous mountain roads, loaded weapons, and bears who might wander across your hiking trail. So you can see why it would be emotionally confusing if respect only went hand-in-hand with romance.

So if respect doesn’t necessarily come along with romance, and if we know strong marriages are built solidly on a relationship of respect, then how do we go about feeling, improving, or re-acquiring the respect we should have for our spouses? That’s a tall order, but I’ll try a few ideas.

Respect and Marriage: We all need it, but we don't all give it.  

1. The Opposite of Respect

I know I already said that I don’t think respect develops naturally out of a purely romantic attraction. I think respect shores up love, helps love to grow, but respect isn’t necessarily love in and of itself. So what is the connection between respect and love? It might help to consider what it’s opposite is.
I don’t think the opposite of “respect” is “hate.” Hate is a strong, negative emotion toward something or someone that has influenced you deeply. Hate is the action of consciously or unconsciously focusing negative energy against something, while its opposite, love, is actively finding, celebrating and promoting positive feelings about something.

The opposite of respect isn’t hate. It’s contempt.

Contempt is anger mixed with disgust. Contempt is seeing something or someone and dismissing them as not worthy of you. They’re not only less than you, worse than you, but offensive to you by the way the take up your energy, your attention. Contempt chokes and masks the humanity we should see in everyone, but it’s especially vicious against those close to us. To those close to us, contempt doesn’t just let us ignore them and their needs. Contempt toward one’s spouse or loved ones breeds active resentment. Anything seen through a filter of contempt is pathetic, worthless, and incapable of any redeeming characteristics.

There’s a saying that “familiarity breeds contempt,” to which I would add, “And contempt breeds divorce.” One reason why writing a blog post about respect is so tough is because contempt, utter lack of respect, seems to me a practically insurmountable obstacle. I don’t know how to come back from that. I hope few of us ever feel that way toward others, especially toward our spouses. But fortunately, there are some experts who have some ideas on ways we can literally act more respectfully, less contemptuously.

2. Turning toward your spouse

John Gottman and his wife Julie are psychologists who research relationships and marriages. In extensively studying and observing newly wed couples, their humdrum, day-to-day interactions, the Gottmans and their colleagues identified behaviors, small indicators, that let them predict with (I’m going to capitalize this for emphasis) REMARKABLE accuracy whether or not these couples would still be married or divorced in six years. How accurate? 94% of the time Gottman could predict, based on these indicators, the future success of the marriage. An extensive article, called “Masters of Love,” reviewing their research was published last year.

What were the indicators? From the article:

Throughout the day, partners [will] make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

Turning-toward means engaging. Physically turning! Literally looking them in the eye. Paying attention. Connecting. Respecting.

Ultimately, it’s not that the wife respects bird watching, respects notable bird watchers, or respects the skill involved in noticing birds. But that she cares enough, is kind enough to notice a bid for attention, for connection, and respond. She is respecting her partner (his interests matter), she’s respecting his feelings (he wants a connection) and respecting her relationship (that connection matters). Substitute any number of “bids” for a connection that you make, that your spouse makes, and think about how you are responding to them and you’ll get an excellent idea of how you are demonstrating kindness and developing respect in your marriage.

Oh AND before we get too far off the topic of bids and birds, I’ll just leave this small joke of a tweet that I wrote long before reading this article:



One last quote from the excellent “Masters of Love” article:

Contempt . . . is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder—deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally—damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued.

3. “Give me my propers, when you come home”

So how can you cultivate respect? Turning-toward during your spouse’s bids for connection is excellent advice. General kindness, patience and understanding are certainly crucial. Anything else?

Let’s get back to Aretha and “Respect”:

I’m about to give you all of my money
And all I’m askin’ in return, honey

Is to give me my propers

When you get home

Propers? First off, great word. It means the respect that someone is owed. I think it’s perfect that she’s asking for recognition of what she deserves when (the unnamed) he comes home. Because in the home is where you likely see more of each other than anywhere else (and, since we know familiarity breeds contempt), what better place to list out and reflect on the things they do and are that deserve respect.

So think about it: What DOES your spouse deserve? What are some of the difficult tasks you see them always doing? What are they really good at doing? What about the things they do that you know doesn’t come easily, that you know is really hard for them to do? How have they changed their lives to benefit you? How have they become the person THEY wanted to be?

I hope it goes without saying that every person deserves respect, empathy and compassion. But if you want to try and foster respect in your marriage, think about the specific things that impress you, that you aspire to, in your spouse. However accomplished you are, at however many things, without a doubt there will be things your spouse is better at. Perhaps many things (it’s not a contest, guys). A more passive form of contempt is taking someone for granted: perhaps they don’t disgust you, but you think so little of them, you don’t notice them at all. Don’t let that be you. Notice, list, and verbalize to your spouse what it is that you respect and admire about them. 

Give them their propers when you come home.

So in the end, what does R-E-S-P-E-C-T mean to marriages?

A lot. (“Sock-it-to-me, sock-it-to-me, sock-it-to-me, sock-it-to-me…”)

If you are enjoying this series on my blog, be sure to check out the other awesome blogs participating in this series:CranialHiccups and Being LDS

You can also share your love of family by sharing photos online this month under the hashtag #ILovetheFamilyProclamation.

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