A review of the book For All Eternity by Dr. John Lund.
My friend Sabrina, who posted her Share the Love post with us last month had such great advice that she gleaned from the book For All Eternity that I knew I had to ask her to do a separate book review post. Even if you don’t think you’ll read the book, you should seriously get in on the advice/overview she’s written for us. This post is littered with gold nuggets of communication wisdom. Content communicating?? Gold! Thanks Sabrina!
Book: For All Eternity by Dr. John Lund
Reviewer: Sabrina Gardner
Consensus: two thumbs up!
When Matt and I were first married, we went on a road trip and listened to a book on CD called For All Eternity, by Dr. John Lund. We’ve listened and read it a couple times since then and have implemented a lot of what Dr. Lund teaches. One of the main ideas of his book is learning to decipher our own expectations:
“Communication is an exchange of understanding. All frustration comes from unmet expectations. There is no such thing as someone who is frustrated who did not have an expectation that was unmet.”
If I expect Matt to come home from a full day of work (after biking 8 miles, as he does most days) and help immediately with our three children or pay attention to me, I am setting myself up for disappointment. He comes home tired and needs time to decompress. When I adjust my expectation of when I will get help from him, I can be calm, knowing that in 15 minutes, he will be happy and ready to help.
This doesn’t apply just to our spouses. When our second child was born, I was expecting him to be like his older sister who had slept solidly through the night very early on. When that didn’t happen, I was incredibly frustrated. Our son was about four months old when one night I woke Matt up and told him I was just done with this boy who wouldn’t sleep and I needed Matt to help him because I was becoming too frustrated to be kind. After taking care of the baby, Matt gently reminded me to change my expectation of what our baby would do and my frustration level would go down. He was right, and after I adjusted my expectations, I felt like I could deal better with our children.
Dr. Lund suggests communicating in a way he calls content communicating, meaning you hold yourself and your spouse accountable for every word spoken. People typically rely on facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice during a conversation, and can easily misinterpret what the other person is trying to say. Content communication avoids these misunderstandings by committing to rely on only verbal cues and owning your statements. If my husband doesn’t understand what I want, it’s my fault because I did not communicate it clearly.
Content communicating is about stating the desired outcome clearly and with respect and kindness in such a way that it cannot be misunderstood. It is our job to communicate our own needs and expectations clearly.
One story in particular that Dr. Lund tells has stuck with us and we have often referred to it. A family of five siblings were all going through divorces, and one member invited Dr. Lund into their home to see if there was a systemic problem in the family. Dr. Lund noted that during dinner, the father of these siblings would stare at a dish on the table that he wanted. Someone eventually would notice and ask if he wanted the gravy… no… the peas? When Dr. Lund spoke later with the father, and asked why he didn’t just ask for the peas, the father said, “If you have to ask, it doesn’t mean as much.” Doesn’t that just sound crazy?! Nobody can read minds, and it is our job to take responsibility for what we need and desire.
Honestly, Matt and I still rely on voice and facial expressions, but we both consciously try to be explicit in expressing what we need or want. One of our first Christmases together, we decided together on two large-ish presents. Christmas morning came, and I was shocked that Matt had not gotten me anything else. Well, in his mind, we’d talked about Christmas, decided on specific things, so he thought he was done and it was settled. Now he knows that even if we pick out something together, I still like to be surprised with one small thing. And I know that if we’ve talked about presents and I want an extra surprise, I need to tell him. Sometimes we feel our spouse doesn’t love us because they fail to meet our expectations, but if we have not clearly communicated what we want, we set our spouse up for failure.
One other point I’ll mention from For All Eternity is the importance of apologizing and forgiveness, which are crucial in a marriage. When we hurt someone, it doesn’t matter so much if we meant to or it was an accident. Dr. Lund’s example is that if he accidentally bumps you off a two-story building, the consequences are the same for you whether he bumped you or shoved you.
“With the reconciliation process, it’s more important that if I caused you any hurt, sorrow, or heartache, I acknowledge it, feel sorry for it, and apologize, even if it was done inadvertently.” – Dr. John Lund
Apologies are not explanations. They do not shift blame over to the other person. “I’m sorry, but if you had/hadn’t…” Also asking why your spouse hurt you is not a good idea. Dr. Lund explains, as “there is really only one answer and it’s ‘I made a poor choice.’ … Is there an answer that I could give that would bring you peace? There is not. The only appropriate answer is one where we take responsibility for our choice and offer an apology that is not an explanation.”
Apologizing sincerely and quickly when there has been hurt has been valuable to our relationship. I feel safe with Matt and trust that he holds my heart carefully. I am grateful that Matt forgives me quickly when I’ve hurt him. Sometimes we have been intentionally hurt by someone, perhaps our spouse, but if we hold onto the pain, it only continues to hurt us. Forgiving our spouse when they have hurt us frees us to greater understanding and peace.
As Elder Kevin R Duncan said recently, “Gratefully, God, in His love and mercy for His children, has prepared a way to help us navigate these sometimes turbulent experiences of life. He has provided an escape for all who fall victim to the misdeeds of others. He has taught us that we can forgive! Even though we may be a victim once, we need not be a victim twice by carrying the burden of hate, bitterness, pain, resentment, or even revenge. We can forgive, and we can be free!”
I love this. Forgiving is freeing. And forgiving your spouse, and being forgiven by your spouse is beautiful.