Book Review: For All Eternity

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!

BookFor All Eternity by Dr. John Lund

ReviewerSabrina Gardner

Consensustwo 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.

A Review of For All Eternity, a book by John Lund

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.

Share the Love: Sabrina and Matt

A Share the Love post highlighting Sabrina and Matt’s love story and advice. 

It’s been far too long since we’ve done a Share the Love post!  Thankfully today we are going to remedy that.  We’ve got my good friend Sabrina here to share the love with us all.  Sabrina is a friend forever close to my heart.  We worked together for seven months as missionary companions in Slovenia.  Rada njej imam!      –  Celeste

Share the Love Marriage series. Sharing one love story at a time.

What’s Your Love Story?

Matt and I met in Provo Canyon in Utah. I had recently moved to take a job at BYU, and he was in my ward (church congregation). I am a firm believer that nothing is coincidence, and that we are led into and through situations for a reason, and in meeting Matt there were so many little things that led up to it that in my mind couldn’t just be coincidence.

After my mission, I looked for a job in the area where my family lived but could not find anything in my field. I went back to school in web design and programming, and absolutely loved it. Before I could graduate, I felt compelled to take a job at BYU in the Research Accounting office. I was not happy about moving to Utah but thought I could make it work if I could live with a good friend, Tara. That wasn’t immediately possible but I moved into her ward in what turned out to be a pretty rough housing situation. Throw in some ridiculous would-be suitors and I was thinking it was a mistake to be at BYU.

Share the Love Sabrina and Matt:  Sharing the Love one love story at a time.

One evening after contemplating my dating prospects, in my typical planning way, I pictured an ideal way to date and marry. I felt a voice say, “That’s not how it’s going to happen. You’re going to know immediately that he’s the one for you.” I kind of resisted, but the message was repeated. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, so I tried to put it out of my mind.

A few days later at a ward activity I noticed Matt who had said a few things that reminded me of my brother, with whom I had a really close relationship. I told Tara that he seemed interesting and I would like to get to know him. The next evening I sat by him at a church function, and he seemed quite nice, though reserved. After church the next day, as I was leaving my house, I opened the door to see Tara and a couple other girls standing on my doorstep. I told them I was leaving to find a piano to play on campus. Tara suggested that I play the piano at Ben’s house (wink, wink… Ben was Matt’s roommate). These sweet girls made multiple calls to friends to arrange for me to go over there.

I went feeling embarrassed to intrude (and I even considered not actually going), but enjoyed playing their piano. And then Matt pulled out his flute, was surprisingly good and we played duets for what felt like hours. It was so much like home, and I was so comfortable and happy, the first time really since moving. Matt saw me to the door, and I felt so much happiness that when he shut the door I gave a little hop, skip and jump for joy. At that moment I felt a little voice say, “You could marry him.” The memory from just a few days prior came back, and I went home surprised and excited.

Matt and I dated for a short time, and were engaged 23 days after we met – that was definitely not my plan!

Share the Love Sabrina and Matt:  Sharing the Love one love story at a time.

What Do You Love About Your Spouse?

As I got to know him better, I was impressed with Matt’s willingness to serve wherever he was needed, whether it was helping people move, cleaning up after a dinner, or tutoring friends. He was kind and thoughtful, had high standards and deep faith, and we had a lot of interests in common.

Over the years we’ve been married, we have tried to cultivate more common interests, and support each other in the separate hobbies we have. He peruses jewelry magazines for designs that look interesting and he enjoys seeing what I’ve made. We have been able to take dancing lessons and voice lessons together. He pushes me to play the piano and harp, and he is the one who instigates my taking lessons and going to workshops and learning new things. I have some friends that have told their engineer husbands that they don’t even want to know what they do all day, or the husband has told the wife he’s not interested in her hobbies. For us, life is sweeter being more involved and supporting each other.

I love Matt’s kindness.  So many situations have come up where I have appreciated his it. Our son hemorrhaged from his mouth after a surgery, and in my rush to take him to the ER, I left our van door open at the hospital. Matt met us there, put his bike in the van and shut the door. And that was it. When we were newlyweds, I left an envelope with over $1,000 in cash in it from our wedding reception at a fast food place. Instead of berating me for foolishly forgetting that much money, he just said, kindly, “Let’s go look for it.”

Best Marriage Advice?

Sometimes one partner in a relationship will make a mistake that makes things difficult for both of you. When situations like this arise, it’s important to remember that you are on the same team, working together to solve problems. You should not attack each other, or focus on who is to blame for the situation; it’s more than likely the person to blame already knows, and already feels bad about it. There is no need to rub it in, just to solve the problem. Maybe next time it’ll be you who puts you both into an unfortunate situation – would you want your spouse to rub it in your face when it’s your fault?

For example, when Matt and I were getting engaged, we drove with a friend to my home in Idaho so that Matt could meet my family. It was a dark and stormy night, pitch black, and as I was driving I missed the exit that led to the east part of the state where my family was living. Matt and I were laughing and talking, and eventually I looked around and realized I had no idea where we were. Suddenly I realized we were on the way to the other side of the state! I was mortified! Matt and I traded places, and he drove back to where I’d taken the wrong exit and on to my home, arriving at 3:30 am. I was completely embarrassed, but he joked it off and said it would make for a funny story someday. He knew I already felt bad, so what good could come from making me feel worse?  Right then, I knew we were on the same team and I was so glad to be marrying him!

Share the Love Sabrina and Matt:  Sharing the Love one love story at a time.

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.

Being married to my husband has been wonderful. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, but when we clearly communicate with each other, sincerely apologize and forgive when we make mistakes, and solve problems together instead of fighting with each other, our marriage is stronger and sweeter.

How to Better Listen to a Depressed Spouse

How to better listen to a depressed spouse using the F.L.A.P. method: focus, lean, affirm, probe.

One of the most popular articles on my blog, with over 10,000 page views to date is Supporting a Spouse Through Depression by Brad Tuft.  I’ve wanted to expand on this subject since depression is such a difficult and common problem in marriages, but neither Rich nor I have experienced clinical depression and it’s a difficult topic to ask someone to write about.

Which is why I was SO grateful when Joshua from reached out to me.  Guys, this site is a great resource.  Joshua’s posts are both incredibly helpful and fun to read.  Some of my favorite articles include “What does it mean to “be there” for someone who is depressed?”  And “5 Rules for Encouraging a Depressed Loved One to Open Up.

Also, this post about listening is SPOT ON for depressed and non-depressed spouses alike.  Thank you SO much for sharing this knowledge with us Joshua!   –  Celeste



How to Better Listen to a Depressed Spouse

A while back I opened up to my wife about my depression.

But something wasn’t right. I mean, I knew she could hear me.

But I didn’t feel like she was actually listening.

Then again, maybe that’s because she was watching the latest episode of Survival on Hulu. Bad timing, I guess?

But it got me thinking. You know the #1 piece of advice to people trying to help someone suffering from depression is to listen. Right?

(No, seriously. Look up depression help for loved ones on Google, you’ll see what I mean)

But it’s not very often that people tell you how to listen. Or give you tips on how to listen better.

It might sound silly, but it’s not. Julian Treasure, a sound consultant who gave a TED talk on listening, says that, in general, we only remember as low as 25% of what we hear.1

Isn’t that crazy? But think about it. Think of the last conversation you had with your spouse, or someone you know suffering from depression.

How much of the conversation do you remember?

Maybe you remember the gist of what he/she said, but can you remember all of it? Two sentences? Three?

This is a big problem if you’re trying to connect with and help your depressed husband (or wife, friend, family member, whoever).

How to listen better with the “f.l.a.p” technique

Now, there’s plenty of informative articles on the internet about proper listening technique.

But personally? I don’t think listening is rocket science. And I don’t think you need to spend hours studying and researching how to listen.

That’s why I condensed some of the best listening practices into one simple technique.

It’s an easy-to-remember acronym. I call it “F.L.A.P”, and I summarize it in this picture:

How to Better Listen to a Depressed Spouse.  Focus, Lean, Affirm, Probe.

Here’s another explanation for F.L.A.P in case you can’t see the picture:

    Focus is, in my opinion, the most important part of the technique. If you can’t ignore or eliminate outside distractions from the beginning, you’re toast. Every word the depressed person says is important. Pay close attention, keep your mouth shut (this is especially important), defer judgment, and listen.

    Leaning and using proper body language is the psychological way of showing the speaker he/she has your full attention. Lean slightly forward (or tilt your head towards) and face your whole body towards him/her. Make eye contact, but don’t stare. Nod occasionally.

    Affirm is for physically showing the speaker you’re listening and for better understanding the conversation. Say “yeah” and “uh-huh” occasionally. During brief pauses, repeat and summarize what he/she said. Here’s some examples:

  • “So you feel like your family and friends are ashamed of you, and that’s why you’re depressed?”
  • “So you just don’t feel like anything interests you anymore?”
  • “You’re always tired and unmotivated, huh?”

    Probing, or questioning, is done to gain a better understanding of why your husband/whoever is depressed. Oftentimes depressed people (myself included) have so many thoughts going through their heads, and just can’t think of a way to get them out. Probing is the way to do that.

I’d like to go in-depth on proper questioning later on, but for now, just remember that why questions are the simplest and most effective way to go:

  • “Why do you feel that way?
  • “Why do you feel like everyone’s ignoring you?
  • “Why do you think…”

You can also try asking questions like, “Have you done anything about…” or, “How do you think you could fix…”. Asking questions like these is a great way to spur your friend into taking action if he/she feels like a situation or circumstance is contributing to his/her depression.

Probing is fairly simple, but only if you’ve been paying close attention to the conversation. Remember focus is the most important part of FLAP.

Final thoughts

Before I end this article, I’d like to ask you a few questions.

If your husband, wife or whoever suffers from depression, do you listen to them closely? Do you feel like the FLAP technique could benefit you?

Or if you suffer from depression, have you ever felt like a friend or family member just doesn’t listen to you like you want them to? (If so, you might want to share this article with them!)

Let me know in the comments–I’d love to hear from you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to “accidentally” leave this article up for my wife to read. 😉

1 Nichols & Lewis, 1954. Listening and Speaking: A guide to Effective Oral Communication”. A digitized version of this book can be found here.

My Best Marriage Advice After 10 Years of Marriage

My best marriage advice:  you cannot solve most of your spouse’s problems, nor should you expect them to solve yours, but you CAN be a soft place for them to land.
I’ve already sung Rachel’s abundant and well-deserved praises when she guest posted for our infertility series here.  So I won’t embarrass her further.  But I will say that I can’t stop thinking about this advice!  “Be a cushion against the writhing for your spouse.”  It’s beautiful and totally within our power.    -Celeste

When Ryan and I were in Mexico celebrating our 10th anniversary, we started chatting with a honeymooning couple one evening, and they asked if we had any marriage advice for them.  Unprepared for such an important question, we mumbled through something lame–and then all four of us laughed about how we had no wisdom to share.

A Therapist Answers Your Questions about Sex – Part 2

A marriage and family therapist answers more of YOUR questions about sex.

By Aimee Heffernan

This post is part 4.5 of the series:  Improving Intimacy
Part 1:  How to Agree on How Often to Have Sex
Part 2:   Waiting for Sex Until Marriage- Can I Really Do It?
  Part 3:  When Sex is Painful:  One Woman’s Story
Part 4:  A Therapist Answers Your Questions About Sex Part I


This post is the second part of answers to your (our readers’) questions about sex, as provided by my friend, Aimee Heffernan, a certified, licensed marriage and family therapist.

Aimee’s answers in Part I were really great. I think of particular note is what she had to say about the crucial skill of creating safe spaces within your marriage “to have conversations about personal, difficult things.” She gives more, extremely practical advice on how to do that in this post.

I really do hope that that, along with the rest of Aimee’s advice and answers, come across as being worthwhile, not to just the readers who asked the questions, but to everyone trying to have healthy, happy, and fulfilling marital intimacy. 

– Rich

*Everything below are Aimee’s responses to these questions as transcribed by Rich

 Issue: It seems like tiredness is our biggest obstacle.This might be kind of blunt but, truth is, that’s probably NOT the biggest obstacle. The biggest obstacle probably isn’t tiredness, but rather being intentional about creating time to focus on your sexuality as a couple. People carve out time to do all kinds of things that they prioritize: getting up to do yoga, to exercise at the gym, to spend time on social media, or watch TV. I guess what I’d say is that if you are intentional, you can make it a more engaging experience and physical tiredness may not seem like such a barrier. How can you be more intentional? Wear something different. Schedule when you’re going to have sex. Text each other during that day so you can be thinking about it leading up to that night.

I think the biggest thing I want to say is this: Being engaged in your sexuality is a gift to your marriage. That applies to all of these questions, but that’s my advice for them.


Question: How can you better your intimacy when your spouse starts finding you less attractive? 

This is a hard one. I guess there are a few things I have to say, but first of all, this: Sexuality is more than bodies. I think a lot of times people have sex, or connect sex, to feeling “validated.” “If they want to have sex with me, it means I am physically a certain way and that says something about me and who I am.”

I’m sorry to be cheesy, but this is something I really believe, that sex is an exchange of souls. I really see it that way. Focusing not just on how it works, or just how to do it, but caring what it feels like, I think, is the sign of a person who is interested in the experience of sex.

So if you are feeling less sexy, less physically desirable, well it’s a true fact that sex is in your brain. Your brain is your biggest sex organ. What do you need to help you feel and believe in your brain that you ARE desirable? Sexy lingerie? Maybe sexy texting with your spouse? This is something I said in response to a different question, but the thing is, people can be all different sizes, they might even have erectile dysfunction, but if they can stay laughing, playful and have fun, then sex can be a positive and desirable thing!

One thing that a lot of people tend to do during the actual act of sex is “body monitoring.” They think, “Oh, I hope he doesn’t touch my stomach, it’s so fat!” Or, “My butt looks so big right now.” Or maybe that’s how you are looking at your spouse’s body. But the point is, you aren’t being present in your sexuality.

Finally, attraction is also about who you are as people. Is there is something lacking in your emotional dynamic? Emotional imbalances, if one person has too much “power,” that is something people bring to their sexuality. For example, if a wife is being too much like a mom, nagging, reminding, etc. to their spouse, that sort of power dynamic might affect things.

Once again, these are just ideas. If I had this couple in for counseling, there is a lot I would want to talk about.


Question: How can you ask your spouse to try new things if you think they’ll be shocked or ashamed of you for asking? 

These kind of conversations can sometimes bring up a lot of hurt. If there has been hurt in your relationship because of attempts to talk about things like this, well, it might be better to help communicate that with the help of a sex therapist.

But here’s the number one thing I would say. Don’t bring up “trying new things” when you are actually having sex. This is a part of something that a lot of people have problems with. Some people don’t know how to talk about sex when they are not actively being sexual. This is an important skill. Because that moment is a time when people are the MOST vulnerable and emotional, and suggestions or critiques can be very hard to both express AND to hear.

Here’s the next thing: There is something to be said about opening yourself up to new things. The example I give is when I was a little kid and I first heard about French kissing and I was COMPLETELY grossed out. But then later it’s something you become more or less familiar with. And then when I was eight and my parents sat me down and explained “and the penis goes in the vagina” and I was floored. I realized that all these parents, my friends parents, were doing that and I wanted none of it. But . . . you change. And slowly you start to open yourself up to something that at first seemed you could never get past.

Consent is a BIG part of this conversation. And it is a conversation. We talked about this in regards to frequency of sex and high-desire and a low-desire partners. Having a conversation and compromise about that doesn’t always mean the low-desire partner will increase to match their partner’s preferences. Some things couples may simply never agree on. But you can still have that hard conversation.

So if you want to bring up something new, how can you do that? You might give your spouse a warning by saying something like this: “Hey, I want to talk about something related to our sex life later, is that ok?” Tell them that in person or maybe send a text while you’re apart. It creates a space. You know that you’ll be talking about something new. Creating that space is crucial because you don’t want to bring up something when they feel vulnerable or defensive.

[Note from Rich: I really thought it was helpful to hear phrases that people might actually use, so I asked Aimee to give some more examples.]

Other examples of things you could you say? “I want to bring something up, but try not to make me feel embarrassed because talking about this is hard for me.” Or maybe, “Hey, I wanted to bring up a fun idea later.” Make it a flirty text. But it still creates that space. And later, when you’ve talked about it, saying something like, “I want to start trying/using _____. Is that something we’d be into?” And you don’t have to go in with a decision, you just go into wanting to hear what they have to say.

Final Question (from Rich at the end of our conversation): A lot of the readers of this blog are LDS. Do you have any Mormon-specific advice?
If you look at surveys, Jewish and Mormon women report having more sex than almost any other group. That usually surprises people. But the problem is, the women in those marriages are generally having “duty sex” – the frequency is so high because they see it solely as a marital responsibility. And “duty sex” doesn’t do anyone any good. Truly one of the things that I love the very most, is when I can work with couples and then later the women come back and tell me, “I never knew my body could do this!” They start owning their bodies and owning their sexuality and start to have fun with sex.One thing a lot of religions do, prior to being married, is provide pre-marital counseling for the couple. And talking about sexual expectations would be a part of that. I wish we had something like that, something more in-depth than worthiness interviews with priesthood leaders. I don’t think, generally, Mormons are very good about talking about our sexual expectations. Before OR during marriage. We aren’t really even supposed to talk about sex until you’re actually married, and then you go into marriage and, a lot of the time, you end up disappointed. People bring these really high expectations into their marriages – they did everything right, they were great missionaries, they married their hot wife, but then sex doesn’t go like they envisioned and that can drive these spouses away from each other, drive them underground.We have, as a religion, these beliefs that glorify sex. Or at least marriage and eternal relationships, and sex is a part of that. But we don’t have any way to provide skills on how to accomplish that, how to work past the fumbling.

We need to do a better job of teaching people how to talk about sex. People need to see how crucial that is to having a holy and sacred marriage! It’s what makes people different from being just roommates or co-parents or even co-habitating. It’s the ingredient that makes love fun! So it’s got to be done well.

Some other resources I might point people toward are, as I said before, anything from Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is excellent [Note from Rich: Jennifer is actually having a holiday sale currently (Dec. 2015) on her courses. We’ll be reviewing one of them in the next few days]. You should also check out this great book/website called Real Intimacy. Their book is wonderful and an excellent resource I point out to a lot of my Mormon clients.

[Last Note from Rich: If you are in the Seattle area, you should definitely consider Aimee to be an excellent resource, which I think is pretty clear.]