How to Become a Better Husband or Wife

The following is an article adapted from What We Need to Know and Do, by Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen and lists some specific helps for husbands and wives to improve their relationships and to be more effective in their own roles.

Husbands

mormon-parentsThe role of husband and father should be the most prominent one in every man’s life. Most men look forward to marriage and family. The greatest fulfillment in life really lies within the family unit. In today’s society many men abdicate their marital roles—and families suffer. Children are left without a father figure, and are often set adrift in life with no direction or leadership. Husbands need to realize that their role can have no substitute—no one can take your place. Make a commitment to be the best husband for your wife. Make a commitment to be the best father to your children.

“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband” (1 Corinthians 7:3).When we make the first concern the well-being of our mate, we will show compassion and empathy. We will be warm-hearted and understanding. Indeed we will be charitable in all things.

“It is the duty of a husband to love, cherish, and nourish his wife, and cleave unto her and none else; he ought to honor her as himself, and he ought to regard her feelings with tenderness, for she is his flesh, and his bone, designed to be an help unto him, both in temporal, and spiritual things; one into whose bosom he can pour all his complaints without reserve, who is willing (being designed) to take part of his burden, to soothe and encourage his feelings by her gentle voice. It is the place of the man, to stand at the head of his family, and be lord of his own house, not to rule over his wife as a tyrant, neither as one who is fearful or jealous that his wife will get out of her place, and prevent him from exercising his authority. It is his duty to be a man of God (for a man of God is a man of wisdom,) ready at all times to obtain from the scriptures, the revelations, and from on high, such instructions as are necessary for the edification, and salvation of his household”— (Elders’ Journal 1:61–62).

(Joseph Smith, Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997].)

Here are two strategies that can help a man to be a better husband:

1. Build from within.

  • Establish gospel principles.
  • Put your priorities in order—Make being husband and father the highest priority and goal in your life. Your spouse will rise to the level of your love for her.

2. Use constructive strategies with long-term benefits.

  • Be a loyal provider.
  • Use tenderness.
  • Be forgiving.
  • Be an example of love—Confirm the old saying, “The best thing you can do for your children is to love their mother.”
  • Recognize the differences—Women have different needs; help them fulfill them.

Wives

Mormon FamilyThe role of wife and mother is without equal in the world today. The wife is a companion and partner to her husband. One of the prime purposes in matrimony is to have a family. In this role, the wife is not only a sweetheart to her husband but the mother of their children. Among all those who influence the family, wives and mothers have the most dynamic effect. They are the source of life; they are the ones who are usually always “there” when needed; they are the ones to whom the children go when they are hurt. It is difficult to separate out the roles of womanhood. They form a seamless whole.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18). Wives and husbands are associates. They work together in council.

“In marriage, neither is superior; each has a different primary and divine responsibility. Chief among these responsibilities for wives is the calling of motherhood. I firmly believe that our dear, faithful sisters enjoy a special spiritual enrichment that is inherent in their natures.”

(James E. Faust, Finding Light in a Dark World [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 122.)

Here are three strategies that can help a woman to be a better wife:

1. Improve the inner reality.

  • Choose correct principles—Anchor to rock-solid principles of integrity, honor, selflessness, loyalty, service, trustworthiness, and love. Set aside any excessive allegiance to things that fade: fads, fashions, or momentary pleasures.
  • Establish priorities—Remember that you are a wife and usually a mother as well. These must be your most important priorities.

2.  Foster positive actions that bring benefits to yourself, your spouse, and your children.

  • Work toward long-term results—You can do more to bring harmony, peace, contentment, and joy into the world in your function as wife and mother than in any other role. No one can have a more profound influence on the well-being of the children.
  • Be fit.
  • Never stop learning.

3. Strengthen relationships.

  • Foster dialogue—Communicate your needs and feelings frankly to your spouse.
  • Be supportive of your husband in his occupation.
  • Know the differences—Recognize that men have different needs, just as you do. Understanding will go a long way toward fostering unity and cooperation.
  • Praise and honor your husband.
  • Take initiative in teaching your children.

Advice for both husbands and wives:

The most important decision of life is the decision concerning your companion. Choose prayerfully. And when you are married, be fiercely loyal one to another. Selfishness is the great destroyer of happy family life. I have this one suggestion to offer. If you will make your first concern the comfort, the well-being, and the happiness of your companion, sublimating any personal concern to that loftier goal, you will be happy, and your marriage will go on through eternity. (“A Three-Point Challenge,” BYU Commencement Address, April 27, 1995.)

(Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 328 – 329.)

Husband and wife must feel equal responsibility. Remember that great love is built on great sacrifice and that a daily determination in each other to please in things that are right will build a sure foundation for a happy home. That determination for the welfare of each other must be mutual and not one-sided or selfish. Husband and wife must feel equal responsibilities and obligations to teach each other. Two of the things that today strike at the security of modern homes is that young husbands have never sensed their full obligation in supporting a family, and young wives have sidestepped the responsibility of settling down to the serious business of raising a family and of making a home.

(Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 252.)

Find common ground and common purpose—Have many common goals: health, companionship, spiritual growth, and leaving a legacy of honor and harmony for the children. Here are some of the mutually important things for husband and wife to keep in mind:

  • Fidelity in all things—Flirtation with others leads to promiscuity—which destroys families.
  • Loyalty.
  • Selflessness.
  • Communication—Be willing to counsel together. Discuss all things relating to your marriage, family, and life.
  • Happiness—Channel and sublimate your efforts for the well-being and happiness of your mate.
  • Togetherness—Do things together. Take time to plan a fun vacation together.
  • Empathy—If you practice empathy and understanding, then you will appreciate your mate. Gratitude will abound. Your attitudes toward each other will change as will your behavior. If it’s important to your mate, it should be important to you.
  • Service—Look for ways to serve each other and your children.
  • Uniqueness—Recognize that each of you has unique roles in your marriage. Be understanding and supportive.
  • Praise—Genuinely praise each other.
  • Privacy—Give each other space—for friends, hobbies, etc.
  • Affection—Be affectionate. Children need to know that you like to show affection to your spouse and accept the same from her.
  • Worship together—Search the scriptures together. Pray together. Genuinely seek spiritual growth together. Nothing will add a more lasting glow to the relationship.

As we look at life, we sometimes observe individuals who do not have fulfillment within their roles. That is sad. Today’s society has shifted greatly away from the proven patterns of the past in the definition of the roles of male and female—and much of goodness and satisfaction has been lost in the transition. If each spouse could realize the importance of his or her unique position, then each can find fulfillment within the role of wife or husband. If things are not right, seek counsel from the Lord. If both husband and wife exercise faith in the strength of the Lord in righteousness, things will be better. Find happiness in your companionship. The wife should find joy in the success and achievement of her husband. Likewise, the husband should find joy in the success and achievement of his wife and say, with Shakespeare (in the play Julius Caesar): “Render me worthy of this noble wife.” Let us seek to find joy in being one in purpose, cause, and action. Let us fulfill our wedding vows with honor and covenant fidelity. Let us simply be the best wife for our husband and the best husband for our wife—and life will be glorious.

This article has been adapted from What We Need to Know and Do, by Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen

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