Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Are You Fiercely Loyal?

I have received fabulous marital advice over the years. Some of it was about prayer (always pray together as a couple each night), intimacy (communication is key! You must talk to each other about the sex), children (stand united!), money (never keep score), and parental influence (don't call your mom every time you get mad at your husband.). There was amazing advice from General Authorities (don't be selfish!) and Prophets (have genuine concern for your spouse). But the best marriage advice I ever received for me personally was from Uncle Phil.

Uncle Phil was actually Bishop Marriott. He was our Bishop in the BYU 93rd married student ward back in the day, and he was great. One of those Bishops that you never forget, never want to forget, and never have to because you are in consistent contact with him still --even 10 years later! Uncle Phil was a great Bishop for many reasons, but the main reason that stands out in my mind is his genuine concern for every marriage in that ward. He knew what we would face, and he knew the divorce rates were rising (at the time. I have no idea what they are now!). He was determined to see each marriage succeed, and so we heard this phrase repeated for at least 2 1/2 years:

Be fiercely loyal to your spouse.

We heard these words over and over, over and over, and over and over. At first, I wasn't sure what he meant. I kept thinking, "Well, fo' shizzle, Bishop! I'm totally loyal to Brandon! I made covenants and I love him and we'll be together forever. Loyalty? Easy-cheesy." And it was pretty easy at first. For a while.

But then I started to realize what the Bishop was talking about. It helped that he would elaborate from time to time. Okay, weekly. He usually elaborated weekly. He was thorough! Here are some things I remember him explaining:
* Don't put your spouse down in public --especially when they are not present.
* Never belittle your spouse in front of people when they are present!
* Speak of your spouse with respect, love, and admiration. Even when you're mad at them.
* Stand up for your companion! Never let them stand alone in the face of adversity.
* Being committed means staying together even when it's hard.
* Don't just be loyal. Be fiercely loyal. Fight for your spouse! Fight for your marriage.

Now, imagine, if you will, many women gathered together. One is upset about something her husband did, and then the stories begin. You know what I mean because you've participated, right? Yeah, me too! So, it goes around and around and people are complaining about this and that and then one girl goes off. And I mean off. It was very uncomfortable. I wondered if she loved her husband at all, with the words she was spewing forth in venom-like hatred. To be honest, I can't even remember her name, nor the location of the discussion (it was a long time ago). But it hit me. Hard. I wondered how her husband would feel if he knew she was so...disloyal. And was I disloyal, too?

I have never forgotten that experience. Or the words of Uncle Phil. Sure, throughout the years, I haven't been very good at following that advice. I'll get together with the girlfriends and we'll all go on and on about our frustrations, because sometimes women need a vocal outlet to express those shared frustrations. In some ways, it's very healthy. In fact, just last night, I was emailing a friend about a disappointment, and she gave me advice on how to be more loving towards my husband. These shared experiences can be good! But --but! in the back of my mind, I'm always wary. I'm careful of what I say. I try to make my husband sound like the man I love and admire, because I do love and admire him.

Now, because of this, some of you may have noticed how my marriage sounds magnificent on this blog. I usually write about Brandon in loving ways; I tell you about the surprises, the dates, the funny things he says. I tell you about my love for him, and I'm sure it sounds all peachy. And for the most part, dear reader, it is true! My marriage is a good one. I am happy with my choice of spouse. He is a great man and I feel blessed to have him! When it comes to blogging, I try to follow Uncle Phil's advice --I want to be fiercely loyal. I need to be! But, lest you think our lives are perfect...

...they're not. We have our ups and downs, our fights, our frustrations. We have our silent days, our bitter words, and our yelling fits. We've hung up on each other on the phone, we've disappointed each other, and we've had to work through some very tough issues. In fact, let me tell you a story (because obviously, this post isn't long enough!):

Yesterday, as you know, dear reader, was the anniversary of our first date. The plan was that Brandon would get off work from 12:45 to 3PM, I would get a sitter, he would pick me up at 1PM and we would go to lunch to the site of our first date: The Museum Cafe on BYU campus. It was set. I'm a planner. And it was set. Planned. Set.
He called at 1:05PM --he was just leaving the office.
Could we meet at McGrath's Fish House near the freeway entrance instead of going to the Museum Cafe as planned?
Sigh. Fine.
Oh, and honey, I have a conference call at 2:30PM.

I met him at McGrath's. On the way, I had the speech planned in my head. I was going to talk to him about commitments, and how this job is killing me! I was going to talk about how frustrated I was with his inconsistent scheduling and how I feel like I'm always last on the priority list. Anger, sadness, frustration, needing to punch something...
And then he pulled up. I got out of my car, he walked over to me, pulled me into his arms tightly and kissed me very inappropriately for a public parking lot. (blush!)
We walked into the restaurant and I told him he was lucky. Very lucky. Because I had a speech planned, and his little kiss saved him! At least for the time being...

Now I've decided that I can share these frustrations with you, dear reader, just like I share my struggles with depression, because I don't do it in anger. I don't do it to hurt my spouse, and the things I would share wouldn't be in that medium. If anything, it would be a record that our marriage was normal, and that we always work it out, because we love each other. And we do. Love each other.

Besides, I'm not planning on sharing everything. :)

Now, one last thought. This frustration I'm having with Brandon's job has been hard. I've had to make some very big adjustments and I've been quite the whiner as of late. Yesterday, after the lunch thing, I was feeling even more frustrated, and then I read Janelle's post about the breadwinner of the family. About the difficulty faced by such a task (i.e. providing for a family) and the gratitude (s)he deserves. It was something I needed to hear. Desperately. Perhaps you do, too? Go check it out. It's a goodie.

So, are you fiercely loyal to your spouse?


Cheryl said...

One more thing: Brandon, I'm sorry I've been a whiner! And I love you...

Never A True Aggie said...

I worked with a guy who never said an ill word about his wife, even though I sort of knew things were not always hunky dory. We discussed this and he said that he just didn't feel like it helped matters to complain. I have tried to take his advice. I try not to complain too much. I think I have done better then some...I hope to do better then my best. I understand about jobs. My husband is a workaholic. When he is not at school, he is involved in something else that takes his time away. I try to be patient, but it gets old sometimes. Fortunately, we can talk about it.

Cristy said...

Thank you Cheryl. I needed this today. First of all, I have always considered myself fiercely loyal; I have even used that phrase to describe myself many times, loyal to my best friends, family, but you really made me step back and reexamine how loyal I am actually to my husband. I definitely could work on a few things...

I've been struggling these past few weeks with lots of big adjustments in our life too. Jim's job is INSANITY right now. We both have really hefty callings, not to mention pregnancy and gas prices rising... We really don't see each other (not our choice), and it's hard. I know this is a struggle for many couples, and I am trying really hard not to complain and ride it out, so to speak. I'm going to read your friends blog... annnnyway, now that I feel like I"ve complained... the point is, thanks for the reminder that I"m not alone in this big void of a world, and that I'm not the only one struggling, and this too shall pass! Right?! ;)

Anonymous said...

One thing my husband worried about when I started my blog was that I would "share" too much. I assured him that I would never say anything that would put him in a bad light. Why would I want to make him look bad? Plus he's not bad. At all. Now, occasionally he says some funny things that are worth taking note of and sharing. :)

When I get together with my girlfriends when we "talk" about our husbands it is with a lot of eye-rolling and laughter, never anger. It does feel good to know that all marriages have their quirks and frustrations, but we all made it clear a long time ago that we love our husbands and are grateful for them.

Good post!

RoAnn said...

Cheryl, I'm so glad you wrote this particular post about being loyal to one's spouse. I have also appreciated that you try to avoid critizing your spouse on your blog.

My parents set me a great example in this regard, and my husband and I have tried to practice this principle during our 40+ years of marriage. We believe it has definitely helped us to get through our difficult times (like the extreme job stress you have mentioned), and end up more in love and closer than ever.

It has disturbed me to hear from my adult children and other relatives (both married and unmarried), how common it has become for LDS men, as well as women, to engage in gripe sessions about their spouses. One of the unintended effects has been to further discourage some singles from getting married, lest they find their life made continually miserable by the kinds of grief their married friends appear to be suffering on a daily basis. (We marrieds may laugh, but some of those singles don't, because they are hearing only the minuses, not the pluses, about the spouses in question.)

Ou course, none of us is perfect, and a sense of humor helps us put incidents, habits and character traits in perspective. As you mentioned, there are appropriate ways and times to share our differences and struggles to build a strong marriage. But remembering the importance of being fiercely loyal to one's spouse can help us strengthen, rather than weaken the ties that we hope will bind us together forever.

Amanda D said...

Cheryl, this is such a great post (probably one of my faves). And Janelle's was great too. You've given me some stuff to think about, that's for sure.

This is one I wont forget anytime soon!

Jumbo Shrimp said...

Men bashing is one of my hugest pet peeves. I mean we all have issues with our spouses and marriages--nobody's perfect--but it is not our place to go spreading it around. I like that you made the point about having problems but always working them out. I also agree with you that it's okay to share things like this or other concerns when it's not through anger but maybe advice from a friend. Our Stake had a Saturday RS time out for women type thing and there was a marriage class called 10 sure fire ways to leave your spouse. I thought the reverse psychology thing was fun. It was great, maybe I'll post my notes in conjunction with this post. Great post!

Rochelleht said...

Why, yes. Yes I am...

Cheryl said...

Jumbo Shrimp-
I would LOVE to hear your notes about it. Do a post on it!!

Thank you! I really mean that...

I'm so glad to see you commenting again! And I love the words you left; I really appreciate your experience and advice.

Agreed. With everything you said. Humor is important!

I'm glad I'm not the only struggling with the No Time factor; it's so hard sometimes! I'm sorry it's rough for you right now, too, and I hope it gets better soon.

I love what your friend said; it's very good advice!

Cheryl said...

Good! (although I'm not surprised, what with your awesome marriage and all... :) )

Jeanette said...

I really appreciated reading this. That is some great advice. I avoid criticizing my husband around others. He is working so hard, why would I want to belittle all that he does for me and our kids by being nitpicking and complaining about him to others?
It is difficult with work and school and church commitments taking so much of his time but when I feel like I am at the end of my rope I try not to resort to complaining.
But yea!! Last night was his final and no more school all summer! He'll still be working 7 days a week but no more school until September.
Oh! One more thing I thought of, when I was a young kid I told my friends that I had never seen my parents fight. They did not believe me. I am sure my parents had disagreements etc but they never yelled at each other in front of us kids. My friends couldn't believe that. We need to be careful what we say about our spouse and how we treat each other around our kids.

Kellyry said...

Being 30 and not yet married I am so glad to read this! I've been fortunate to have many friends whose marriages I respect and admire, who clearly demonstrate through their words and actions, that they love and respect each other. I have been less fortunate in seeing my own parents' relationship, and that of other family members and a few friends, who do disrespect and criticize their spouse and who leave me so frustrated and, yet, all the more dedicated to NOT being like that.

I realize that as a singleton it's easy to insist I won't be like that when I'm married (just like how people without kids can look down upon parents and insist their children will be well-behaved and polite), but I am glad to read reminders like this because it tells me that you can't just assume the love and respect you have toward your spouse will always dictate how your respond and treat them when angry. No, treating your spouse with love and not talking badly about them to others takes a conscious effort and intention to not do that. And I can't help but think, "Would I want my spouse to say horrible things about me to his friends?!" No way! So then he (whoever he is, someday!) deserves the absolute same from me.

Christine said...

Cheryl, I love ya. Thank you for that post. That is something I learned the hard way at the beginning of my own marriage. Thanks for the reminder. Perfect timing; with my raging hormones and all. My husband will be grateful for the reminder! :)

Leslie said...

This was a great post Cheryl (as usual...I might add). I have been in those terrible situations where women were criticizing their husbands and I just sit there and look at the floor. Why? Because my husband is an amazing man...too amazing for me really...seriously...I married way, way up! Does that mean that there aren't things that get me frustrated in our relationship? No. But it means that our relationship is ours and I don't want to discuss any deficiencies with anyone but my husband. I would want him to do the same for me (and I have a very strong feeling that he does).

I hope I am fiercely loyal...because I really do love my husband that much!

Julie said...

I just looked and Blogger ate my comment and I didn't even realize it. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. And I loved Janelle's, too. So so important. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

I'm loyal, but now I shall strive to be fierce. Taking it to the HNL.

I think we women feel a greater need to gripe about our menfolk than our menfolk have to gripe about us. They, being men, just hold it all in and the only hints of their resentment are the dirty socks on the floor. :) Just kidding. Women also feel a greater need to read more into things than is warranted. My stepmother complains about my father to me, and it bugs me. Not because my father is perfect, but I know he means well, and she tends to malign his motives along with his actions. It has made me more aware of how I talk about my husband in front of others--also, how I *think* about him and his motivations.

Desi said...

I just love your blog and all your insightful posts. I try to be fiercely loyal, but I'm sure my efforts fall flat at times.

I love your honesty on your blog and I strive to be more like that. I love to see that I'm not the only one who gets frustrated or upset at my husband and that you can still love your husband and have a good marriage even if you fight and argue sometimes. Thanks for keepin it real! :)

Cheryl said...

You're welcome. :)

Brandon is always reminding me to never assume intentions (we're usually talking about his father or something, though), but I see how that definitely needs to be applied to marriage. Most intentions are good. I need to remember that...

I'm sorry blogger ate your comment; that's annoying! But thanks for leaving something again.

I appreciate what you said about expecting your husband to say good things about you in public, so you should do the same! It's true.

I'm here for you, you know. :)

THANK YOU! It's so nice to hear a perspective from someone looking at it in an objectionable way. And your words are very, very wise. Your future husband is gonna be one lucky, lucky guy. :) (but I already knew that, after reading your blog!).

I really appreciate your comment. Mostly because I need to learn from it. I am being a nasty whiner about not seeing my husband and all he does is works! I need to appreciate what he's doing and relish the time I have with him, rather than making him feel bad about being gone a lot. This is something I really have to work on. A lot.

Audrey said...

First time to your blog, and thanks for the reminder! I consider myself fiercely loyal, but I've definitely had my "ventageous" moments. Is your husband a consultant, too? I'm a year into the life of the wife of a management consultant. I think there are two things that have helped us cope: true talking, and a weekly date night--rarely missed. As well as the fact that I've been blessed with a husband who has learned to talk about his feelings...all of them!

Cheryl said...

Welcome! I'm glad you stopped by. My husband isn't exactly a consultant --he works exclusively for one company --but his job is a lot like your husband's! I appreciate your advice a lot. A lot. We've tried to make date night a mandatory thing, too, and it's helped so much!
Thank you for your comment. Come again!