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?
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?