Livin' the Vermont Way Magazine Has Ceased Publication
This was the official website for the LDSLiving Magazine for a number of years. The current website for this bi-monthly magazine for Latter-day saint families can be found at http://www.ldsliving.com/.
The content below is from the site's 2007 & 2009 archived pages.
WHAT'S NEW 2007
Changing Your Focus
Discovering You May Have Mr. Perfect After All
by Emily Watts
Sometimes our focus in marriage, if not centered on the right things, will only display the negative. But a quick shift in perspective can help alleviate the not-so-great effects of miscommunication.
Because I married a man, and because my husband grew up in a different family from my own, some pretty interesting miscommunications have made their way into our marriage.
I accept my share of the responsibility, harboring my own expectations. But with diligent communication, and a change of focus on my part, we’ve been able to make it through the rocky parts.
One assumption I learned I needed to let go of was the way I gauged my husband’s love for me or his ability to read my mind. I blame romantic movies for this, at least in part.
Have you seen the movie Only You? It’s about a girl who is convinced her soul mate is a man with a certain name that she heard from a fortune teller. She flies to Italy to find him and another guy falls in love with her, but sees that she is determined to play this soul-mate thing out. So he agrees to help her find the man. They track him down at a hotel, and she sets up a date, and the guy who loves her (her true soul mate) buys her a gift for the date. It’s a pair of shoes. They are the right size. They are the right color. They are the right style. They are exactly the perfect shoes for the outfit she is planning to wear. Cinderella herself could not have possessed a more ideal shoe.
What man in the world can do this?
This is why those movies are so popular, by the way—because we all want to believe there is someone out there who could discern our every need, sometimes fulfilling needs we didn’t even know we had. And so we fall into the trap of “If I have to ask, it doesn’t count.”
The sort of ridiculous behavior this translates to in real life is, for example, me stacking up empty soup cans and cereal boxes until they perch precariously two or three feet above the brim of the kitchen waste can, waiting for my husband to take it out to the trash. Because, you see, if he really loved me, he’d do it without having to be asked.
After nearly three decades of marriage, I have learned that my husband would do just about anything for me. He runs hard and fast, like a train on a track, and the only problem is that if the track doesn’t happen to go past the garbage can, he genuinely doesn’t see the trash piling up. Now I say, “Honey, could you take out the garbage?” and he says, “Sure,” and does it. It’s a miracle!
The Science of Gifts
The place where all this really breaks down in our household is in the giving of gifts. My husband is one of ten children, and in his growing-up years, a gift-giving occasion such as Christmas or a birthday meant a chance for you to get something you’d had your eye on all year. If you could go to the store with Mom and Dad to pick it out personally, so much the better.
By contrast, I grew up in a family of four children, and my mother was the kind of person who kept track of things in a little notebook. If you admired something in a store in July, it would likely be under the tree for you in December. So Christmas was always a time of wonderful surprises, and I love being surprised.
I imagined that, after I was married, my husband would demonstrate his intimate understanding of and love for me by the gifts he chose. This was my soul mate, after all, the one I had chosen to spend eternity with. He, more than anyone, would be able to plumb the depths of my heart. I could hardly wait to see what he would choose for me—and I could hardly wait for him to see what I would get for him.
When my husband found out that I intended to surprise him with a Christmas present, he was horrified. The thought that I might spend money from our limited resources on something he might not actually want threw him into a panic. Even worse was his dawning realization that I also expected to be surprised. The expectations imposed by this belief system were so overwhelming that we had more than one fairly miserable Christmas.
Finally, after several years of hissing, we achieved an accommodation that serves us to this day. The rule is (and we have this in a contract), he may pick out his own Christmas present, but he may not have it until Christmas. The latter clause had to be added after he began ordering things in October. And he has to submit to being surprised with one small item, valued at $20 or less, to fulfill my need to surprise someone. On the other end of the deal, I will go with him to pick out my main Christmas present, but then he has to surprise me with something in the $20 range, just to prove that he’s trying to be my soul mate. This compromise works for both of us.
In one of the uneasy years before we reached this agreement, it was getting close to Mother’s Day and my husband came to me early in the week and said, “Honey, they’ve just called me out of town for work and I won’t be back until late Saturday night. I’m going to have to get your Mother’s Day present while I’m gone. Please, please, can’t you just tell me what to get?”
I had to think about this for a minute. He was going to Elko, Nevada. I had not ever envisioned Elko as the shopping capital of Nevada, but surely there would be something there that would suit. Then it dawned on me—silver country! Of course! So I said, “I could really use a pair of silver earrings.” His face brightened, and I thought, I have made it so easy for this man. He won’t even have to set foot outside the hotel; he can get a pair of earrings in the gift shop. This was great: I would get a nice gift, and he would still have to do a little picking out, so it would be really personal as well.
That Saturday night when he returned home, it was clear from the look on his face that he had fulfilled his mission. You know how you feel when you’ve got just the right present for someone, and you can hardly wait to give it to the person? That’s how he looked. So I was pretty excited for the next morning.
Sunday dawned, and the kids came in with the traditional breakfast in bed—soggy Cheerios and slightly burnt toast. Burnt toast is actually fairly symbolic of motherhood, as far as I’m concerned. If you’re the one who burned the toast, you scrape it off and eat it yourself so the kids won’t have to. If they burned it, you eat it because they burned it especially for you. However you look at it, you’re going to end up consuming a fair amount of burnt toast—and loving it.
So we had the breakfast, and then it was time for the gift. Out came the little package, and the excitement was just dancing in my husband’s eyes. I unwrapped the box and opened it carefully. Inside were two pairs of sterling silver earrings.
In the shape of—dinosaurs.
To give credit to my husband’s fashion sense, the pairs were actually quite different. There were little brontosauruses in a kind of flat, hammered, two-dimensional treatment, and little stegosauruses that were three-dimensional and, well, spiky. I looked at those earrings, and then I looked up at my family, and I said, “Thank you!” My husband was grinning from here to Tuesday, and he said, “I thought the kids would get a kick out of those!” What I thought, though I didn’t say it out loud, was, Yes, well I don’t normally put on sterling silver earrings for the kids, sweetheart. I was sort of thinking church, the symphony, a nice occasion.But he was so happy, and the kids really were getting a kick out of the earrings, so I decided that if nothing else I could be the hit of the preschool carpool.
Then there was the t shirt incident. Won't bore you with the details other than it started when my husband looked over my shoulder and observed me doing a search for "T-shirt Batman" in Google. Little did he know that the search was for a special achievement award for a student who was a big Batman fan. But guess what I received for my birthday?
Do a freeze-frame here and let’s take a moment to think about these little incidents. Picture a scale, and put those silly little stegosauruses on one side of it. Now, on the other side, put a husband who honors his priesthood, who loves and serves the Lord, who works every day at a stressful and demanding job so that I can be home taking care of our kids, who loves me enough to want to buy me a Mother’s Day present, and who values my role as a mother so much that, when he’s picking a gift for me, he believes the thing that will please me most is something that the kids will get a kick out of. Put all those things on the other side of the scale, and you tell me, do you think, in fact, that this might be my soul mate after all?
What I’ve learned is that part of “I’ll go where you want me to go” is “I’ll see what you want me to see.” In most relationships, there’s a whole lot of good along with a pretty stiff dose of not-so-good. When we choose to focus on the good, it becomes much easier to see each other as I believe our Father in Heaven sees us. And that’s a much happier way to live.
The great thing about seeing the world and each other this way is that it doesn’t take any more time. It doesn’t take an ounce more energy. You don’t have to engage more personal resources. You just have to focus in a different way.
WHAT'S NEW 2009
Behind Every Good Man - Excerpt by John Bytheway
Helping Your Husband Take the Lead at Home
by John Bytheway
Although it may be a righteous desire to want someone else to live up to his or her potential more fully, you can't order a change of heart for another person. That being said, however, there are many things that might help. So take heart!
A few years ago, at a Time Out for Women event in Cincinnati, I sat with a few of the faculty eager to begin a Q & A session. Near the end of our lighthearted exchange with the attendees, one woman raised her hand and said, “How can we get our husbands to take the lead on things like Family Home Evening and Scripture study?”
We were stumped. At least I was. How do you answer a question like that in two minutes? You can’t – at least not adequately.
The answer to the quesiton the sister asked in Ohio would begin like this:
1. There are no easy answers.
2. There are a number of things that might help.
3. Even if the ideas that follow don’t help with your specific problem, I have no doubt that they will bless your marriage in other ways.
Criticism Doesn’t Bring Change
We know that the Spirit has the power to change people, and we also know something that doesn’t. Rarely is anyone criticized into change. It just doesn’t work. And criticism is offensive to the Spirit of the Lord, the very Spirit that is a vital ingredient to help our marriage grow.
Knowing what we know about marriage in the Lord’s plan, it should be obvious to us that Satan wants us to dwell on the faults of our spouses. He loves it when we focus on their shortcomings and let our frustrations fester. Satan wants to see our marriages struggle. He delights in our resentments and our contention. He longs to hear criticism. He wants pride. As the evil spirit, he doesn’t want the Holy Spirit anywhere near our marriages, because the Holy Spirit brings growth and humility and change for the better. When I’m tempted to think of the things I wish my wife would do, I simply think of things I should be doing, and I’m suddenly very forgiving. The critical spirit leaves, a spirit of humility returns, and my focus turns more inward.
The fact is, we need each other. Satan knows this, so he tries to turn us into adversaries. In our popular culture, women criticize men, and men criticize women. Current philosophies teach that women don’t need men, and men don’t need women, and that we would all be more “liberated” without marriage. One writer even suggested that marriage is “slavery for women.”
God wants our marriages to succeed. He wants love and forgiveness and humility in our homes. In all my interactions with my wife and children, I have to remind myself that I am either serving God and his purposes or serving the devil and his. King Benjamin, while speaking to families who sat listening together in their tents, set up the contrast beautifully:
“And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel on with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14-15)
This isn’t rocket science, nor is it deep theology. The idea of avoiding contention is just common sense. But unfortunately, indulging in criticism is common practice. One of the definitions of insanity is to continue to do the same thing while expecting a different result. Criticism doesn’t work! “Constructive criticism” is an oxymoron. Elder H. Burke Peterson taught:
I personally have a hardd time with people who say they believe in constructive criticism. My experience does not lead me to believe there is such a thing. My point of view is that criticism has a connotation that does not come from above. I think it is important to note that correction is different from criticism. The Lord discussed correction in his revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 121:43). He emphasized that any correction are to be performed when “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”
I suspect that most of us, when we are tempted to criticize, are not being moved upon by the Holy Ghost, but are more often responding to frustration from unmet expectations. Elder Peterson continued, “Criticism is more judgment-oriented than correction, and most of us do not have sufficient knowledge to be critical of others, especially of a spouse and children who are still growing and developing as we are.”
I also suspect that many of us are critical of our spouses without intending to be. “Many women,” according to Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, authors of How to Improve your Marriage Without Talking About It, “have no clue how critical and demeaning they are to men. When confronted about this critical behavior, the most common reaction is disbelief. ‘I’m just trying to make him a better person’—that is, more thoughtful, considerate, responsible, reliable, and so on.”
It’s easy to be critical without intending to be. But that’s why we’re talking—to see if we can make marriages stronger, no matter how humbling the process may be. Before something comes out of our mouth, it’s always a good idea to ask, “How will this make my spouse feel? Is my comment really veiled criticism?
The only time, the only time, when criticism or correction might be acceptable is when it’s invited—and even then, it must be given with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, with an attitude of love, patience, humility, and kindness.
Excerpted from Behind Every Good Man: Helping Your Husband Take the Lead at Home, by John Bytheway, Deseret Book.
About LDS Living
LDS Living Magazine is a bi-monthly magazine that focuses on family-oriented issues and entertainment, daily living, and the LDS community. We hope to reach readers of LDS origin, as well as other faiths. We have been serving this community since 1997. While our magazine complements rather than focuses on spiritual issues, we hope to affirm the lifestyle and beliefs of our readers.
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