I love this picture of a handy housewife during World War I, preserving the goodness of what she grew at home instead of relying on the nation to help her take care of her family. Now think of that in an emotional and spiritual sense, rather than a physical one.
So what kinds of things should we be growing and preserving, in order to take care of the relationship needs of our families - particularly our marriage relationships? I've been learning some good things.
A caveat: I'm not marriage expert, but I do have some reasonably good experience at practicing. I've had two husbands, and they each have had different strengths and contributions to our relationship. Heck, I'm even a different flavor now than when I was younger! But mostly, I was at an amazing conference last weekend where I heard tremendously helpful advice. Listening is the easy part. Practicing is the hard part.
Things I learned:
The barometer of our spirituality is how loving we are to those closest to us. If we truly believe in being good, in being loving, then wouldn't we want to show that? Especially to our families? Especially to our beloveds?
When you wrap your emotional life around another person, particularly your spouse, and depend on them for your sense of happiness and fulfillment, you give up your agency to really love. Your ability to chose to love must not be dependent on whether someone else has been nice to you today. That's why we depend on an always-loving and infallible God to fill our spiritual reservoirs, instead of relying on other people who are just as imperfect as we are.
Let's quit pointing fingers at "the other guy." It is MY job to be happy - MY job to be validated. I don't need to assign that essential job to my sweet husband, who already has a lot on his plate. I choose to love him because I choose to - not because of anything he does. Because sometimes he doesn't do the things I like. Then do I not love him? I get to choose. And my stores of love come from the love I receive from my Heavenly Father, who will always love me, no matter what. Happiness in marriage has very little to do with your spouse and everything to do with you and your relationship to God.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's sonnet "How Do I Love Thee" deserves a deeper pondering than what we usually give. How do I love my husband? Really, how? What do I do to show my love? Lounging around on the couch, feeling love for my sweetheart doesn't do him a lot of good, nor does it strengthen our relationship.
We can love more by thinking the best about each other. We can assume the good and doubt the bad. We can hope. We can love each other like Christ has loved us.
Watch this video, then go and love. Because we can.