BOTTLED

  • One of the hardest things to teach a child is that the truth is more important than the consequences.” Dr. Suess

Thursday, September 28, 2017

FAMILY COACHING: CLIENT INVITATION

HEY COACH, What next ...

If you are thinking of a sports coach, think again.











This semester, learning Family Life Coaching skills that strengthen individuals and family relationships is an adventure.  Volunteer clients will be clarifying objectives and exploring new options as we learn to make firm decisions, move past obstacles, and become accountable to act on choices.

Family Coaching, like all coaching professions, promotes confidence in the application of existing and acquired skills. The process is about developing goals you choose, defining your measures of success, and having coaching support to provide encouragement, focus and accountability. 

Coaching is about you taking action to get where you want to be through personal exploration, goal setting, and consistent effort.  A family coach provides reassurance and courage for today, with the impetus for you to focus forward on future aspirations and objectives.

Services offered by student coaches have no fees (even though typical fees, for professional family and life coaching services, vary in the range of $50 to $150+ per hour.

A pilot coach-training class, beginning September 2017, is accepting volunteers willing to receive short term services from mentored coaches-in-training. The services are provided on-line or face-to-face as available.

If you are willing to volunteer to help train new family coaches by receiving services without characteristic coaching fees, please text

Linda Ames at 509-760-8719
(or e-mail ame12004@byui.edu).


Please contact me if you have questions, or need more information.



Friday, August 25, 2017

ECLIPSE TAKE AWAY

Monday, 21 August 2017

The day was warmish, and sunny with clear skies here in central Washington.

In the early afternoon we saw part of the much talked about eclipse of the sun, and indeed, as explained on the internet, we did see crescent shaped shadows.

Shadow of a hanging plant showing crescents on concrete step.

David pointed out the lacy shadows on the porch from our hanging pots, and we snapped a few photos. Then, remembering I had heard to look under trees, I moved an outdoor table under a tree and to show the same crescents in the dappled shade.

Crescents in shade of a tree on an outdoor table.

All that was fun, but not what I remember most.

As the sky dimmed, quite a bit, surprisingly, a sudden chill permeated the air.

My husband said, "I almost want my jacket."

Of course it didn't last long, and in a few minutes the sun seemed hotter than before the eclipse, and for the rest of the day the air seemed generally much hotter, although by temperature measurements it really wasn't significantly different. (Strangely, to me it has seemed oddly 'hotter' all week.)

The thing I will always remember is the chill.

We know the sun provides light, heat, and energy, yet day in and day out we largely ignore it and take it for granted. It is simply there and we expect it to be there, and continue to be there, providing for our needs.

I pondered this attitude of entitlement.
I wondered, what else do I take for granted?
And I thought of all the people in my life.
I thought of strangers, and acquaintances, and especially of family.
I thought of my siblings, my parents, and my children — all my posterity.

Too often I neglect to be grateful for their presence on the planet.

Too often I neglect to be grateful and interested in the world and things around me, all the people, all the animals, all the plants, and all the ecosystems. What wonders I ignore — perhaps even,  far too often — the creators of Heaven and Earth.


God is real, and he loves his children — you and I!
It is as simple and sure as the sun rising and setting.
And as the seasons passing.

What else do I take for granted?

I particularly considered my spouse.
I think I take him for granted every day.

That is my eclipse take away.

I am grateful for all the things my spouse does.

The more I considered what he does the more I realized how much I take him for granted.  Yet I am very grateful for my spouse, for who he is, and what he is. . . for what he does, and even for what he doesn't do.

I'll climb down off my soap box now, but just think ...

What do you take for granted — like the sun?



Friday, July 14, 2017

FAMILY RULES

“Family rules are maintained and transmitted across generations on three levels: explicit, implicit, and intuitive” teaches Dr. Bernard E. Poduska, associate professor of family life at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, (p.27). 

EXPLICIT RULES

A large poster, of a great variety of fresh vegetable and wholesome foods and grains, graced the wall behind our dining room table for many years. It was an EXPLICIT message impossible to ignore: this family loves vegetables.

It was a family rule; we mostly eat healthy foods. 

Similar posters may be purchased at All Posters on-line. 

It was discussed openly, and everyone knew the symbolism of that poster. EXPLICIT rules are the most obvious kinds. They are often written out, and placed prominently for all to see and remember: by the microwave or on the refrigerator, in a hallway, beside a light switch, or on a door. 

Such messages also may carry implicit and/or intuitive messages.

We have other EXPLICIT messages written on sticky notes, or dry erase marker on the large mirror in our main bathroom. We call it our personal ‘Liahona” (see 1Nephi 16).

The writing “change[s] from time to time” as prompts and quotes remind us to align our actions with our knowledge: 

  “Look Ahead, and Believe”
    (October 2013Edward Dube
      of the Seventy)

  “Work Will Win,
     When Wishy Washy
     Wishing Won’t”
        (Thomas S. Monson, 
        BYU Speeches, 11Jan 2009)

  “Replace Fear With Faith”
    (April 2017, Deiter F. Uchtdorf).

                                                 
IMPLICIT RULES

When we were newlyweds, my husband David, arrived home from work early in the evening. I was prepared. A carefully planned supper simmered on the stove, with fresh bread just coming out of the oven. The table was set, the house tidy, and I had changed to a fresh blouse.

His key in the lock, and step on the landing alerted me that he was home. I finished turning the bread out of the baking pans, buttered the tops of the loaves, and placed the food in serving dishes. 

From the doorway of our split level home, David called out his arrival, but never came down to the main floor. I knew how much he loved fresh-from-the-oven bread; how could he resist the aroma? I went up to tell him supper was getting cold. 


I found him just getting into a steaming bath. When he arrived home from a tense, sweaty day at work he expected a leisurely soak, and an uninterrupted period of relaxation; “Could you scrub my back,” he asked hopefully. 

I was astonished. Wasn’t he hungry?

Marriage blends rules and expectations from two cultures – two different family systems, and none of us “enter marriage empty handed; we carry a lot of ‘baggage’ with us” (Poduska, 2000, p.25). 

Each of us were acting according to IMPLICIT, unspoken rules “taught through non-verbal communication” and learned “below conscious awareness,” about “every day kinds of issues” (Poduska, 2000, pp.27-28).

These lessons are “repeated throughout childhood” (p. 27).  We all know where our father sits, and what to do (or avoid) if our mother cries.

David grew up in town, and his father worked in an office. He also served in Stake [i] and Ward (or Branch) [ii] leadership roles [iii].  In the evening, he might work around the house or yard, attend scheduled meetings, relax visiting friends, or play with the children. 


When David got home from work  he wanted to immediately ‘clean-up,’ to be refreshed and ready for evening activities with friends and family. He was willing to delay supper enough to be refreshed, set aside the stresses of the day, and able to engage socially.

When my father got home from work he was often pressured for time, and needed to eat immediately. We lived on a small farm with animals and crops to care for before night fell.

The dirtiest and hardest part of his day began after supper, in the fields and barnyard. He did not need to clean up or rest. He needed food for impeding rigor. I understood this need and the unspoken sacrifices and rules effected by that need.


David and I had to discuss and negotiate our own 'family rules' and expectations.

“It is important that couples understand the rules that bias their perceptions” (Poduska, 2000. p. 30) because misunderstandings and hurt feelings may impose unexpected penalties. 

 Differences between husband and wife, “their irreverence toward or compliance with family rules … helps explain why some … in-law[s] are accepted … and others are not. The degree of harmony between a husband’s family rules and the wife’s family rules also greatly determines the degree of difficulty in adjusting to marriage” (p.31).

When expectations aren’t met, “the most frequent consequences” are “distancing by other family members” (p.30).

INTUITIVE RULES

The poster of fruits and vegetables in our dining room, represented not only an explicit rule, but also significant INTUITIVE family rules. As multi-generational members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we adhere to The Word of Wisdom, a health code revealed to Joseph Smith in 1833 [iv].


We abstain from using tobacco and alcohol, and hot drinks—specifically coffee and tea.

We believe
 “… strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of [our] bodies.

And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.

And again, hot drinks [coffee and tea] are not for the body or belly.

And …all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used.with prudence and thanksgiving.

Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, … [are] ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; …

All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life…. (Doctrine and Covenants 89:7-14). 


INTUITIVE RULES, usually unspoken, are more far reaching than.either explicit or implicit rules. They are “associated with … ethnic, religious, or vocational backgrounds” and are often “based on family heritage” with inherited “instinctive obligations” incorporating traditions and beliefs that one is expected to “pass on” to posterity (Poduska, p.28).

Although the poster in our dining room explicitly signified good health fostered by eating well, it also carried many other implications of physical health, religious teachings, and the habits and expectations of four and five generations of progenitors.

Both David and I brought these same INTUITIVE rules to our relationship, so we did not experience conflict.

 “Most families have hundreds of spoken and unspoken rules” (Poduska, p.29).

Dr. Poduska gives an example to illustrate:

A woman raised in a small Japanese village [develops qualities which can be directly] attributed to being Japanese. Similarly, a man raised in a small Swedish village would acquire rules that make him Swedish.
If both were to immigrate to the United States, they would take a great deal of their heritage with them and would need to adapt … in their new communities. (p.29)
Marriage entails similar adjustments. Rules from the past can play a significant role in how well marital identity is formed and adjustments to in-laws happen. 

Elder Marvin J. Ashton, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1971-1994) taught, “Couples do well to immediately find their own home, separate and apart from that of the in-laws on either side … an independent domicile … governed by your decision, by your own prayerful consideration” (1974, as quoted by Harper and Olsen, 2005, p.328).

Spencer W. Kimball, twelfth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1973-1985), gave couples similar counsel to “establish their own household, separate from their parents,” and added that married couples “should confide in and counsel with their spouses, … [and] any counsel from outside sources should be considered prayerfully by both spouses together” (as quoted by Harper and Olsen, 2005, p.328).

“One of the great gifts parents-in-law can give to their married children is to recognize early that they must help define and protect the boundary of [a] new couple” (p.328).

As a husband and wife separate “from families of origin,” it may help them ‘establish’ their own traditions and rules if they imagine “existing together inside an invisible fence,” where they have privacy to “share information and behavior with each other …[that] is not meant to be shared with others outside the fence—not with future children and certainly not with parents or parents-in-law” (p.328).

EXPLAIN—BE CLEAR

 “The more a person can learn and talk about the unspoken rules in the … spouse’s family, the easier it will be to [assimilate]. … The clearer family rules are the better, because new sons—or daughters-in-law can’t follow rules if they don’t understand them.” (Harper and Olsen, 2005, p.332).

 Each couple must learn about the other’s family rules, examine what “to perpetuate or discard” (Poduska, p.33), and use “knowledge of [their] spouse’s rules … to express love and consideration in ways that can be more fully understood and appreciated by both” (p.32).

Inclusion, accepting and valuing differences, fosters fond family interactions. When  fresh viewpoints are expected to enrich everyone, and “bring new perspectives” that enhance, balance, and even complete understanding (Harper and Olsen, 2005, p.330), family members look forward to building and perfecting relationships—relationships to last forever.


REFERENCES

All Posters: http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Verdura-Fresca-Fresh-Vegetables-Still-Life-Art-Print-Poster-Posters_i8927689_.htm

Harper, J. M. & Olsen, S. F. (2005). "Creating Healthy Ties With In-Laws and Extended Families." In C. H. Hart, L.D. Newell, E. Walton, & D.C. Dollahite (Eds.), Helping and healing our families: Principles and practices inspired by "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" (pp. 327-334). Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.

Poduska, B. (2000). Till Debt do us Part, (Chapter 2). Salt Lake City, Utah: Shadow Mountain.

Poduska, B. (2000). Till Debt do us Part, (Chapter 11). Salt Lake City, Utah: Shadow Mountain.



[i] Stake: An organizational unit, often geographically based, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is usually composed of 5 -10 congregations. (see Isaiah 54:2 "enlarge the place of thy tent; stretch forth the curtains of thine habitation; spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes").

[ii] Ward: “Large congregations (approximately 300 or more members) are called wards, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smaller congregations are called branches. A ward is led by a bishop and two counselors, who constitute a bishopric. Branches are led by a branch president and two counselors.” 

[iii] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has lay leadership, unpaid members of the congregations who volunteer their time.

[iv] This health code is found in Doctrine and Covenants Section 89 of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

POWER: GIVE AND TAKE

D&C 121:41-46“[P]ower or influence can or ought to be maintained… only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge … [and] also be full of charity towards all … [yet] let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; … [so] The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion…”

FAMILY DYNAMICS


Two grandchildren, age 9 and 5, visited over July 4th. I’ll call them Sister Sue and Brother Bob. Sue was baptized and confirmed[i] recently, and is learning many new lessons about following the spirit—using her newly confirmed “Gift of the Holy Ghost.’ Bob has a knack for eliciting a ‘darling-baby’ response in many interactions.

Big-sister Sue, often rushes to ‘save’ little Bob—from everything exciting or traumatic—especially exciting things she wants to do. Bob gets very frustrated at constant interference—after all, he is a ‘big boy.’ Sue know exactly how to (though appearing innocent), frustrate Brother Bob until he cries and complains.

Bob, on the other hand, takes advantage of sympathies to push until Sister Sue lashes out, or plots revenge. He seems adept at creating a climate of ‘poor-me-bullied-by-her.’


Power struggles common to childhood, may linger in some adults as acquired habits which lock them into constant angst and conflict. Attempting to describe lead-up and fallout of such events is lengthy, but they usually occur in microseconds.

I observed such an incident develop and diffuse,
  almost before I realized it was occurring.  

While visiting an Aunt and cousins, Sister Sue was trying very hard to be a ‘model-perfect-good girl.’ As Suzy sat on a stool eating, Bob repeatedly walked past and around, just close enough to bump her, as he ‘innocently’ got drinks and snacks.

PREVENTION


In my experience, the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” discloses great truth.  We’ve tried to teach our children (and now grandchildren) to ‘boss’ themselves, not others. Sister Sue was soon steaming, and plotting. I could see it in her face and ready-to-swing fists should he again came too close. As I began to wonder about how to prevent a blow-out, I saw him coming again—and so did she.

I watched in the helpless fascination of time slowed to freeze-frame-jerks, and saw something unexpected. I saw her flinch as if to strike, but she didn’t. 

I’d overheard loving parents teaching kindness, and listening to promptings. I realized that discussion was influencing her—Bob walked away completely oblivious to what occurred.

WHO'S THE BOSS?

In his 2008 article, “Who Is The Boss?” Richard B. Miller, PhD, Director of the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University, taught the power of parents working together to teach true principles. 

Quoting several prominent authorities he reinforced that “setting limits to what a child can do means …you love him and respect him.” When we “in our affection … dare not check [children] in a wayward course, [or] in wrong-doing … for fear of offending them” we do them a disservice. He clarified that parents should “not be afraid to set clear moral standards and guidelines. Be sure to say no when it is needed.”

I called Sister Sue’s name, and motioned her to come for a hug. She did, and cried a little. The effort had been huge. I told her she is an amazing big sister to kindly ignore Bob when he is trying to bug her.

I asked how she felt. “Good,” she replied, reinforcing that she can feel and heed spiritual promptings.

Without knowing it, she felt powerful.

Self-control is one of the greatest powers we can develop. 

Later I made sure to tell her parents (in her hearing), about her inherent goodness and desire to do what is right. Telling others what they do right, and thanking them for it validates their strengths and increases their inner motivation to continue.

Nevertheless, later the same evening, Sue tormented Bob while they brushed teeth at the same time. I failed to realize she was blocking him from the sink, and his mouth was full of toothpaste foam. He was whining without words, and I wondered why he was walking back and forth, back and forth, first on one side and then the other. 


When I caught on, I asked her to make sure he could use the sink, and she appeared to stand to one side, but straddled her feet so he still had difficulty getting to the sink. 

Sheesh!

Rather than making a bigger issue of her efforts to be ‘innocently inconsiderate,’ I complimented his cooperation, and willingness to try to get along by using either side. Seeming to give into Sue, by adjusting his own actions, gave Bob greater choices than fighting her.

These dynamics of power can be seen in marriage and family relationships of all types. Dr. Miller’s research reveals that “power is made up of two major components …
  • the process of power, where one [person]… tends to dominate [interactions, or fail to] listen
  •  [and] power outcome, which is determined by which [person] tends to get their way….”
When I complimented Brother Bob's willingness to get along in peace, she put her feet together, both finished their teeth, and we had lots of time to read stories.



If we notice good, others are motivated to align actions and behaviors toward more good. 

In 1998, while serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Henry B Eyring taught that God “placed in His children a desire to live at peace with all those around them.”

FALSE POWER: CONTENTION

Eyring reminded listeners that “Satan, [our] enemy … plants the seeds of discord in human hearts” because he knows the plan of happiness for God’s children and “knows that only in eternal life can those sacred, joyful associations of families endure.” 

Satan's intent is to cause misery by damaging family relationships.

When we fail to follow Jesus Christ’s example, we give Satan power 
“to reign over us,” cautioned Ezra Taft Benson [ii] (thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; 1985-1994), in his April 1986 Conference address, and again in 1989 

Can we thwart the adversary’s power and make peace?

SEE GOOD, SPEAK WELL

Elder Eyring teaches that peace and unity come as we “see the good in each other and speak well of each other whenever we can.”   He reminds us:

There are some commandments which, when broken, destroy unity. Some have to do with what we say and some with how we react to what others say. … 
[For] unity, there are commandments we must keep concerning how we feel. We must forgive and bear no malice toward those who offend us. The Savior set the example from the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
We do not know the hearts of those who offend us. Nor do we know all the sources of our own anger and hurt. 
The Apostle Paul was telling us how to love in a world of imperfect people, including ourselves, when he said, 'Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil' (1 Cor. 13:4–5).
And then he gave solemn warning against reacting to the fault of others and forgetting our own …” (1 Cor. 13:12).
Elder Eyring explains further that the power of unity and peace come to us through the spirit.

The Holy Ghost is a sanctifier. We can have it as our companion because the Lord restored the Melchizedek Priesthood through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The keys of that priesthood are on the earth today. By its power we can make covenants which allow us to have the Holy Ghost constantly.
Where people have that Spirit with them, we may expect harmony. The Spirit … never generates contention (see 3 Ne. 11:29). It never generates the feelings of distinctions between people which lead to strife (see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 13th ed. [1963], 131).
It leads to personal peace and a feeling of union with others. It unifies souls. A unified family, a unified Church, and a world at peace depend on unified souls.
A CHILD CAN

Elder Eyring reminds us that accessing the Holy Ghost as a companion is so simple that “a child can understand what to do.” We make and keep baptismal covenants to remember Jesus Christ and be obedient to God’s commandments, to “always have his Spirit to be with [us]” 
(D&C 20:77).

Sister Sue tells me it’s sometimes hard to hear the spirit, that it is very quiet, and that she is practicing listening still. I am humbled.

I am practicing, too.




REFERENCES

Ballard, M. R. (1997). Counseling with our councils: learning to minister together in the church and in the family. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book.


Eyring, Henry B. "That we may be one" Ensign May 1998, 66. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, May 1998. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1998/04/that-we-may-be-one.p11?lang=eng 06 July 2017.

Miller, Richard B. “Who is the boss? Power relationships in families.” BYU Conference on Family Life, Brigham Young University, March 28, 2009.



[i] Baptism followed by confirmation as a member of the Church also confers The Gift of the Holy Ghost.

[ii] President Ezra Taft Benson delivered "Cleansing the Inner VesselApril 1986. And then reiterated and expanded his teachings April 1989 when he requested Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to read “Beware of Pride in his behalf.

Monday, July 3, 2017

POSITIVE PURPOSES

“We believe ….”
Basic beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are outlined in 13 brief statements called “The Articles of Faith.” Twelve of the 13 statements begin with these same two words: “We believe ….”


With this as context, an anecdote related by Brent A. Barlow, an associate professor of Family Science at BYU, is most amusing.

As a young missionary for the LDS Church, he and his companion “met a Protestant minister who invited [them] in out of the cold. After exchanging points of view on various topics, he asked [them], ‘And what is the Mormon attitude towards sexuality?’”

The young, unmarried Elder was speechless and sure his new companion, also single, “knew next to nothing on the matter.” However, when the minister inquired a second time, his companion “finally said, ‘Sir, we believe in it.’” (Ensign, September 1986).

My husband and I may laugh about this story for a long time.

We believe in it too!

STEWARDSHIPS OF SEXUALITY 

Sometimes people are embarrassed to openly discuss, 
  or learn about, human sexuality.

Research psychologist and author, Dr. Sean E. Brotherson, describes this lack of literacy regarding sexuality in his 2003 Meridian Magazine article, “Fulfilling the Sexual Stewardship in Marriage.”  He recounts, “President Hugh B. Brown, who served as a counselor in the First Presidency, wrote the following about sexual intimacy in his book You and Your Marriage:
Thousands of young people come to the marriage altar almost illiterate insofar as this basic and fundamental function is concerned. The sex instinct is not something which we need to fear or be ashamed of. It is God-given and has a high and holy purpose … We want our young people to know that sex is not an unmentionable human misfortune, and certainly it should not be regarded as a sordid but necessary part of marriage. There is no excuse for approaching this most intimate relationship in life without true knowledge of its meaning and its high purpose. (Bookcraft, 1960, pp. 73, 76).
Dr. Brotherson reports two significant parts of what many people learn;
·       the ignorance and hype of misguided and misinformed sensual images and expressions which “distort” or “sensationalize sexual intimacy,”
·       and the inhibitions imposed by “powerful and compelling warnings … seek[ing] to steer us away from pornography, sexual exploitation, and immorality in sexual matters” (2003).
He also outlines a “seldom heard or discussed" third part,
 the positive purposes of intimacy, as
  • the dialogue about the sanctity, power and emotional depth of proper sexual intimacy in the companionship of a married husband and wife.” 
If this third element is overlooked, “we may come to believe that the only kind of discussion about sexuality that is warranted is the dialogue about [temptations and taboos]” (2003).

Ezra Taft Benson, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve (1973-1985) taught: “Today, with the abundance of [information] available … Feed only on the best. As John Wesley’s mother counseled him: ‘Avoid whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, … [or] increases the authority of the body over the mind’” (“In His Steps,” in 1979 Devotional Speeches of the Year [1980], 61). (Lesson 23, SS manual).

As a young man, engaged to be married, answers for many of Brotherson’s own questions were determined in part by talking with his mother and aunt. After some private reading[i] about intimacy in marriage he “asked what that experience was really supposed to be like. [His] mother laughed and said that sometimes it was fun, sometimes it was comforting, sometimes it was romantic, sometimes it was spiritual, and sometimes it was just a willingness to love. [He] still think[s] that's about the best answer [he has] ever heard on that question” (2003).
  
ASK AND ANSWER

My father taught that physical intimacy between a man and woman is sacred, not secret, and should always be a very personal demonstration of affection as each give of themselves in ways learned and shared only between them, within the permanence of marriage. He taught that genuine intimacy involves every aspect of a person; the spiritual and emotional as well as the physical; the joining of two minds, and two hearts, not just two bodies.

Dr. Brotherson affirms this sacred unity by quoting the teachings of President Harold B. Leeeleventh president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1972 -1973):

The divine impulse within every true man and woman that impels companionship with the opposite sex is intended by our Maker as a holy impulse for a holy purpose, not to be satisfied as a mere biological urge or as a lust of the flesh in promiscuous associations, but to be reserved as an expression of true love in holy wedlock. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 2000, p. 112; emphasis added)
A Parent’s Guide,” one of my favorite Latter-day Saint resource manuals, assists parents to answer searching questions about intimacy in sensitive and appropriate ways. It reminds us:
 Both husbands and wives have physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual need associated with this sacred act. They will be able to complement each other in the marriage relationship if they give tender, considerate attention to these needs of their partner. Each should seek to fulfill the other’s needs rather than to use this highly significant relationship merely to satisfy his or her own passion.
Couples will discover differences in the needs or desires each partner has for the relationship, but when each strives to satisfy the needs of the other these differences need not present a serious problem. Remember, this intimate relationship between husband and wife was established to bring joy to them. An effort to reach this righteous objective will enable married couples to use their complementary natures to bring joy to this union (chapter 6).


My parents were open and frank. I knew I could ask them anything I was curious or concerned about, and they would answer my questions. The human body, with all its functions was not a forbidden topic.

I have eyes and ears, fingers and toes, and many other body parts. Some are visible and others are sacred and private. It is important to care for and know about the proper use and purpose of all parts of my body.

TEACHINGS of PROPHETS

Spencer W. Kimball, twelfth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1973-1985), taught:
The union of the sexes, husband and wife (and only husband and wife), was for the principal purpose of bringing children into the world. Sexual experiences were never intended by the Lord to be a mere plaything or merely to satisfy passions and lusts. We know of no directive from the Lord that proper sexual experience between husbands and wives need be limited totally to the procreation of children, but we find much evidence from Adam until now that no provision was ever made by the Lord for indiscriminate sex (1975).
We urge, with Peter, ‘…Abstain from fleshy lusts, which war against the soul.’ (1 Pet. 2 :11) No indecent exposure or pornography or other aberrations to defile the mind and spirit. No fondling of bodies, one’s own or that of others, and no sex between persons except in proper marriage relationships. This is positively prohibited by our creator in all places, at all times, and we reaffirm it. Even in marriage there can be some excesses and distortions. No amount of rationalization to the contrary can satisfy a disappointed Father in heaven (1974).
Sex is for procreation and expression of loveIt is the destiny of men and women to join together to make eternal family units. In the context of lawful marriage, the intimacy of sexual relations is right and divinely approved. There is nothing unholy or degrading about sexuality in itself, for by that means men and women join in a process of creation and in an expression of love (1982).
To me, the creation of another human being—part of each spouse united in a child—is the ultimate expression of the wholeness and permanence of marriage and sexual intimacy.

IDEALS

Although marriage and family relationships in this world may be imperfect, there is an ideal; God is an omnipotent father, and we are His children—children of a Heavenly Father and Mother—a perfect pattern.

Howard W Hunter, fourteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1994-1955), taught:
“Tenderness and respect–never selfishness–must be the guiding principles in
the intimate relationship between husband and wife. Each partner must be considerate and sensitive to the other’s needs and desires. Any domineering, indecent, or uncontrolled behavior in the intimate relationship between husband and wife is condemned by the Lord” (1994). 
God provides commandments, and promises that we can learn to live in love and happiness.

Do we always succeed?
No! We’re  practicing.
We often feel far from our ideal.

When we married, my husband placed his hands on my shoulders and held me at arm’s length as if to memorize every feature of my face.
I laughed.

This is his favorite picture. 

Myself, I like the photo of us side by side, ready to walk forward together, focused on covenants to consecrate ourselves to each other, and only each other. Covenants and promises made  in a house of God—a temple, with Heavenly Father, to build an eternal family—an ideal family.


Together, both perspectives contribute strength to our marriage; remembering, and moving forward ... holding tightly to covenants.

Can marriages and families become ideal? 
Yes—and it may take time.

“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Mathew 19:26). 

“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).


REFERENCES

Barlow, B. A. "They Twain Shall Be One: Thoughts on intimacy in marriage,": Thoughts on intimacy in marriage", Ensign, Sept 1986, 49.

Brotherson, S.E. (2003). "Fulfilling the Sexual Stewardship in Marriage." Meridian Magazinewww.meridianmagazine.com.

President Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, Nov. 1994, 51

Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1974, 7.

President Spencer W. Kimball, “The Lord’s Plan for Men and Women,” Ensign, Oct. 1975, 4).

President Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 311



[i] Dr. Brotherson provides a reading list of “[q]uality resources on sexual fulfillment in marriage that most Latter-day Saints could comfortably read …. [T]here are some excellent sources of information that provide a sound starting point. These are well-written, practical guides on sexual intimacy for couples by a well-recognized sex therapist and his spouse.”

Brotherson states, “I should note that these are not the only books on this topic, but from my perspective they will be comfortable and informative reading for any Latter-day Saint who wishes to pursue more understanding in this area. Additionally, many other books in the LDS marketplace that deal with marriage have one or more chapters dealing with the topic of sexual fulfillment in practical and insightful ways.”

Six sources are listed here as a point of further reference:

1 - The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love by Tim and Beverly LaHaye. Excellent, Christian-based book on sexual love in marriage, frank and wholesome. Great for engaged or newlywed couples, as well as couples at any other stage of marriage.

2 - Between Husband and Wife: Gospel Perspectives on Marital Intimacy by Stephen Lamb and Douglas Brinley. Solid and interesting perspective on marital intimacy from a Latter-day Saint gospel perspective. Very good resource.

3 - Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat. Book by a Christian MD and therapist with his wife, very insightful and well-done.

4 - The Sex-Starved Marriage by Michele Weiner Davis. Well-known therapist and marriage educator has written an engaging and positive book about dealing with sexual challenges in marriage. Brand new, a great read.

5 - Purity and Passion by Wendy Watson, a BYU professor and marital therapist whose book on intimacy is grounded in gospel understanding and purpose. Nice resource.

6 - Couple Sexual Awareness or Sexual Awareness: Couple Sexuality for the Twenty-first Century or Rekindling Desire: A Step by Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages, all by Barry and Emily McCarthy.

Friday, June 23, 2017

APPRECIATIVE PRAISE

“Marriage teaches you
  • loyalty, 
  • forbearance, 
  • self-restraint,
  • meekness,
  • and a great many other things you wouldn’t need if you had stayed single,” jokingly quotes Dr. H. Wallace Goddard, Professor of Family Life for the University of Arkansas,
    in his book Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage
    (2007, p.129, bullets mine).

“The truth is different,” Goddard teaches. “We need those qualities whether married or single ….”

My spouse, David, and I both love cantaloupe.

If one of us slices and peels it, cuts it into bite-sized chunks, and places it in the frig ‘ready-to-eat,’ we both enjoy it.

It is quickly consumed.
If not, sometimes the fruit spoils before it is eaten.

Recently, while pressed for time, I sliced off the end and ate it, but did not prepare the remaining fruit, except to remove the seeds and the pulp surrounding them. My husband, seeking a quick snack, opened the refrigerator and complained that it wasn’t prepared.

I reminded him it was seeded, and teasing him mildly, 
suggested he thank me for seeding it.

He did.

Dr. John M Gottman,  professor of psychology, bestselling author, and founder of the Gottman Institute, calls my husband’s kind response, and subsequent actions, a ‘repair attempt.’

“I feel lazy today,” David said. “I don’t feel like cutting a whole slice.”
But then he cut a slice, and ate it. I felt like he gave me a small gift.

In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman asserts that successful repair attempts are one of the “primary factors in whether [a] marriage is likely to flourish” (p. 27) and one of the most “important findings” from the “Love Lab,” in Seattle.

When we look for good, or accept influence from others, we are “open to considering [their] position” (p. 184-185). 

In other words we show charity toward them.

REJOICE IN WHAT’S RIGHT

If we have “trained [our] mind to see what is wrong, what is missing,” we fail to notice or “appreciate what is there,” and it is virtually impossible to “rejoice in what’s right with [our spouse]  or [our] marriage” (Gottman, p.283).

Dr. Gottman spells out that this “reflects what goes wrong
85 percent of the time in marriages. … You are always on the lookout for what is not there in yourself and your partner …
and overlook the fine qualities that are there—those we take for granted.

The bowl of cantaloupe in my refrigerator provides a simple example.

Later that day, I peeled and cubed the melon.

Dr. Goddard quotes Elder Marvin J. Ashton, a Latter-day Saint apostle of Jesus Christ, as he describes how to best effect charity:
Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet.
Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down (p.110).
Elder Ashton continued
Charity … [is] resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped.
Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone [including self] who has hurt us.
Charity is expecting the best of each other (April, 1992).
“Irritation can be our friend,” teaches Dr. Goddard. “It alerts us to the risk … that something we are doing (or feeling, or saying) is creating a sore” similar to having a pebble in our shoes (p.75).

It alerts us that change (and perhaps repentance) is needed.


 Dr. Goddard emphasizes,
  “We cannot fix our partners,”
  “We cannot even fix ourselves!
  "But we can make ourselves humble” (p.143).
  “We must have divine help” (p.142).

GRIDLOCK

When relationships have the same battles “again and again,” and nothing seems to have changed; when “neither of you” seem to have “humor, empathy, or affection” as you discuss touchy topics; when you draw ever further apart as you become “increasingly polarized;” and when “compromise” feels like your “core …beliefs, values, or sense of self” are critically threatened; then gridlock, a symptom of issues which are unlikely to be resolved, may be occurring (Gottman, p.237).



Gridlock results when “certain types of negativity … run rampant” (Gottman, p.32). 

4 SPECIFIC NEGATIVITY TYPES

Complaints, defined as concerns about “a specific behavior or event” become (or are interpreted as) criticism—a more global critical evaluation of overall “character or personality” (p.33). Complaints are “specific requests for change,” but “there is no such thing as constructive criticism. All criticism is painful” (p.282).

Chronic criticism generally has “two sources … an emotionally unresponsive partner, [and] self-doubt,” the persistent inadequacy which plagues people “from within” (p.282).

“Sarcasm … cynicism …name-calling, eye rolling, mockery, and hostile humor” are manifestations of contempt (p.34). It rears its insolent attitude of “superiority over one’s partner” next, to not only prohibit diverse viewpoints, but to also categorize disparities as “moral deficienc[ies]” (p.35).

As unpleasant interactions intensify, “defensiveness in all its guises … escalates the conflict.”

Its finger-pointing shifts blame away from self and any personal responsibility to “back down or apologize” (p.37, 164).


Stonewalling … acting like an impassive stone wall … arrives later,” as partners turn away from one another, and begin to not only avoid conflict, but also each other (p.38).

Am I turning toward my spouse? 

Or am I turning away from, or even against, him or her?

ANTIDOTES

Real antidotes to toxic behaviors exist.

Quoting psychologist Daniel B. Wile’s book After the Honeymoon, Gottman indicates “When choosing a long-term partner … you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with” for the duration of your relationship (p.139).

Research by Gottman indicates that a 69% “majority of marital conflicts” are perpetual, but happy couples have learned to “live with [marital conflict] and approach it with good humor
 (2015, p. 137-139).

President Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985-1994), taught:

"You do change human nature, your own human nature,
   if you surrender it to Christ. 

"Human nature can be changed here and now. 

"Human nature has been changed in the past …. 

"And only Christ can change it" (As quoted by Goddard, p.128).

All can be healed through Christ. 
He can heal the sick, and even raise the dead (John 11:1-2,5,11,14,43)
The Raising of Lazarus, by Carl Bloch

We have been married 35 years.
Gridlock has not been foreign to us.

At one critical juncture (when I was hurt and angry), our Bishop counseled me to look for something to thank my spouse for, every day for one month. I agreed.

I began, grudgingly, but I kept that promise.

Each day I added one or more items to a list I kept to prove that I was keeping my promise. When I again visited with the Bishop, I asked if he wanted the list, half-hidden in my hand by folding it neatly into a small square.

The Bishop, in turn, asked if I needed to give it to him.
I didn’t. I was changed.

Gratitude to my husband did not initially change him;
it altered my thoughts and feelings.


I was surprised.
I decided to apply the exercise to myself.
What was I doing well?

GRATITUDE

Dr. H. Wallace Goddard suggests that appreciating “little habits and eccentricities” aids us to understand and accept our spouse [or others] “as a total package” (p. 106).

Dr. John M. Gottman extends the same concept to forgiving ourselves. He teaches, “The best thing you can do for yourself and your marriage is to work on accepting yourself with all your flaws” (p.283).

Thomas S. Monson, modern prophet of God and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked all listening to his April 2017 General Conference address to “examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable.”

One of the kindest, most loving, and charitable accomplishments in all relationships is appreciation—simply saying ‘thank you.’

“If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues,” avowed President Monson, in his October 2010 General Conference address titled, “The Divine Gift of Gratitude.”

President Monson encouraged all, “We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude” (October 2010).



  REFERENCES

Goddard, H. W. (2007). Drawing heaven into your marriage: powerful principles with eternal results. Fairfax, VA: Meridian Pub.
Gottman, J. M., and Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: a practical guide from the country's foremost relationship expert. New York: Harmony Books.

President Thomas S. Monson, “The Divine Gift of Gratitude.” October 2010, retrieved 20 June 2017 from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/the-divine-gift-of-gratitude?lang=eng

President Thomas S. Monson, “Kindness, Charity, and Love. April 2017, retrieved 20 June 2017 from  https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/04/kindness-charity-and-love?lang=eng