• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Friday, June 23, 2017


“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.


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).


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). 


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?


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?


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).


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

President Thomas S. Monson, “Kindness, Charity, and Love. April 2017, retrieved 20 June 2017 from