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

Thursday, February 21, 2019


 My new-to-me car was blue, my favorite color. 

In addition to a powerful V8, the Buick Lucerne CXL, 4 door sedan featured all 5 possible luxury packages including a remote start which activated automatic temperature control for the interior and warming (or cooling) for the cream-colored leather seats. Also included were airbag and braking safety features; rain-sense wipers, tachometer and cruise control; heated, auto-dimming mirrors; specialty lighting and sound systems and interior trim, and much more.

Everything I could think to have for economy (25-30 mpg), safety, comfort, and pleasure; and many things I hadn’t even considered (like tire pressure sensors) were mine, all mine! 

And it was a steal! Found almost by chance through a surprising turn of events, I knew it was for me. I knew God (fate, karma, or whatever you may ascribe such blessings to) had provided me with a choice car, in my cash price range (very low), at the very time I needed it most. Kindness and love from family members also assisted possible ownership to become a reality. 

The ride was exhilarating.

There was an accident that dented the front passenger door extensively. Although it could be opened and closed, the window was not functional and the glass was cracked so severely that safety was an issue. 

Should I drive the car with damage?
Mechanically, the car was sound.
Should I ignore the issues?
Of course not!

I loved the car, and immediately had the entire door completely repaired so it, and the window, could be used without hindrance.

Marriage can be compared to my car.
There should be benefits, safety, comfort, pleasure—and joy.

Courtship may be amazing, perhaps even in the way you meet, and soon a date is set, plans with loved ones launched, and the exhilaration of marriage begins.

Eventually a few bumps, and perchance an accident—or two—cause a dent in the relationship or damage to feelings of one or both partners.

Should the issues be ignored?
Of course not!

Although the relationship is still intact,
 repair is needed, something more than polishing or waxing. 

Hurt feelings, and dented egos devalue connections, diminish trust, and contribute to future concerns.

Over time, extensive damage on a car will worsen causing paint to fail, and the canker of rust to begin. And cracked glass eventually breaks. The integrity of the entire vehicle can be jeopardized.

Family, and marriages (and other cherished loved ones) have much deeper inherent value than cars. They also need daily care, frequent maintenance, 
and occasional repairs. 

President Deiter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints advises, “Set aside pride.

“Sincerely apologizing to your children, your [spouse], your family, or your friends is not a sign of weakness but of strength. …Even when you are not at fault—perhaps especially when you are not at fault—let love conquer pride” (April 2016, In Praise of Those Who Save).

In 2012 President Uchtdorf instructed, “When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!
It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love …” (Uchtdorf, Deiter F., The Merciful Obtain Mercy, April 2012).

New York Times bestselling authors of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John M. Gottman and Nan Silver,  claim successful marriage 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. 

After decades of research involving thousands of couples, they claim to be able to predict marital breakdown to divorce with an astonishing 91% average accuracy rate (p.2; see also Mathematics of Marriage: Predicting Divorce). 

Repair attempts among couples vary and have no particular format, but “are a secret weapon” of happy couples even though they “aren’t even aware that they are employing something so powerful” 
(p. 27).

The terminology ‘repair attempts’ describes “any statement or action—silly or otherwise—that prevents negativity from escalating out of control,” and “what determines the success of [a couple’s] repair attempts is the strength of their marital friendship” (p. 27).

Sounds simple, right?
We should be nice, no?

 Dr. Gottman warns that friendship is anything but simple. In marriage, he found friendship is surprisingly complex. Nevertheless, “When a couple have a strong friendship they naturally become experts at sending each other repair attempts and at correctly reading those sent their way” (p. 27). 

What makes marriage work? 

 Dr. John M. Gottman 

Dr. Gottman notes seven ways that happy marriages are alike, but the core finding of decades of research with his colleagues points to one “simple truth” (p. 21). “Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship . . . a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company.” Couples in enduring relationships “are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams, . . . have an abiding regard for each other and express this fondness . . . through small gestures day in and day out” (p. 21).

Gottman advocates repair. Just as my car required repair, so do relationships, and the best repairs prevent further damage. Repairs may require 5 positives for each negative.

Cars have purpose and so do marriages, but as Gottman advises, “Most marital arguments cannot be resolved” (p.28)—especially not as readily as a car can be repaired. Yet, instead of wasting time in conflict, he reminds us that couples can “learn how to live with [their differences] by honoring and respecting each other …”. Successful relationships “don’t just ‘get along’—they support each other’s hopes and aspirations and build purpose into their lives together” (p.28).  

President Utchdorf also counsels, “Great marriages are built … day after day, over a lifetime. And that is good news. Because no matter how flat your relationship may be at the present, if you keep adding pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness, eventually a mighty pyramid will begin to grow.

“If it appears to take forever, remember: happy marriages are meant to last forever! So ‘be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great [marriage]. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great’ (Doctrine and Covenants 64:33).

“It may be a gradual work, but it doesn’t have to be a cheerless one. In fact, at the risk of stating the obvious, divorce rarely happens when the husband and wife are happy.

“So be happy!” 
(April 2016, In Praise of Those Who Save)  


Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: a practical guide from the country's foremost relationship expert. New York: Harmony Books.

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Divorce Diet: ReInvent Reaction Ideas

What does 'divorce' mean?

Have you ever read "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis?
He posits that divorce is a separation -
   from anything or anyone.
As in, "Sometimes I need to divorce my worst habits."

What is a 'diet'?

  Is it what we eat? and enjoy?
  Or what we sacrifice or deny?

  Is it what you CAN have, or can't?
 What you internalize, or don't?

How would you define these terms - divorce and diet?
Do these terms define only physical parameters?
Or, are there other aspects to weigh?

And consider -when conflict begins in a family, what is the 'regular' or 'habitual' response?

Is it an action moving toward an 'ideal' enduring, everlasting, family?

Do we start with small basics going toward or away from our desired outcomes?

In April 2011 LDS, General Conference, Elder Lynn G. Robbins gave a talk titled, "What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?" He began with the well known quote, “To be, or not to be,” suggesting it as “a very good question.1" 

Elder Robbins reminds us,"The Savior posed the question in a far more profound way, making it a vital doctrinal question for each of us: ‘What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am’ (3 Nephi 27:27; emphasis added). The first-person present tense of the verb be is I Am."

Jesus "invites us to take upon us His name and His nature.” As Elder Robbins finished his talk he reminded listeners that although his “remarks” were mostly “to parents, … the principles apply to everyone.”

Take a moment and reflect—ask yourself: “What manner of man or woman ought I to be?

Elder Robbins explained it this way: "To be and to do are inseparable. As interdependent doctrines they reinforce and promote each other. Faith inspires one to pray, for example, and prayer in turn strengthens one’s faith."

As he talked about interactions between family members, mostly parents and children, I often found the expectations for how to help a child become more Christlike (and follow the example of Jesus) beneficial to me–a child of God. With small adjustments of phrasing, I suddenly found the very basics I need to apply to my interactions with other family members – even some interactions with my spouse.

Elder Robbins said, “We will never have a greater opportunity to teach and show Christlike attributes to our children than in the way we discipline them … It should not be done in anger. We can and should discipline the way that Doctrine and Covenants 121 teaches us: ‘by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge’ (verses 41–42). These are all Christlike be’s that should be a part of who we, as parents and disciples of Christ, are.”

[What if we paraphrase that counsel to apply it to marriage?

“We will never have a greater opportunity to [share] or show Christlike attributes to our [spouse] than in the way we [disagree] with them … It should not be done in anger. We can and should [disagree] the way that Doctrine and Covenants 121 teaches us: ‘by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge’ (verses 41–42). These are all Christlike be’s that should be a part of who we, as [partners] and disciples of Christ, are.”

Continuing to paraphrase and apply Elder Robbins counsel to everyone, can we “turn negatives into positives[?] If your [spouse] confesses to a wrong, praise the courage it took to confess. Ask … what he or she learned from the mistake or misdeed, which gives … the Spirit an opportunity to touch and teach [you and them]. When we [learn]… doctrine by the Spirit, that doctrine has the power to change [our] very nature—be—over time.

“Alma discovered this same principle, that ‘the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword’ (Alma 31:5; emphasis added). Why? Because the sword focused only on punishing behavior—or do—while preaching the word changed people’s very nature—who they were or could become.

“[An easy going, compliant spouse will enroll us in Marriage] 101. If you are blessed with a [spouse] who tests your patience to the nth degree, you will be enrolled in [Marriage] 505. Rather than wonder what you might have done wrong in the pre-mortal life to be so deserving, you might consider the more challenging [spouse] a blessing and opportunity to become more godlike yourself …[in developing] your patience, long-suffering, and other Christlike virtues most likely be tested, developed, and refined? Could it be possible that you need this [spouse] as much as this [spouse] needs you?

“We have all heard the advice to condemn the sin and not the sinner. Likewise, when [there is family conflict] …, we must be careful not to say things that would cause anyone to believe that what they did wrong is who they are. “Never let failure progress from an action to an identity,” with its attendant labels like “stupid,” “slow,” “lazy,” or “clumsy.”2 Our [family members] are God’s children. That is their true identity and potential. His very plan is to help His children overcome mistakes and misdeeds and to progress to become as He is. Disappointing behavior, therefore, should be considered as something temporary, not permanent—an act, not an identity.

“We need to be careful, therefore, about using permanent phrases such as ‘You always …’or ‘You never …’ [during conflict]. Take care with phrases such as ‘You never consider my feelings’ or ‘Why do you always make us wait?’ Phrases like these make actions appear as an identity and can adversely influence … [other]’s self-perception…, identity, or self-worth. …

“In helping [family members] discover who they are and helping strengthen their self-worth, we can appropriately compliment their achievement or behavior—the do. But it would be even wiser to focus our primary praise on their character and beliefs—who they are.”…

"During family scripture time, look for and discuss examples of attributes discovered in your reading that day. Because Christlike attributes are gifts from God and cannot be developed without His help,3 in family and personal prayers, pray for those gifts.

At the dinner table, occasionally talk about attributes, especially those you discovered in the scriptures earlier that morning. “In what way were you a good friend today? In what way did you show compassion? How did faith help you face today’s challenges? In what way were you dependable? honest? generous? humble?” There are scores of attributes in the scriptures that need to be [shared] and learned.

The most important way to [share] to be is to be [like] … our Father in Heaven is to us. He is … perfect …, and He has shared with us His … manual—the scriptures. … May your efforts to develop Christlike attributes be successful so that His image may be engraven in your countenance and His attributes manifest in your behavior.


1. William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, 
     act 3, scene 1, line 56.
2. Carol Dweck, quoted in Joe Kita, “Bounce Back Chronicles,” 
     Reader’s Digest, May 2009, 95.
3. See Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 115

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Divorce Diet: ReInvent Reactions


This semester I am continuing to work on my Family Advocacy degree at BYU-I (online) as a family coach and advocate.

This week I am teaching a mini-workshop about strengthening families. It is titled “The Divorce Diet: ReInvent Reaction.”

Time and place arranged according to your needs. Please text or email to arrange times to share fun ideas and resources.

Questions? Please email