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By Kevin Galbraith
When it comes to building a healthy and happy family, I cannot think of anything that matters more than a strong marriage. Marriage sets the tone for other relationships within the home, whether the tone is contentious, or nurturing and friendly. A strong marital union also provides a sense of stability and security for children. Moreover, when united, a husband and wife are more likely to provide effective leadership and are more equipped to handle difficulties and challenges that, if not handled effectively, can negatively affect the family unit. As members of the Church, we also know that eternal families begin with marriage and are developed as the husband and wife are true to temple covenants and while living their lives together, overcome adversity and become one in mind and purpose.
My message is simple: marriage matters! I know this message is nothing new, yet destructive marital conflict and divorce are so prevalent that we may forget how critical a strong marriage is to the strength and happiness of the family. Several years ago while living in another state, my wife was visiting with our 10-year-old son who had just come home from school. With a concerned look, he asked, "When are you and dad getting divorced?" As one could imagine, the question caught us off guard, especially since we were happily married. As we thought about the question, we realized that virtually all of the parents of our son's friends were either divorced or in the process of getting divorced. Divorce was so common that it appeared to be an event that just happened at some time during the developmental stage of every family.
As couples, we must be cautious that nothing, including work, children, personal hobbies, or other pursuits take precedence over the marital relationship. We must also be cautious that during the day-to-day living and hassles of life, we do not become too casual in our thinking about the marital relationship and take our spouse for granted. I believe that as a parent, one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is a deep and abiding love for our spouse. Why? Because children are dearly loyal to and love each parent and when we cherish our spouse, we create family unity and secure family bonds. These close bonds are important for healthy development in children and mean more to them than anything money can buy. In short, a strong marriage sets the stage for a stable, nurturing, and secure home, where children are able to develop in healthy ways. More important, when sealed in the temple, a strong marriage has the potential to develop into an eternal family.
Regardless of how we do it, we must remember to take time every day as couples to renew our love and devotion for one another. A strong marriage is not something that once built, can be neglected; rather it must be nurtured daily. Thus going on regular dates, joking and laughter, kind acts, working together, and open communication are among the little things that help nurture a marriage. From my professional experience working with couples through the years, it is apparent that marital breakdown begins by failing to do the little things on a regular basis that strengthen the marriage. This principle is beautifully taught in D&C 64:33. "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." And so it is with marriage. Out of small and simple acts that happen on a daily basis proceedeth that which is great. I am confident this greatness not only unfolds within the immediate family, but also in generations to come. My hope is that we never forget how critical the marital union is to the strength of the family and that we nurture the marital relationship daily in little ways.
Kevin Galbraith is a member of the faculty in the Department of Home and Family at Brigham Young University - Idaho