Nurturing Marriage

Every marriage is bound to have some challenges. Couples may come to the marriage with different ideas, expectations and goals. After the honeymoon dust has settled, the real work of nurturing the relationship begins.

Elder Dallin H Oaks shared some suggestions to help couples who are struggling in their relationship to overcome challenges and work towards perfection.

“A good marriage does not require a perfect man or a perfect woman. It only requires a man and a woman committed to strive together toward perfection.”  Elder Dallin H Oaks

“Pray together. Joining hands and praying together brings heavenly power into the marriage. It reminds us that there is one other important party that is invested in the success of our marriage and that is God. Since marriage is ordained of God, he wants us to be successful and can provide heavenly support to help us overcome the challenges.” Elder Dallin H Oaks

In s study with 217 religious spouses, participants reported the benefits they felt from prayer. These included:

  • Feelings of emotional validation
  • Accountability towards deity
  • Diminished negative interactions
  • Less hostility, contempt, and emotional reactivity
  • Enhanced relationships, empathy, self-improvement
  • Promotion of problem-solving and reconciliation
  • A sense of guidance from God (Butler et al., 2002).”

Elder Oaks shared that the remedy for most marriage challenges is repentance and overcoming selfishness. Taking responsibility for our mistakes and short comings is important to building relationships. We are not perfect and all we can do is strive to be better.

In our marriages, we often face challenges that may result in hurt, and repair work is needed. This can be an area that can be particularly challenging especially when there are differences in the way couples communicate remorse and how they feel about forgiveness.

Seeking forgiveness

In his book, The Five Languages of Apology, which has recently been renamed “When Sorry Isn’t Enough”, Gary Chapman expands on the theory that people have different ways that they perceive sincere apologies.

These include

  • expressing regret – “I’m sorry for what I did.”
  • accepting responsibility – “I was wrong.”
  • making restitution – “What can I do to make things right?”
  • genuinely repenting – “I don’t want to ever do that again.”
  • requesting forgiveness – “Will you please forgive me?”

“What most people want to know when you apologize is “are you sincere?” However, they judge your sincerity by whether or not you are speaking your apology in their primary apology language.

 Gary Chapman, The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships

Understanding that your partner may have preferences in the way they receive apologies can help in the process of reconciliation. You can learn how to more effectively apologize to your loved ones by using the free tool found on the 5 love languages website. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/apology/

6 Key Elements of an effective apology

Seeking Forgiveness  – along the same lines, research shows that there are 6 elements of an effective apology and some are more important than others.

Research done by Roy Lewick from the University of Ohio, identified 6 key elements that make up an effective apology.

His results showed that not all apologies were accepted equally, however, the more of these elements that were included, the more effective the apology. Some elements were shown to be more important than others. These were acknowledging the wrong doing and offering to fix or repair it.

These 6 elements are:

  1. Acknowledgment of responsibility and offense – admitting it was your fault, taking ownership, and acknowledging the suffering as a result of your action. “I spoke out of turn” “I ate your banana” I understand that you were disappointed about that. If it had happened to me, I would have been upset too.
  2. Offer of repair – In the future, I will check with you first, or “Tomorrow I will buy you a new one”
  3. Expression of regret – saying you are sorry “I am sorry I ate your banana”
  4. Explanation of what went wrong or what happened? Was it accidental or on purpose? “I didn’t know it was your banana” or “ I was so hungry, I didn’t think you would mind”
  5. Declaration of repentance – “I won’t do it again” “In the future, I will try to think before speaking”
  6. Request for forgiveness “can you forgive me?” This element is not as important.

Lewicki, R. J., Polin, B. and Lount, R. B. (2016), An Exploration of the Structure of Effective Apologies. Negotiation Confl Manage Res, 9: 177-196. doi:10.1111/ncmr.12073

“Drs. Julie and John Gottman explained that, “one person’s response will literally change the brain waves of the other person.” Apologize to your partner when appropriate. This will validate their feelings, promote forgiveness, and allow you both to move on.

Resources:

Hawkins, Alan J., David C. Dollahite, and Thomas W. Draper.  Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 2012. Print.

Lewicki R, Polin B, Lount R. An Exploration of the Structure of Effective Apologies. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research 9: 177-196, 2016.

Gary Chapman, The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/apology/

Butler M, Stout J, Gardner B. Prayer as a Conflict Resolution Ritual: Clinical Implications of Religious Couples’ Report of Relationship Softening, Healing Perspective, and Change Responsibility. The American Journal of Family Therapy 30: 19-37, 2002.

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