My husband and I have been married for 17 years. In that time, we’ve learned how to communicate far better with each other, in part because we’ve learned to love each other better. Russ is a dreamer; he’s a man with a vision and the world is just filled with possibilities. For me, reality rings loud and strong, and it’s hard for me to have faith in things outside of the gospel and the Savior. Russ used to bring ideas to me that he was so excited about, and after he was done presenting them, he’d say with a smile, “Okay! Go ahead, shoot it down!” This was his way of asking me for the flaws and potential failures in his plan. I always saw them, and as I shared them, I killed a lot of his ideas. It didn’t discourage him much, the disappointments were minor because he had many more ideas just waiting for their turn. While this is communicating, it’s not counseling.
Elder M. Russell Ballard teaches us about the superiority of communication within a council in his book, “Counseling with Our Councils.” The first points he makes are about the authority that the quorums in the Church hold and what decisions they can and do make and how they come to those decisions.
Husbands and wives have authority in their own families. The man and woman are equal in their marriage partnership; there is no President and Vice President, only equality. This does
not mean they have the same duties, strengths, or responsibilities, rather, that their power and authority are honored equally. The Priesthood is the governing power in the Kingdom of God, but Elder Ballard defines it as “service, not servitude; compassion, not compulsion; caring not control.” When a husband and wife come together, each valuing the other’s opinion, wisdom, background, and experience, coupled with the Spirit of unity, they will succeed.
Next, Elder Ballard notes that an agenda is passed out the night before the council so each member has an opportunity to ponder and pray about the items before the meeting. This agenda is adhered to throughout the council, and everyone has an opportunity to contribute their thoughts about each item listed. However, it’s found that the members of the council are eager to hear each other’s concerns and recommendations; they desire very much to learn and listen from others rather than speak or dominate.
Married couples also will find success as they pattern their companionship council the way the Lord set forth His Church government. When the concerns or issues are noted beforehand, each spouse has time to think about and prepare for a discussion. In addition to their preparation, when the come with the Spirit of love, they’re better able to understand each other and desire the success and happiness of their spouse. They want their spouse to be happy and will find a way together for them to accomplish this.
Dr. John Gottman, in his book the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, promulgated the idea that it’s best to give more, even when you think you’re already giving enough. He shared a story about a couple who had discord over the wife’s horse. The husband didn’t want to pay for it anymore and felt that he was giving up his dreams so she could have hers. She was emotionally attached the horse and refused to let it go. Once the husband was counseled by Dr. Gottman to give her more love and more leniency, he told his wife that it was okay, she could keep the horse. When she realized he would love her above himself, she could then let go of her threatened dream and alter it so it would be less of a burden for her husband. This experience helped them become more united and love each other better.
Using the principles from Elder Ballard’s teaching on councils and Dr. Gottman’s on letting your partner influence you, a couple can find mutual satisfaction and honor from and for each other.
When Russ and I sit down now, he can bring his ideas to me and know they’ll be safe. I don’t shoot them down anymore, I help him explore the possibilities and potential for success. Many times he’ll find the holes in his ideas on his own. The best part of this kind of counseling is that Russ has been free to hope and dream and create, and now he’s very close to reaping the benefits of being allowed to do so. He’s happier and more comfortable in our friendship, too, and this cultivates a desire in him to share power to decide.
Feature Image retrieved from Google Images