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Linda & Richard Eyre: Helping marriages progress is the greatest Valentine's Day gift

Published: Sunday, Feb. 12 2012 8:10 p.m. MST

We think that marriage can exist on at least five levels, and that it can progress from one level to the next and to the next.

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Happy Valentine's Day! We think it is one of the great holidays of the year — especially for couples — a chance to express love in a special way to the most important person in our lives.

It's also a great holiday for jewelers, perfume-makers, chocolatiers and flower shops. We are afraid this column will be of little help to any of these retailers, however, because we are going to suggest a different kind of gift for Feb. 14.

How about giving the one you love the most a gift that will actually make your love grow even stronger — a gift that will keep on giving to both of you and to your relationship?

We think that marriage can exist on at least five levels, and that it can progress from one level to the next and to the next. Let us try to name these levels and describe them briefly and then suggest a Valentine's gift that can actually help couples progress from one to the other, climbing the ladder of love.

Level one is a marriage of convenience. Two people think they are in love so they decide to live together, with or without an actual ceremony.

Level two is a marriage of contract. Man and wife get married legally — and often religiously — and make at least a pledge of "in sickness and in health" and "till death do us part."

Level three is a marriage of true commitment. Beyond the formality of a wedding, both parties exclusively and completely commit themselves to each other and give the security of knowing that there will never be any other.

Level four is a marriage of synergy, where the man and the woman, the yin and the yang, learn to complement and complete each other so well that the total is greater than the sum of its parts.

Level five is a marriage of oneness in which the commitment and the synergy continue to grow to the point where the couple share everything and where their oneness becomes an entity that supersedes their "individualness." Everything they seek, they seek together, and they are essentially fused into something that swallows up even as it preserves their separate gifts and natures.

Whatever level you perceive yourself to be on this Valentine's Day, you can progress to the next one if you both want to. And while there are many ways to progress, here is a suggestion that we think works for all who really try it.

Have a private, marital "Sunday session" for about an hour once a week where you do four things:

1. Coordinate your schedules and priorities for the week ahead so that you are together when you need to be and know where each other is when you are not.

2. Decide on one night during the coming week when you will go on a "date," which might be as complete as dinner and a movie or might be as simple as a little walk or drive together. Think of it as a continuation of your courtship and be willing to pay the price and make the sacrifice of a baby sitter.

3. Have a private "testimony meeting" or "feelings session" where each of you takes a few minutes to tell the other your feelings about your goals, your relationship concerns, your faith and your love. Listen attentively to the other person when it is his or her turn, and express yourself honestly when it is yours.

4. Finish with a prayer — in whatever way you are accustomed to praying — with each person being voice for a part of the prayer. Whether or not this is a regular or usual process in your marriage, do it to close this weekly Sunday session.

Giving this gift to each other for Valentine's Day will take real commitment, and it will take an hour that you may not think you have. But there are 168 hours in a week, and using one of them this way will make the other 167 a lot better. Guaranteed!

The Eyres' three latest books are "The Entitlement Trap," "5 Spiritual Solutions" and "The Three Deceivers." Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda Eyre's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Listen to their weekly radio show on Mondays at 4:30 at www.byuradio.org

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