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Mormon Parenting: Relationships: continuing your courtship

Published: Friday, Aug. 24 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

We were sitting on the lawn at Red Butte Garden last week listening to Diana Krall sing jazz.

The stars were coming out, the evening was balmy and calm — an equilibrium night. The music was magical, and the whole effect was magnificently romantic.

We were on our weekly date, and we were in love — more than ever.

Decades ago, sitting in a stake conference, we heard our Boston Stake President Elder L. Tom Perry advise all married couples to continue their courtship and go out on a date once each week. Then he promised us all that if we would do that one simple thing — take our wives out on a real date once a week — that our love and commitment to each other would continue to grow.

Quite a challenge, quite a commitment, quite a promise.

We have a friend who observes that most Mormons, in his opinion, work harder at being good parents than at being good husbands or wives. And this is a problem, because it is our spouses who are our eternal partners and who we are told to leave father and mother for and to “cleave" to.

It is analogous to the announcements the flight attendants make every time we get on an airplane: “In the event of an emergency, give yourself oxygen first before you give it to your child.” We need to prioritize our marriage before we can prioritize our parenting.

We love the old adage that says, “The best thing you can do for your children is to love their mother (father)."

When you courted your spouse, you thought about it, you planned it — you strategized how to win her (or him). There was nothing you wouldn’t do, no small touch you wouldn’t add and no effort you wouldn’t make.

And you sought to create romance!

Is it any less important now?

In your courtship, you worked hard and thought hard to find out what he or she liked most and what made the other happy. Is it any less important to know those things now — and to practice and implement them?

We all need to remember that our spouses are not only our partners, but also the other part of a “oneness” that is a perfectible entity. In that context, nothing is more important than the ongoing progress and strengthening of our marital relationships.

We started a series this past week in our Deseret News column on methods and techniques for building better relationships. Hopefully you will follow that series and send us your own ideas via the reader polls or the comment button.

Speaking for ourselves, we may not have grown more alike during our first 40 years together (though we clearly have in some areas), but we have continually come to appreciate each other more, including learning to appreciate and even celebrate our differences. We have fallen more in love because we are continually learning new things about the other to fall in love with.

We have decided that we each actually have more influence over the happiness of the other person than over our own. We have decided that we like interdependence much more than independence, and we have adopted the mantra that “if it’s important to you, it’s important to me.”

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.ValuesParenting.com and read their books for free at www.EyresFreeBooks.com.

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