Men and women are equal partners in their marriage, but how does this play out in when a financial crisis hits close to home? As part of our storytelling series, Teresa shares how she came to learn just how important it is for a “husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children” (Paragraph 6, The Family Proclamation).
It was never my plan to work outside of the home. My husband would provide. I would nurture. That was the ideal of God’s design after all, wasn’t it? For years I was supported in my perceptions, until a series of health and financial storms blew us into a world where my husband’s salary was simply not enough. I fought desperately against working. My children needed me home. Working would undermine my ability to nurture. I just needed more faith. My husband’s 12 to 15 hour days weren’t making ends meet. The debts kept mounting. Drowning and frightened I stumbled to the temple, begging God for answers, promising to do whatever was needful to save my husband and our finances. I thought I knew what the answers would be and it certainly wasn’t, “You promised to nurture him too. How can you honor and support him?” I stumbled out of the temple chastened, I had been shown my selfishness. My role as equal partner and co-parent was to step up when my husband could not carry the burden alone. It was my covenant to be his helpmeet in all things. Sharing the providing and nurturing was what God expected of me!
On my way home, I ran an errand at an establishment where the director spontaneously offered me an unadvertised job! When I shared the news with my husband, tears of gratitude streamed down his face. I gratefully took the job, though it still triggered guilt and pain. Through many prayers and counsel with my husband (and really sitting with “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”) we were led to reframe what we saw. Together, we were still rearing our children in love and righteousness and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. We were still teaching them to love and serve one another, obey the commandments, and be law-abiding citizens. We still focused on the principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion and wholesome recreational activities. We learned to help one another to provide and nurture as equal partners. That was our sacred responsibility. God let us know that He knew we were working together to do all that. What a beautiful thing. I, for one, am profoundly grateful. God gives us the ideal to reach for, but blesses our every effort along the way.
The family proclamation affirms that husbands and wives “are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” But becoming true partners in marriage can be a challenge. Our upbringing, culture, education, financial circumstances, experiences, and more can affect how we approach relationships and how we manage our families. The proclamation teaches that “successful marriages and families” are established through faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, and other principles as we counsel and work together to meet our individual circumstances. (See Ensign, September 2020).
According to LDS scholars Valerie M. Hudson, Professor of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, and Richard B. Miller, Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University:
Research has demonstrated that couples who have an equal partnership have happier relationships, better individual well-being, more effective parenting practices, and better-functioning children. Researchers have consistently found that couples who share power are more satisfied and have better overall marital quality than couples where one spouse dominates.
They go on to explain why:
An important reason for equal partners having greater satisfaction is that they have less negative interaction and more positive interaction in their relationship. In addition, couples that are equal partners are significantly less likely to experience verbal aggression and physical violence. Moreover, there is evidence that equal partners are more satisfied with the quality of the physical intimacy in their relationship. … There is substantial evidence that spouses who feel that they lack influence in their relationship—those who don’t have a voice—are more likely to experience symptoms of depression.
For more information on research showing the positive benefits of equal partnership in marriage, visit Sentence H in Paragraph 7 of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”