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Within the Bonds of Marriage

Dear Daughter,

I realized the other day that there is something you need to know and I’m probably the one who needs to teach you. It’s a bit sensitive, so I’m writing a letter. I've had a discussion with your brothers on this same topic. But you need to hear something else.

I’ve tried to love and respect your mother. I’ve tried to treat her in a way that will help you know what to look for in a man when you get married. Sometimes, I lost my temper with you kids, but you’ve never heard me yell at or belittle your mother. You’ve never heard me say cutting or demeaning remarks.

I’ve tried, and I mean really tried, to be a good husband. I hope and pray you’ll find someone who will do the same for you. Hopefully, even better!

But I want to talk to you about being a good wife. The world we inhabit objectifies women, but it demeans and mocks men and manhood. This is is increasing all over. It’s in the media, on the Facebook feeds of many otherwise nice women, and even in the halls at church. I’m grateful that your mother has never done that. I hope you won’t marry a man who would belittle you. I also hope you will never demean him.

Please think about hormones. You have a rush of them each month. Think about how hard it is to be completely rational when your hormones are kicked up.

That young man’s hormones affect him as well, giving him a strong, constant sex drive—and this has been happening since puberty. Since he was a teenager, his body has been driving him to think about sex. However, he was told frequently to be chaste—to wait until he’s married for sexual activity. Most likely, he’s going to be really excited for that aspect of marriage. Probably more than you completely understand. His love for you and his hormones are going to combine to create a powerful, constant drive.

That drive doesn’t stop after the honeymoon. This will be a constant thing for him. Please don’t ever minimize it as “just hormones.” Think how badly you hate it when your feelings are minimized as just being “that time of month.” You need to give his hormones the same respect want him to give yours.

The difference between a good man and a bad is not the strength of constancy of his sexual drive. It’s where he chooses to focus it. Good men are as interested in sex as bad men—but they have far fewer outlets. It’s not easy to be a covenant-keeping man these days. Temptation is everywhere. The battle is constant, and it’s a pretty tough battle.

The constancy of the sex drive is not a flaw. It’s the way God made him. I don’t completely understand why the Lord did that. To be honest, I’ve been angry about before. But as I’ve tried to be teachable, I’ve had a few thoughts.

Your mom once read an article that said a woman’s hormones made her crave chocolate. You certainly love chocolate yourself. Imagine that you love chocolate. Your body craves it, and everywhere go you see ads for chocolate. But there is only one way you can get it. If you get it from anyone but your husband, you’ll lose your soul. That’s okay, though, because you would love to share the chocolate with him.

Unfortunately, your husband doesn’t like chocolate. It’s okay occasionally, but he doesn’t crave it like you do. But you can only get it from and enjoy it with him. How would you want him to respond to that? Think about that. A lot.

The Lord gives a man a strong sexual drive to bind him to his wife. What is he supposed to do when his wife doesn’t have time, can’t bother, or just feels like it’s a dirty, embarrassing thing? And what if she rolls her eyes and makes him feel that she thinks less of him? That’s a difficult and hurtful situation to be in.

Please understand that this is a primary way your husband will feel and express love, and connect emotionally. You will both want closeness. But you’ll go about it in different ways. When he is feeling loving and close to you, or when he wants to be, he will naturally want to express that physically. Physical intimacy is the natural language through which he will express his love and connection to you.

He will, of course, need to speak your language as well. In a perfect marriage both partners are anxiously engaged in making the other happy. When you want to connect emotionally, hopefully he will do that. I can tell you first hand that he will hear about meeting your needs in just about every priesthood meeting he attends. But if not, you can call mom, talk with friends, cuddle a baby—you have a few choices. He doesn’t.

This gives you a lot of power in the relationship. Be generous. Remember when you were in middle school and we talked about how the person who cares least in a relationship has the most power? Remember that and use your power wisely. A husband’s feelings can be hurt just as deeply as wife’s—although he may not show it the same way. If you use this power wisely, you will bind his heart and affections to you with a remarkable strength and consistency. He will overflow with gratitude and adoration for you. His powerful, consistent urges will be fuel for his undying devotion to you. Or, they can fuel cold flames of hurt and disappointment. But they won’t go away.

Remember that we taught you to avoid sexual relations before marriage because sex is powerful. Like fire, it can hurt and destroy. But marriage is a big fireplace and sex can warm and illuminate the relationship. It’s about having babies, yes, but it’s also about crafting something between the two of you that is uniquely and wonderfully yours. You will one day join together to create a beautiful baby. I believe that you should also join together to create a beautiful and fulfilling sexual relationship. Abstinence now allows you to enjoy a sexual relationship with your husband later on, without guilt or fear.

It’s tricky, because as you dated and eventually got serious about marriage, you had to set rules to protect yourselves from succumbing to the real temptation to be physically intimate. This is critical--but I wonder if this needed restraint right before marriage also subtly reinforces the idea that sex is wrong.

I would suggest you look at it as the crowning moment in your relationship. You abstained so you could wait for the right time. Not because it’s bad.

It’s okay, actually more than okay, to be sexy and to have fun. Enjoy it! A Stake President once told me that a couple should “delight in delighting one other.” I believe the Lord gives a couple a great deal of latitude to create a relationship that reflects their unique personalities, interests, and desires. There is no “normal” anymore than there are “normal people.” A dancer and teacher will have a different relationship than an engineer and accountant.

The building of that unique, private relationship can be a great joy in your marriage. Sadly, you’ll encounter Victorian attitudes among members of the Church. Don’t listen to them. The Law of Chastity is stated very plainly in the temple. Keep the covenant, but don’t manufacture additional restrictions and rules. Within the bounds of your covenant, you and your husband decide what to do. No one else gets a vote. I believe that if the Lord wanted to add more rules, He would have. Don’t allow outside influences—whether it’s pornography from the world, or prudish killjoys—to influence your relationship. This is your kingdom and you and your husband rule jointly. You defer to the Spirit and each other. No one else.

A bishop I had once said he though the devil had two prongs in his attack on the family. First was pornography, adultery, etc. But the second was more subtle: making people who kept their covenants feel guilty so they couldn’t enjoy it either, thus reducing the closeness and strength of marriages.

Please don’t interpret the frequent warnings against extra-marital sex and pornography to mean that sex is bad. And don’t equate your husband’s natural desires with someone who is looking at pornography. Sexual excitement between husband and wife is good. And fun. And desirable. Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden. The scriptures tell us they were not ashamed. Shame came only after the Fall--only after the devil made them feel embarrassed. Remember that.

Let me give you one last thought. This all gets very tricky when the kids come along. Both of you will need to show extra kindness, patience, and generosity It has been frequently taught in the Church that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. I believe that, and I’ve tried to follow this counsel. Let me suggest a corollary from my own experience as a husband, father, and a bishop: A woman who loves her husband generously and makes him her priority will free his heart to love their children and build their family with all his energy and strength

I hope and pray that your husband will see you as a Daughter of God and treat you accordingly. If not, Elder Holland, Elder Scott, and other Church leaders will regularly beat him up at priesthood meetings. He will be taught no matter how well he treats you, it’s never enough. And that’s true. But I also hope and pray that you will see him as a Son of God and be generous. You won’t hear that at church, or in the movies. But I promise, a good man will appreciate it and love you in return with all his heart and strength for all time and eternity.

Love,  Dad

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