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How to be aware of and attentive to the needs and feelings of your spouse

Being as completely selfless as possible will remove all barriers that would obscure a spouse's needs. It is regrettable when such needs are not readily recognized. If it requires tragedy or other misfortune to call attention, one has not been naturally aware of signs pointing to a spouse's emerging needs. Being together gives couples reason to expect assurance of awareness of needs under any and all conditions.

Follow these six habits to promote attentiveness, and be constantly prepared when special situations arise. These ideas will keep the process alive:- Never leave home without saying goodbye with a kiss. Say, "I love you." This is a perfect moment for observation.

  • Always repeat the above privilege when returning home.
  • Frequently inquire as to your spouse's well-being. Be casual but serious without giving alarm.
  • Regularly offer to do things your spouse has a right to expect from you. If you do, she or he will have fewer things to suggest.
  • Seek to learn your spouse's otherwise obscure desires and special feelings that only you can provide or satisfy.
  • Be consistent in your behavior to be aware and attentive. - John E. Carr, Salt Lake City, Utah

How we did it:

Unselfish desire

I do not speak of my actions, but rather those of my husband. The entire basis of my husband's love toward me seems to be his unselfish desire for my personal and spiritual growth and success. His unselfish actions speak everyday of his support, encouragement and love for not only who I am now, but also who I am capable of becoming in the future. He listens, he shares, he serves, he observes, he empathizes and he communicates his love and his "like."

Years ago, I read something I have never forgotten: "Choose a person that will inspire you to be your best self, a person that will be your best friend as you become that self, and a person that will love you despite your worst self." That is exactly what my husband does for me, and that's why we're not falling in love more and more each day - we're rising! - Cathy C. Runyan-Svacina, Kansas City, Mo.

`Anticipate the need'

My husband, Shane, made up a phrase which has become our family motto: "Anticipate the Need, Appreciate the Deed." We have this motto hanging in our living room as a daily reminder to not only "take" opportunities, but also "make" opportunities to serve each other. It keeps us aware that we must always be mindful of one another's activities, trials, feelings and wants. Another way to fulfill each other's needs is to appreciate what is done for us, so that no one feels taken for granted. Each of us desires praise and a pat on the back once in a while. It is important that our spouse feels wanted, loved and appreciated. Our children, ages 6 and 3, also know what our motto means, and we have fun catching each other "anticipating the need." - Janet Hassell, Mesa, Ariz.

Keep love alive

Don't ever get too busy to remember your love for your spouse. When you're feeling love, you find it easy to pay attention and be sensitive, so keep the love alive. To help, remember the emotions you felt when dating, and keep them alive by doing the things you did then, such as the following:

  • Express your love. If words come hard, show them.
  • Remember that friendly touches and words work wonders to soften hearts.
  • Go out of your way to do little kindnesses daily.
  • Tell and show your appreciation often.
  • Really listen to your spouse. Do you know what's on his or her mind? You should.
  • Show that you'll always be there for your spouse with time and understanding.
  • Follow Christ's example. Jesus led the way. He served those He loved. - Clarence Dickson, Hawthorne, Calif.

Plan ahead

My husband has asthma, and a brace on his ankle but never complains. He thanks me for everything I do, even my chores such as cooking a meal or making a bed.

I try to plan ahead so he has time to get ready to go places. In addition, if he needs something downstairs in our home and he's upstairs, it's hard for him. Therefore, I find a reason to go downstairs for something I need so I can bring the item to him. We use drive-in services for the post office and the bank so he doesn't have to get out of the car. He loves to golf, and it concerns me, but it is good for him because he can get a motorized golf cart and have a feeling of accomplishment. - Darlene N. Dickson, Salt Lake City, Utah

Non-verbal messages

I have found that when I close out my feelings from my spouse, he tends to do the same. But when I keep communication lines open, voice feelings and respond to demonstrations of concern and affection, he becomes more open to me about his needs and feelings.

I have learned to read non-verbal messages such as gloomy eyes, droopy shoulders, knitted eyebrows, which mean he has had a hard day even though he says he's OK.

I try not to greet him with problems at home and about the children when he comes home from work.

I respect his need to be alone with his thoughts and feelings sometimes and realize he may not be able to talk to me about something regarding his work and Church callings, so I avoid prying.

Though I am busy with the children and personal projects I try to make myself free whenever he is spending time at home. I always think, "What would I feel if I were in his shoes?" - Christina B. Deyro, Tacloban, Philippines

Listen, learn

I feel that through observation, you can become aware of the needs and feelings of your spouse. I suggest the following:

  • Look at your spouse. What are his or her physical abilities and limitations? What does he or she need assistance with? What does he or she need to sustain him or her? Look every day. People change.
  • Listen to your spouse. Many people know and state their needs and feelings. You may even ask what he or she needs and feels. Listen every day.
  • Learn about your spouse. What were past accomplishments and disappointments? What are his or her goals, dreams, hobbies, interests and views? What are the fears and worries? What is he or she trying to do? What is hindering him or her?
  • Prayfully act on this awareness. Pray for a helpful, loving heart. Also, remember cheerful givers are usually effective and appreciated. - Janet Williams, Alta Loma, Calif.

How to checklist:

  1. Follow Christ's example; express love, frequently inquire about spouse's well-being.
  1. Find opportunities to serve each other; anticipate needs.
  1. Keep communication lines open; listen to, learn about spouse, be mindful.
  1. Be consistent; be there for your spouse.

Write to us:

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Sept. 16 "How to overcome obstacles to meaningful Church activity as a new member."

Sept. 23 "How to forgive a child for the heartache casued by periods of rebelliousness."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and willnot be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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