Dr. John Van Epp, in his book How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk (or Jerkette), presents the Relationship Attachment Model (RAM). The RAM consists of five variables of bonding in a relationship: knowing each other, mutual trust, reliance, committment, and touch. When building a relationship, he says, we need to go in that order of prority.
Many people think they are ready to increase the level of touch in their relationship, for example, long before they really are.
In a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology in December of 2010, 2,035 married couples with diverse educational, religious, sexual and relationship backgrounds were asked at what point in time during their relationship they had had sexual intercourse for the first time. The quality of their relationship was also evaluated. Results turned out to be that generally, those with the best marriage quality had waited to have sex either until they were married or until they had been together for two years or more!
When a couple amps up the touch (or likewise the commitment, according to Dr. Van Epp) too early in the relationship, it becomes more difficult for them to get to know important things about each other, to build a healthy trust together, and to show mutual reliability.
Dr. Van Epp affirms that in a marriage, all five variables should be maintained at about the same levels, paying special attention to the first three.
In premarital and marital relationships, the vital areas of knowing, trusting and relying cannot be replaced by simply increasing commitment or touch. Knowing, trust and reliance must be maintained consistently by spending enough time together in a variety of activities, being attentive to one another's needs and putting forth a concerted effort to be what the other truly needs you to be.
How have you and your loved one(s) come to know, trust, and rely on each other in healthy ways?
I believe this also applies to our relationships with Deity. Everyone has the opportunity to build a unique and personal relationship with God. You could say I began to "get to know" God by reading scriptures with my family and hearing about Him in church. I learned about His Son, about His way of seeing the world and acting, and about what He wanted in a relationship with me. There came a moment when I was ready to trust Him and prayed to Him. When He showed me how trustworthy He was, I began to rely on Him by keeping His commandments, knowing that He would make it worthwhile. Our Heavenly Father is pleased when we commit to Him, especially when we're ready and we follow through. His Spirit has touched me: for example, during prayers, I have noticed a peaceful relaxation. As I show commitment by serving Him, sometimes it gets tiring. But one of the most effective ways I've found to rekindle the fire is to get to know Him more deeply by diving into Scripture and attending the temple. He reciprocates every time. He has always known you. He is reliable, trustworthy, and committed to you, and if you're not sure about those things, you can find out for yourself.
As per The Family: A Proclamation to the World, our Heavenly Father intended for earthly fathers to "preside over the family in love and righteousness," to protect the family, and to provide for them the necessities of life. My dad is a good example of all these things. So good, in fact, that my mother has referred to him as "too perfect."
1. For as long as I can remember, he has lovingly led the family in daily scripture study and weekly family home evening, and the occasional family council.
2. It's not dinnertime until he gets home from work.
3. When his kids don't come to church, he has been known to leave in the middle of meetings to "rescue" them.
4. He and my mother have begun their own family traditions that bind us together, including hugs all around after daily family prayer.
5. He expends his best effort to keep the family together and
6. free of addictive substances and behaviors.
7. He stands up for my mom when she needs it.
8. His nonviolent, patient example has become a part of me.
9. He comes on family vacations as much as possible.
10. Instead of choosing a "fun" career, he went into something he knew he could use to support a family.
11. He worked against hardship, including poverty, to finish his college education.
12. He consults with his Father in Heaven about big career decisions.
13. He goes to work and fixes machines, then comes home and fixes machines. (My parents are masters of inexpensive living!)
14. When I was little, I saw him as the cool dad who would take us fishing and
15. play rock and roll.
16. When he was our branch president, he helped me learn to love and obey the Lord 100%.
17. During high school, he became my go-to guy for help on math and science homework.
18. He loves my mom and puts their marriage first, even before us.
19. He loved being a missionary and lives it every day.
20. He spends time on things my mom is interested in, even if they don't make sense to him at first.
21. I believe that if I talk with him about my experiences and decisions, it will be hard to go wrong.
"If ... you expect that your spouse is always going to make you happy ... your expectations are unrealistic." (Lauer and Lauer, Marriage and Family: The Quest for Intimacy, 8th edition)
What do you expect your marriage to be like? Before getting married, and even before getting engaged, you and your loved one should be on the same page. In 1982, Dr. William Garrett's book, Seasons of Marriage and Family Life, was published. He suggests that couples even write out agreements, called informal marriage contracts. When couples use these contracts to clarify expectations and prepare to face challenges, they will be less likely to experience conflict and confusion later over questions couples commonly face. It is important to always be open for compromise on these matters. Here are some of the topics Garrett invites you to discuss:
I would like to add that if these are hard questions, or if you have any doubt, they are questions you can study out and then take to God. Some of these issues may be more important to Him than others, but He has a plan for your family. If you strive to perceive that plan and live by it, then He will make you into the person and the family you were meant to be.