You have a lot of expectations about Family Home Evening. You know we’ve been encouraged by church leaders to have Family Home Evening, and you want to do it because you love your family. When your spouse doesn’t want to do it with you, you kind of get annoyed.
You think he should want to do Family Home Evening. You hoped he would be the one to lead out in spiritual activities in your home. Now you worry that he’ll be offended if you do Family Home Evening because he doesn’t like the church. “He won’t participate anyway,” you think, “So it won’t really be Family Home Evening.” You worry that it will put more strain on your marriage or confuse the kids because they hear different beliefs from each parent.
You end up feeling resentful of your spouse and doing one of two things. You either decide you are going full out despite your spouse – prayer, scripture, song, lesson, activity, treat – the whole deal. Or you decide you’re just not going to do Family Home Evening at all because you can’t do it right anyway.
Either way, you still feel resentful, and Family Home Evening isn’t effective even though your original goal was that you wanted to have a meaningful Family Home Evening.
What the Church Says About Family Home Evening
On the church website, it states, “The purpose of Family Home Evening is to strengthen family ties.” Sounds great so far, right?
Then I almost skipped quoting this part because it initially irked me. It seems like it doesn’t apply to those of us who have tried to do Family Home Evening with a spouse who doesn’t love the gospel.
But let me continue quoting, “We do this by learning the gospel together, by listening to each other’s feelings, thoughts, and ideas, and by enjoying activities together. It is usually held on Monday evenings.”
(I can hear your thoughts now, “But what if we can’t learn the gospel together? What if my husband won’t tolerate gospel discussions? What if I can’t teach the kids the things I want to teach them?” We’ll get to this, hang on.)
It also goes on to say, “Family Home Evening is a time to enjoy each other and have fun together. Through simple activities—games, service, sharing talents, visits to local sites of interest—families create connections and build unity.”
It seems to me, based on what I read, that the main emphasis of Family Home Evening is to strengthen the family.
And I don’t think that’s happening if you are doing (or skipping) Family Home Evening out of anger and resentment.
But I Can’t Teach the Gospel Because of My Spouse!
Back to the idea of learning the gospel together. (I promised you I’d get to it.) In this most recent conference, the first two great commandments were emphasized – love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Maybe in your Family Home Evening, out of respect for your husband’s wishes, you won’t have a specific gospel lesson. But isn’t showing love and respect for your spouse living the gospel? If you create the opportunity to do an activity together, you are learning the gospel as a family by implementing the concepts of love and respect as you work and play together. Putting the gospel into action is more significant than merely learning about it. So I think you are learning the gospel together even if there isn’t a specific gospel lesson. Your children will learn the gospel by how you live the first two great commandments.
Having a Manual (And I’m not talking about the Family Home Evening Manual)
What throws us off is that we have a manual in our minds about how we think Family Home Evening should look and how a spouse should act towards it. We think our spouse should want to do Family Home Evening and want to be the spiritual leader in our home, and then we put our happiness in that basket. We become unhappy if our spouse doesn’t want to do Family Home Evening with us or it Family Home Evening doesn’t look the way we think it should.
There’s nothing wrong with having goals and ideals. The problem comes when we base our happiness on outcomes that we can’t control. We put our emotional well being into someone else’s hands. When we do that, we lose all our power.
To overcome this, we need to realize that we created these manuals based on how we think other people should act. Even though we sometimes wish they were, people are not like the vacuum cleaner – they don’t follow a manual. You can’t just plug in here and turn on the power switch there, and it works the way you expect. People have agency. When we try to control others and place our happiness on their choices, it’s frustrating to them and to us.
Our Own Manuals and Making Requests
We need to take responsibility for our manuals. What are our expectations of ourselves? What rules and principles are we going to follow in life? How are we going to show up? Most of us can’t manage our own emotions and behaviors, and we’re trying to control other people’s.
When it comes to Family Home Evening, how do I want to show up? How do I want to act towards my spouse and my children? How am I going to strengthen family ties? (Sidenote: I loved the show Family Ties in the 80s, and I think of it every time I type that phrase. Go, Keatons! Oh look! you can still watch it on Amazon prime.)
You can make requests. You can ask your spouse to participate in Family Home Evening. You can ask him to lead out in Family Home Evening. You can ask him whatever you want. BUT, if you allow your emotional well being to depend on if he responds to your requests the way you want, then you’ve set both of you up for trouble.
Whether he meets your requests or not, you can choose to love and enjoy him exactly as he is. (If you want to. You can choose not to, as well. You can choose “No, I will not love an accept you the way that you are” and build up resentment. That’s totally up to you.)
But if you can’t change him (which you can’t), then the only one you can change is you. If you want Family Home Evening to strengthen your family, then what are you going to do?
My Favorite Advice About Family Home Evening (also available in video format here)
I had a stake president, who I loved, who taught three simple steps to Family Home Evening:
Have the whole family together
Say this is Family Home Evening
Have a treat
I loved that because I could do it!
Monday nights, I would make a family dinner. It was one night I could usually get everyone home for dinner at the same time. Then – not out loud – in my head, I would say, “This is Family Home Evening,” and the food would be our treat.
I felt so accomplished because I could hold Family Home Evening without causing resentment in my home. I was so grateful for that stake president for bringing Family Home Evening down to a size that I could do. I could succeed!
Changing my expectations and allowing myself to feel good about doing Family Home Evening in a way that worked and looked right for my family made all the difference!
My challenge for you for this week is to look at how you are thinking about Family Home Evening and the manual you have for your spouse regarding it. If it’s not working, consider adjusting your expectations.
Remember that Family Home Evening is about strengthening family ties. Choose a way that you can strengthen family ties in your family. That may look totally different than it looked in my family, or the family you grew up in, or your neighbor’s family. Maybe your husband is still willing to participate in some way, and you can have a more formal Family Home Evening. Perhaps your Family Home Evening will be more covert like mine was.
If you intend to strengthen family ties, enjoy each other, and have fun together, you are living the gospel, and your family is learning the gospel through living it and being together. You can do it!