Attention all Segullah readers: The deadline (August 15th) is quickly approaching for our 5th anniversary issue on Dating, Courtship and Marriage. We hope to make this an extended issue examining every aspect of bliss and heartbreak, but we need your contributions.  Writing tips can be found here and submission information is here. Be sure to send in your 5th, 6th or 12th draft, not your first. We want to see your best work.

We will also be including reader comments from the blog in this issue. Your comments on various marriage topics, including this post today, will be featured in the journal. Don’t worry, we will ask your permission before using your words. Please, please contribute. Segullah depends on your intelligent, compassionate voices.

 
We were far from shore.  Waves roared past us in blinding crests as he stood against the brilliant blue sky balancing and stumbling and falling once again. Sputtering and grinning he emerged from the surf and swam towards the decades-old surfboard. The reflected water and sky turned his hazel eyes to a bright azure and his face was fresh and open, tanned and young and beautiful.

And that’s the moment, with his elbows resting on the board’s edge, saying “I’m just not very good at this.”  that he looked at me, and I knew I’d give anything to spend my life with him. And fairly often, in the nineteen years since, that’s the moment that I conjure from memory when he is absolutely and completely driving me nuts.

My husband and I have a ridiculously happy marriage. With numerous shared activities, six gorgeous kids, a common love for learning and marvelous chemistry, our relationship should be nearly effortless. But it’s not.

Marriage is work. Hard, humbling work. I hesitate to write this today at the risk of implying that my divorced friends didn’t work hard enough or that my single friends have no idea how easy they have it. Please know that these aren’t my intentions. I simply wish to speak of the labor it takes (by both partners) to create a lasting marriage.

My parents were married in a Congregationalist Church in the summer of 1966. The hymn they chose for the congregation was “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from the Sound of Music. When my dad told me this a few weeks ago (in the city of Salzburg, no less) we both began to cry. It’s an unusual wedding song isn’t it? How could they have known, those 43 years ago, of the exhaustive work their marriage would require, of the mountains they would have to climb?

I find that my own marriage spins along in a happy little pattern until something pulls us out of sync. It can be nearly anything: an unexpected bill, a business trip where I miss his calls for a few days, too many “I’m too tired” nights in bed, a troubled child or, my mother’s death.

I’ll tell you this: grief weighs heavily on the fabric of a marriage. It yanks and tears and unravels entire sections. And don’t we all have our private griefs, our overwhelmed days, our moments of crying, “Don’t you understand I’m doing the best I can?!?”

So when it feels like he’s ripping out my seams rather than patching my heartache, I turn to that sun-soaked ocean memory and recall my reply, “It’s OK. I don’t really know what I’m doing either.” And then I apologize, even when I think it’s not my fault, and discover that maybe it truly was.

Please share. How do you work on your marriage? What are your ideas for diffusing conflict? Were you surprised at how much work a marriage entails? Or not? How can we prepare our children for married life?

July 25, 2009

42 Comments

  1. Selwyn

    July 23, 2009

    Yes, marriage is work, but it’s worth it. I believe how much work you put into it shows how valuable it is. My (soon-to-be-ex)husband stated point blank that he wasn’t going to work at fixing our marriage, he was leaving, end of story. In the end, to him, our marriage was worthless.

    Now, with a pending divorce, I feel like the last person anyone should listen to with advice on how to strengthen marriage. But I KNOW it’s worth working on. Date nights, time just sitting and talking, doing those little things that you know your spouse loves/appreciates.

    One of the biggest realisations I had was that he and I had different languages we spoke to say “I love you”. Find out – ASK! – your spouse what they do because they love you, to show their love, and you will be amazed. Chances are you will have been totally oblivious to what they MEANT when they did something.

    Marriage is work. Divorce is work. Being single is work. All relationships are work.

    But relationships are so absolutely worth it.

  2. Becky

    July 23, 2009

    Several years ago while driving home from a couples-only fireside with my husband, he asked “Do we have a blissful marriage?” (I imagine that was a term used in the talk that night.) And I had to say “no” because to me bliss implies a floating on the clouds type of constant euphoria – something that just comes without any effort expended. And having a wonderful, fulfilling, rewarding marriage (which I think we have) takes hard work! It was an interesting conversation.

    And when I recall that conversation, I’m reminded of a quote by Jenkins Lloyd Jones that Pres. Hinckley used shared – “Anyone who imagines that bliss [in marriage] is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. . . Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

  3. Kay

    July 23, 2009

    I seriously did not have a clue what life would be like or how hard it could be to be married. I was desparate to be married and saw it as an end of unhappiness if I am honest. Foolish girl! Well, woman really as I was 31 when we married. I had not enjoyed being single that much. I had focussed on being married and did expect ‘bliss’.

    My husband and I are complete opposites. So many people have said to us over the years that they are surprised we ever got together. It does cause contention sometimes as we rarely agree on things.

    We work at it because we have put so much into it already. We have children to think of too, our marraige is not just about us, it affects us all as a family. There are times we have been completely miserable and close to giving up. Somehow we have held on and come through it. I think a lot of this is down to a couple of things. Firstly, my husband is a lot more patiemt than I am and tries to keep thngs calmer. Secondly, I honestly don’t think we would have been any happier if we had divorced. There would still be a relationship to continue and work through for our childrens sake. Thirdly, we both believe in eternal marraige and ultimately want it to work.

    If we have conflict I need space for myself to work it out. I hide in the bedroom a lot with a book then. He goes to his computer. We get over it.

    Now we are the happiest we have ever been. I honestly did not even know it was possible to be this happy together.

    One of the things that made a huge difference for us is sex. I just wasn’t interested for so long with babies, late nights etc. Now I am he feels much more appreciated and loved. Sex is a bit of a cliche but true.

    Also he was called recently as Bishop and walked out of the stake president’s office a changed man. The stake president told him he could only have this calling because he was married to an amazing woman. He spoke to him of my qualities as a wife and as a church member. He saw me in a different light. His setting apart also talked quite a bit about me and what a blessing I was to him. It took the Lord to tell him personally about me and that he should cherish me more, but it worked!! I have never been treated like this before and I love it. No doubt many of you already had this but we didn’t. Having him as Bishop also helps me to see him in a different light too I might add. I look at him and try to see what others see in their Bishop and I want to help him be like that. I want him to be wonderful, spiritual, a great leader, inspiring etc. It has taken us years to get to this point, but our relationship is no longer about us as individuals but us as a couple.

  4. Kay

    July 23, 2009

    I have just seen how long it is! Sorry for the ramble.

  5. Camille

    July 23, 2009

    I loved this post. It IS work. It’s hard work. And sometimes I feel guilty because I have all the tools, but I forget to use them. On paper I can figure it out. At the podium I can give a pretty great sermon. But me, personally, I forget to do what I tell others to do. I often feel really hypocritical. Recently however, I decided to stop being a victim and take action instead. Before the night settles in, I “make” myself sit down and read, ponder, and write. I list reasons why I love my husband, and I describe the act of service I chose to do for him that day. I even mowed the lawn for the first time in my life, and it was totally worth it when I saw the look on his oh so tired face. Little things matter and I am just now gaining a testimony of that.

    thanks for the reminder today. Loved it. I’m totally jumping into his arms when he comes home today. Can I get a hubba hubba?

  6. Camille

    July 23, 2009

    oh, and I just found my twin in Kay. Ohmygosh… I could have written that. wait, did I?

  7. Josi

    July 23, 2009

    Most of the time, my marriage doesn’t feel like work. It’s a comfort and a support and a really good time with the person I love and want and long for more than anything else in the world. And then one day something will happen and I’ll notice this distance–like boats floating apart on the current–and I’ll realize that my not seeing it as work, has made me lazy. There’s that quote that says when you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like work. Most of the time this is true, but there are still those times when we have to kick our feet like crazy to meet up again. Lucky for us, we want to be moored together.

  8. Michelle L.

    July 23, 2009

    Goodness– I love your comments. Ah, I’ve missed chatting with the Segullah community.

    Selwyn, thank you for your excellent advice, thank you for the reminder that relationships are worth it. Bless you.

    And Kay! Don’t apologize for rambling. Your story is so inspiring. I love the concept of seeing each other as God sees us.

    Camille– you go girl with that lawn mowing. Making lists of the things you love about him is also a fantastic idea.

    And Josi– I love your concept of kicking like crazy to meet up again. Thank you!

  9. anon

    July 23, 2009

    I have been very surprised by how much work marriage is. And I’m not to the point where I can say it’s worth it yet. We are still in the thick of thick things and it’s hard. Very stressfully hard.

    I’ve worked on our marriage by going to counseling, reading books, turning to the Lord & scriptures, finding a few people I could trust to discuss some of the difficulties with, and asking for a priesthood blessing now and then.

    I long for the day when I feel happy in my marriage. I sometimes struggle to stay hopeful that it can happen, but I’m trying to make some personal changes that should make a difference . . . and if they don’t, I will at least be happier.

    I enjoyed your post, Michelle–very much!

  10. jendoop

    July 23, 2009

    I wish my YW leaders would have been more honest about how much hard work marriage requires. Maybe they wanted so desperately for us to get married in the temple they didn’t want to let us down with the knowledge that you still have to work at it. So when I was a YW leader I taught that temple marriage is wonderful but takes work and is hard. The result was other YW leaders who gossiped that my marriage was in trouble. So happy to see that attitudes are changing and it is OK to admit that it takes work.

    My marriage seems harder when we get lazy. Sometimes I have to remind my DH that it takes work and he improves.

    Recently I’ve stayed with family members and have seen other marriages at work. I have been happy to realize that I very much like the man I married and don’t want a trade-in.

  11. Leslie

    July 23, 2009

    really delicious morning meal, michelle-

    I think that honesty is so critical. The reality of what marriage means. It’s not the same as a crush. It trades in different commodities. There is lot of the mundane, it requires deliberate, concerted action. one of my favorite things was realizing compromise doesn’t mean 50-50- it’s often 20/80 and 100/0 or 45/55. It’s about being in the game for someone else not just yourself

  12. Michelle L.

    July 23, 2009

    I find it sad that you’ve been criticized for your honesty jendoop– we NEED honest teaching. And Leslie, YES!, it’s the 20/80 and 100/0 days that make marriage work!

  13. Josi

    July 23, 2009

    I’ve never professed to be the brightest bulb on the tree, but I can’t find the ‘submission’ e-mail. The link at the top of this post takes me to the guidelines and some great tips, but the other links I followed for an e-mail go to older contests and things–do we use the same e-mail? And is it the same e-mail for the contest and the issue? I’m sure I missed it, but could you post the addy for submissions for this next edition? Thanks.

  14. Angela

    July 23, 2009

    One thing I’ve noticed in my marriage is how much the little things do matter. I suppose that piece of advice is a cliche for a reason–because it’s so true.

    To me maintaining a happy marriage is kinda like maintaining a clean kitchen. It’s a lot easier if you stay on top of it, loading the dishwasher every night, sweeping up the crumbs on the floor before the mess gets out of control.

    So, you know, in our marriage it’s important that we load our dishwasher regularly. Not every night. But regularly. 🙂

  15. Emily M.

    July 23, 2009

    Josi, as far as I know it’s submitprose@segullah.org. Send it in!

  16. Michelle L.

    July 23, 2009

    Josi– for essays the address is submitprose@segullah.org
    and for poetry (Oh, please write a poem!) the addy is submitpoetry@segullah.org. You’ll receive an automated response when you submit and a personal response later. Happy writing!

    And Angela, I’m loving your kitchen analogy. Isn’t it amazing how quickly the kitchen can get trashed? Here’s to wiping the counters and loading the dishwasher!!

  17. Emily M.

    July 23, 2009

    And I have a confession to make, Michelle: I think my marriage is more work for my husband than it is for me. That is, he does a lot of the heavy lifting, and too often I feel like I’m coasting. This post (and our discussion earlier) is a good wakeup call.

  18. Tay

    July 23, 2009

    Wow. Leslie you are so right. 100/0, 20/80, 35/65 … All too often I find myself expecting the 50/50 and feel myself resenting that it feels like 50/30. If I only go halfway and stop, there is no way our marriage is going to reach 100. Marriage is not about meeting halfway, it’s about doing whatever it takes to make sure you both add up to 100% and not begrudge your responsibility to get there.

    This shouldn’t be such a huge revelation for me, but it’s like – all of a sudden I get it! I know I won’t be perfect from now on, but it’s so nice so have a clearer picture of what to do. Thanks you guys, I love these discussions.

  19. Suvi

    July 23, 2009

    Jendoop, oh how i wish more YW leaders were like you!! For that matter, singles ward RS teachers! And bishops trying to urge us that all we have to do it get to the temple wot get married!

    Thanks for this post! As a single woman in the church getting older, I find that so often we think that marriage will be the solution to the problems of loneliness, heartache, boredom, so it’s nice to remember that it is work too. Maybe what is even better is the reminder to look for a future partner with the characteristic of willingness to work.

    I dated a guy who ultimately broke up with me because he expected us to feel close all the time and to never disagree. I wanted to shake him and tell him that our ability to communicate and feel close after feeling distant was one of the best things about the relationship. but I didn’t because I thought maybe I was completely wrong about that and relationships should just be easy all the time.

    Thanks for the wise words. A bit terrifying as well, but wise.

  20. Matt

    July 23, 2009

    Emily M.’s husband disagrees with her (on Comment 16 – he has no opinion on the correct email address for prose submissions).

  21. FoxyJ

    July 23, 2009

    My parents’ marriage has taken a lot of work, and they have always been honest about it. While as a child I wish I had not been witness to some things, at the same time I value the fact that I went into marriage with my eyes wide open. It’s the paradox of life–some of our hardest experiences are the most valuable to us in the end.

    For me, the ‘work’ of marriage often comes down to time. It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in our own little worlds and doing our own things once we have time alone. We’re both introverts and have a tendency to spend a lot of our ‘together’ time wrapped up in our own reading or writing. I also think, as someone mentioned, honesty is very important. We both spent too many years hiding hard things from each other, and even though it is more work to really face reality it is worth it in the end.

  22. Sue

    July 23, 2009

    My experience has been a lot like Josi’s. In general, I haven’t felt like my marriage was a lot of work. But once in a while, I’ll feel some distance settling in and “kick like crazy” to catch up to my husband again. (Great analogy, Josi!)

    Over the years, when my kids and others have asked me the “secret” to a happy marriage, my answer has been basically the same: MARRY THE RIGHT PERSON…one whom you can trust with every part of yourself. Take all the time you need when you’re dating to make sure that you are truly compatible, not just attracted (though that’s important, too). If you can’t “be yourself” with him, if he doesn’t respect you (or you find yourself not respecting his thoughts/actions), if he’s not a good friend and listener, if things that are important to you don’t matter enough to him, if he can’t hold up his end when the chips are down, then turn around and run the other direction.

    My husband and I dated all through college because he was the last wave of that generation that felt you should wait to marry until after graduation. He was pretty old school about supporting his own wife without assistance from parents, etc. It was kind of a pain at the time, but now I realize that it gave us a chance to truly get to know one another. By the time we got married, we were very much aware of each other’s various traits and qualities, and we had seen each other in all types of situations and under all kinds of stresses. As a result, we didn’t have the proverbial “adjustment” period. For the first ten years, we hardly even fought!

    Now, 37 years into the marriage, we definitely have our arguments, but the basic relationship remains solid and satisfying. The romantic part kind of cycles up and down depending on how stressed/involved/healthy we are. (Vacations are a great boost to romance, I think). I have also found that having an empty nest has been wonderful for our relationship. My husband is quite happy to have more of my full attention, that’s for sure.

    Marriage does take listening and confiding and discussing and compromising, and I guess all of those things could be called work, so maybe it’s just a semantic difference here. It’s just that, to me, the tools used in relationships come pretty naturally when you’re dealing with someone you love and enjoy. It’s just part of the interaction. And I like interaction!

    The most difficult parts of our marriage have occurred when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and when one of our children went off the deep end. We were sad and unhappy at times. Our marriage was less fun and lively because we were less fun and lively. But we still managed to have enough good moments to see us through, and that had everything to do with our deep, abiding friendship and commitment.

    So maybe I’d go with the word “commitment” instead of “work.” Marriage takes commitment. But even that commitment can be a pleasure with the right person. And it makes the really hard times just a little more bearable to know that you will never be walking through them alone.

    =)

  23. bekah

    July 23, 2009

    Although I wasn’t surprised by the fact that a good marriage takes lots of hard work, I have recently been surprised at how much better my husband and I have gotten at that kind of work over the last ten years of our marriage.

    I remember the first really difficult period we went through as a couple–we had been married about three years, had our first baby and he had started grad school. One night at the end of that extremely stressful first semester, we both looked at each other and admitted that neither one of us was enjoying life very much. Then we started the hard work of figuring out where we had let things go wrong and fixing them.

    Over the years, we have seen this cycle repeat itself through moves, babies, and job changes. It can be easy to let the stress of life take a toll on our marriage. But each time we go through it, we seem to deal with it a little better. We notice it sooner, we are more open about our needs, we pull together instead of apart.

    Just a few weeks ago, we were talking about how our most recent year of new baby/job transition has been difficult, but that we don’t feel miserable like we did that first time we hit a rough patch. We may feel completely emotionally and physically exhausted at the end of the day, but there is no one else we would rather be with for those five or ten minutes before we both start snoring.

    (Oh yeah–and the best remedy for all of our marital ills is always a trip without the children! We try to take one every year, and we are way overdue. Nothing like a little kid-free time to remind you why you liked each other enough to get married in the first place.)

  24. Sharon - LDS in Tennesssee

    July 23, 2009

    Rubbing my feet, pulling my hair / rubbing scalp, washing the dishes and lighting matches when beans come out for a night’s “HELLO”. Running to the store for watermelon, cause I’ve just gotta have it. NOW. Slowly after baptism 44 years ago, slowly finally getting a testimony, a true one, the kind you KNOW he means it and feels it. One child later, one grandson later, one great-grand-baby just seen on the wee-wee test strip……we are celebrating this year our 47th anniversary. Hard? Try granite, try steel. Of course work, of course begging God on my knees for strength to go on when I hated him, furious at the worst things a man can do…and then being trusting enough, humble enough to believe God could do a work on husband, with husband, for me, for him, for our eternal future possibilities.
    Secret? Always doing what was right / NOT WHO was right. (even tho in the fight / disagreement went on for hours declaring one or the other WAS the right one)
    Secret? Unconditionally forgiving. Begging God to feel love again after devastating hurts and betrayal.
    Secret? Trusting that God and our renewed efforts would make it all okay…and the next day be good and happy too.
    Every man and every woman has their own set of weaknesses, problems, sins, faults, and great things too. It helps to look in the mirror and see ourselves for what and who we really are as well.
    Love to all.

  25. Natalie

    July 23, 2009

    I always tell people that marriage takes work like a hobby takes work — you want to get good at something so you try and try at it and get better and succeed.

    But when marriage or any relationship – friends included -becomes this overwhelming burden or terrible uphill struggle, its time to reevaluate. I’m in the minority with most Mormons but I say “hey, marriage is for eternity, if you made a mistake, realize it”

    I was heartbroken recently — I just heard of a friend who is divorcing her husband after 4 years because she wanted her single life back. Got married at 20 and I guess misses the roommate life back at BYU? So much that she’s done. I wish she’d think 10 years ahead, because she probably pictures herself married with kids then.

    Marriage is much about living to the future and planning. Moreso than just food storage and 401Ks, but man do those things put it in perspective.

  26. Lindsay1138

    July 23, 2009

    Marriage is definitely hard work. I personally feel that couples should put off having kids for at least the first 1-2 years of marriage so they have time to get to know one another as a couple before bringing babies, exhaustion, post-partum depression and breastfeeding in the mix!

    That being said, it took us 10 years to have our kid, so we had a lot of time to get to know each other, travel, have fun, so our relationship is pretty solid. Not exactly the path I’d choose, but it worked out. But you have to keep working at it. You can’t just expect to coast along for 20 years and have everything be peachy keen the whole way.

  27. Zina

    July 23, 2009

    He’s an engineer and I was an English major, both our sets of parents are divorced, in some areas we have very different approaches to things, and we both have strong personalities (that’s a euphemism for “we’re stubborn,”) so, yes, I expected marriage to be challenging. And it often is. When it gets hard, and especially after I’ve read a blog or been listening to someone talk about how she and her spouse are perfectly matched mind-reading soul mates, I’ll find myself wondering what masochistic streak led me to choose a marriage I knew would probably be challenging. But I did put much thought and prayer into the decision (the hardest decision of my life,) so I can remind myself of the reasons I thought we’d be good together in spite of our differences, and of the answers to prayer I received. It also really helps to read both his and my patriarchal blessings and think about the mission I think we share in life and in eternity, and to try to see him through Heavenly Father’s eyes and love him that way.

    Time alone together is always nice, too. Last October he had a conference to attend in Hawaii and we found someone to watch the kids so I could tag along. Once our plane was in the air and I was seated next to him, I was surprised by how excited and lucky I felt to be with him–like a kid going on a date with a longtime crush. We also try to get a babysitter and go out most Friday nights, and I’m often amazed at what a difference it makes to have that relaxed time together.

    Experience and familiarity with each other help, too. I like to resolve things right away, and he’d rather ignore conflicts and hope they go away, (at least that’s how his response looks to me,) but I’ve learned (most of the time) to back off and cool down before I bring the issue back up, and he’s learned to listen more openly when I do bring it back up again. I think every time a couple successfully navigates a conflict, it adds to their store of coping techniques, and also increases their confidence that they can survive the next disagreement, which in turn helps dissipate anxiety and keep conflicts from escalating as much.

    Okay, so here are two scenes from my marriage just from today:

    1st scene: This evening we were getting ready for a picnic. I was doing some things upstairs and I’d asked my son to watch for my husband to get home from work and then ask him to make tuna fish sandwiches, and to make “a lot.” After my husband got home I rushed past the kitchen, and thought I heard my son say “I think you should make three cans,” and my husband say, “I’m making two,” so as soon as I’d finished what I was doing I asked, while still dashing back and forth gathering picnic supplies, “How many cans of tuna are you using?” He said, “Two.” I said, “That’s not a lot. I wanted you to make a lot–at least three cans.” “Two cans is plenty.” “But we’re really hungry and this is our whole dinner and I wanted you to make a lot.” “This is plenty to make one sandwich for everyone. We have a lot of other food–carrots and celery and chips.” “That’s not a lot. And I didn’t mean those chips to be for the picnic.” By this point our voices were both raised.

    I went downstairs to iron my shirt, and when I came back up, I went right up to him and said in a calm voice, “Next time, if I say ‘a lot’ of tuna fish, I mean at least three cans. You usually make less tuna than I think we need, and I’m really hungry and didn’t get lunch, and I wanted more than one sandwich, so that’s why I asked Isaac to tell you to make a lot. I don’t mind having leftovers, and we can afford three cans of tuna for dinner for our family of seven. For tonight we can bring the chips and I’m sure we’ll be okay, but I just want you to know for next time.” He said, “Okay.”

    (At the picnic, I got sidetracked talking to a friend and when I remembered to eat, I could only find one half of a sandwich left. Later I found a smashed one on the ground, and since it was still in its unbroken plastic bag, I ate it.)

    2nd scene: He just bought a new book series and we were arguing over who got to start on it first, but then I remembered I had another book checked out from the library, that he’d already read, (in one go, last night.) I said, “I guess I could read Hattie Big Sky instead.” He said, “Yeah, read that. It’s really good. You’ll like it. It will make you cry.” “Did it make you cry?” “Yeah.”

    I’m now considering whether to post this anonymously, because I’m not sure he’d be thrilled that I told the Internet that he and I argued over tuna fish. Oh, well–I think the two stories are good examples of why you’re probably glad you’re not in my marriage, but why I’m content to stay in it.

  28. Sage

    July 24, 2009

    I was surprised that marriage didn’t fulfill all my emotional needs immediately. I lost hope for a long time that I would feel the closeness, the emotional intimacy I wanted to feel with my husband. It took about eighteen years, but the fact we both were committed has made the difference, and I feel that closeness, that comforting happiness that I imagined was marriage. Over the years, the hard truths have been communicated and worked on.

    I too have prayed to love my husband more. I have prayed not to let my pride ruin my relationship: the relationship I know to be the most important to my eternal salvation.

    The first year of our marriage was very hard for me. It was a huge transition of being sought after by many, to being a wife of one who didn’t always know how to make me feel special. I realized that the Lord wanted us to marry, to experience the life-altering daily exchange that is marriage, in order to become worthy for the Celestial Kingdom. It was going to require of me more than I had imagined. Marriage required me to become a Celestial person.

    I am still working on becoming that person, but I have made great strides. I can honestly say that I am very happy in my marriage. I can share that there have been times when I thought I’d married the wrong person, that life was too miserable to continue…and other stupid thoughts. But, I had chosen well. I chose him because of the goodness of his heart–and I’ve been blessed that his heart has remained good and perhaps even grown better having to learn to love me the way I needed to be loved. And I learned to love him the way he needed to be loved too.

    Learning to love another human being that is ultimately different than myself has helped me develop true charity, stripped me of much of my pride, given me patience, taught me more than I thought I could know!

    And along the way, what fun and joy, and pain and growth. Marriage is work, the best kind of work: learning to love another person with your whole self. I often remember this quote from a poster in my high school class: Work is love made visible. That says it all to me about marriage.

    I hope I can teach my children to choose well and then work the best they can with that choice to create a loving home.

    Thanks for this lovely post and the wonderful comments.

  29. Jennie

    July 24, 2009

    Sage, what a beautiful comment! Thanks you!

  30. traci

    July 24, 2009

    I have just been married a little over a year. So I am not sure how valid this will be to some of you.

    My husband and I married late in life also. Then I was 49 and he was 62 (my 1st, his 2nd have many years alone). I thought it would be difficult to share my space but as he felt more at home, it was easier for me. I as the kind that ate cheese sandwiches over the sink and had an activity every nite – the hardest thing, the thing I actually would cry over! – figuring out what to make for supper each nite!!! He attends Quaker meetings and believes that decisions should not be executed until all members peacefully agree – i think supper should be taken out of that mix.

    But the work, the real work, is constantly looking at what I need to do to change Me to WE. To ask him about his day 1st, to do my 1st actions in the morning for his benefit, to look at how I can service him every day. I even put myself in the habit when I do laundry of doing his 1st and always making sure he gets the best hangers. It sounds silly, and does he notice? I will bet he would if I didn’t, because, these little acts help kill my self centerdness. And that is always the hardest work.

    Beautiful post and comments!

  31. Carrie

    July 24, 2009

    This is so timely for me. The ‘grief is weighing heavily on the fabric’ of my marriage. We’re coming up to our 8th wedding anniversary, still struggling with the same external trials we faced in year 2. Mostly infertility and money. It makes me wonder what I’m missing in our struggles to have them again and again. Its funny because although we struggle to connect, we’re both really grounded in our relationship and as the fabric of our marriage is taut and near breaking, I think this commitment we have is what holds us up through the bad stuff. And I think because we both know we’re totally committed we give each other the benefit of the doubt a lot. We’re both good at recognizing the strain of our struggles on each other and we make allowances for that. I guess we just keep our expectations pretty low and therefore are hardly disappointed, ha ha!

    I loved your question about how to teach our kids about marriage and I really and truly believe that if we teach our kids to be fully invested and committed to things and teach them that when we marry, it’s an eternal commitment that they’ll get it. I watched my parents fight and make up dozens, probably hundreds of times and I think this is what solidified this idea in my head that my COMMITMENT is key to our marriage. The world would teach that there is a way to run, there is a back door so we can get out of things that make us unhappy, and somehow we, as parents, need to rebuff these ideas.

  32. Michelle L.

    July 24, 2009

    I love your comments. I love your honesty. It’s good to be reminded that we’re not all “perfectly matched mind-reading soul mates,” and that marriage is changing “me to we.” Your habit of giving your husband the better hangers is indescribably sweet, Traci.

  33. cheryl

    July 24, 2009

    My favorite topic! (Well, this and anything having to do with relaltionships.)

    When I married, I had been given some great advice:
    “Never scorekeep.” (fabulous neighbor)
    “Kiss him good-bye every day; it could be the last time you see him” (widowed grandmother)
    “Go on a date once a week and go away overnight at least once a year.” (YW’s leader)

    But it still didn’t prepare me for the challenges ahead.

    In a way, that was okay, because I learned so much more through the experience. Brandon and I have definitely had our ups and downs over the last 10 years –and I have learned more than I ever realized I could learn! His parent’s divorce has played into this (how could it not?), as well as just life: school, pregnancies, kids, moves, jobs, financial strain, big decisions, etc. Marriage isn’t supposed to be “easy” –it’s supposed to take work.

    In fact, I’ve seen that the things we value most in life ALWAYS take hard work. Always. Education takes work. Jobs take work. Raising children takes work. Gaining a testimony takes work. Learning a skill/hobby/talent takes work. Marriage takes work! But the beautiful thing is how wonderful the outcomes (usually –generalizing, here) far outweigh any negative that the work could have produced. It’s sooooo worth it.

    But I still wish I had known more when I got married. That’s why I usually tell the following advice to every new bride I’m related to:

    1. Communicate about sex. Don’t ever assume he can read your mind (and vice versa).
    2. Communicate about finances. You were both raised differently; you have to figure out finances immediately and talk about them A LOT or you will end up in huge trouble. Trust me.
    3. Having children changes many things –don’t let it change your date night and most definitely don’t let it change your get-a-ways! If you don’t take time for each other, you will be teaching your children that they are more important than your spouse. You will also be teaching your husband that he is not as important as the children. If you are planning on living with your children until you die, than this is okay; but chances are they’ll leave and you’ll be with your spouse.
    Which it the whole point!
    So, take time to be together. Even if it’s hard. Even if it’s for 20 minutes. Just do it. Like FHE. Just do it.
    4. When you get into a fight with your husband (notice I didn’t say “if”), don’t call your parents. Talk it out with your husband instead. Telling your parents about how awful your spouse is all the time will create resentment and worry on your part. If you have to talk to them (or someone), make sure you tell them when things are going well or the fight was resolved. Don’t turn your friends/family against your husband –even if it isn’t intentional.
    5. Go to bed angry. The longer you stay up talking and re-hashing and yelling the worse the fight will be. Chances are if you go to bed and sleep it off, you will both wonder what the fight was about in the first place.
    6. Don’t publicly put-down your spouse. Don’t criticize him in front of friends, family memeber, colleagues, etc.
    7. Don’t forget to include God into all aspects of your marriage. Pray for him; pray for you. Listen to the Holy Ghost and pray for guidance when needing help. Heavenly Father knows your husband more than you do! Ask for His help in knowing how to approach hard decisions or challenges.
    8. Content Communicate (like #1): He cannot read your mind. Subtlety doesn’t work. Be vocal (but kind!).

    My advice isn’t perfect (or always followed), but I know these things have helped me tremendously. Also patience and selflessness.
    But I’m still working on those… 😉

  34. Merry Michelle

    July 24, 2009

    I think what I wish someone had told me is I didn’t have to sacrifice my individual identity in order to have and feel “togetherness”, and that a strong self can actually help make a marriage stronger. One of the toughest things for me to balance is my own identity and our identity as a couple.

    So many times I would feel responsible for his emotions, reactions and moods (something carried over from my childhood–I’m a “peacemaker”). I would hold my tongue about my real needs or even wants and then feel resentful that they weren’t being met. I think that a good marriage, a healthy marriage is one in which both partners can feel safe enough to truly communicate their needs and wants–even if they don’t necessarily agree on them.

  35. Sage

    July 25, 2009

    It was within the first few months of my marriage that I realized why the Lord requires marriage for the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom: my marriage was going to require of me a new heart, my pride and pure Christ-like love on a daily basis.

    Actually, I’m not sure I realized how much pride I needed to give up at that time. Only after almost 19 years of marriage has most of my pride been challenged and painfully, not willingly given up.

    I was also blindsided by the lack of immediate bliss in marriage. I thought we would understand each other perfectly, that he would immediately fill my emotional needs. I thought I would be such a good wife…cooking and cleaning would just come naturally! (Still working on those!)

  36. Sage

    July 25, 2009

    Thanks, Jennie. Hit the post comment on this previous attempt to write down the same stuff…and then had to go do something else. So, sorry about the repeat.

  37. Camille

    July 25, 2009

    Just had to comment one more time…. I LOVE alll these comments. and I love the women of this “world.” thanks for everyone’s input and comments. Wow, incredible!!

  38. wonder woman

    July 26, 2009

    I guess the one piece of advice I have to offer on diffusing conflict is to actually diffuse conflict.

    My husband and I are both fiercely passive-aggressive. Neither of us enjoys confrontation. Consequently, issues go undiscussed for weeks, even months. Resentment builds, but we just pretend like nothing is wrong. (Yes, I am aware of how unhealthy this is.)

    My husband and I have been dealing with a very difficult issue for about a year now. We had different ideas on the directions our life should go, and couldn’t reconcile the two. A year and much fasting, prayer, and study later, the decision has been made for us. Though the decision is the one I wanted, I’m still not sure if it was the right one for us.

    We’ve skirted the issue for months. Both knowing the effects of our choices, but not willing to discuss it. Maybe the hard feelings will go away if we pretend they don’t exist.

    But just last week, our family was on a long roadtrip. I wasn’t nervous about the trip for our young children’s sake, I was nervous for us as husband and wife! We had so much that needed saying, but were we going to discuss it, or let it suffocate us?

    Fortunately, my husband decided to broach the tender subject. We talked more honestly for those few hours than we have in the last 8 months. It was so refreshing. By the end, we were so much closer to one another. (I know — who’d have thought that having an honest heart-to-heart would bring me closer to my husband?! What a novel idea.)

    So my advice on diffusing conflict is to diffuse it. Don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Confront the issue with love and concern for your spouse’s feelings.

  39. Michelle L.

    July 26, 2009

    I continue to be amazed by your insightful words. Cheryl- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “How did such a young girl become so wise?” And Sage, we love your comments.

    Thanks Merry Michelle for reminding us that we need to retain our own identity– giving 80% or 100% if fine as long as it’s not all the time.

    And wonderwoman, thank you, thank you. I too am one that struggles to start those conversations.

  40. anonymous

    July 28, 2009

    I’m struggling in my marriage right now and your comments have truly helped me.

  41. Carol

    July 31, 2009

    I’ve discovered that most men are starving for praise. I have learned to thank my husband for his sacrifices, hard work, and devotion to me, and this simple act makes such a difference in our marriage.

    I wish I’d know this 40 years ago when we were first married. I think it would have been such a blessing for my husband. He knows I love him, but I wish I had verbalized it more in specific ways.

    Marriage is an act of continual forgiveness, mercy and compassion. Since none of us are perfect and since men and women often see situations differently, marriage can be challenging at times. I am glad I married my soul-mate, and I say that, knowing some Church leaders dimiss the concept.

    I am convinced my husband and I knew and love each other before we came to earth. With that said, marriage had still been very difficult at times. His career has taken him away from home and family for long periods of time, and I have found the weeks and months of single parenting has been very challenging.

    I have learned to rely heavily on the Lord to help me care for my dying mother, raise children, and create a strong relationship with my husband. Although I have been far from perfect, I have learned much about service, loving kindness, and pure love. As I work to overcome the natural [wo]man, I am discovering ways to find peace amid sorrow.

  42. Paul Lindsey

    August 6, 2009

    Over the 37 years of my marriage I have succumed to temptation 3 times, so I understand my wife’s sensitivity to this issue. Over the past couple of weeks I have been talking on phone with a woman I went to high school with, haven’t seen in 46 years. We’ve had a number of similar life experiences and personal interests. We had a mountain of information to discuss and some of the conversations ran on for several hours over several days. I realized if my wife knew this she would flip so I denied it when she questioned my behavior. She really put on the pressure and threatening detectives, etc. so I explained the situation. Boy, did she blow up. She doesn’t believe it was innocent, she thinks I was trying to set up a “love shack”, etc., etc. and she is talking divorce. I’ve been astonished at the angry level for this type mistake. She has brought all the pain from past mistakes back into it and this is the last straw. I’m lost on how someone can be so self-destructive over such a petty offense. I’m willing to do anything to make up for the selfishness of my act, but I can’t see it as a reason to break up after a lifetime together.

Comments are closed.

RELATED POSTS