Marriage: effort or consequence?

With a recent family wedding under my belt, several friends’ recent engagements and my own wedding anniversary on Monday — I’ve got love on the brain.

When I went on my first date with my now husband, Nathaniel, I wasn’t thinking about marriage. In fact, I wasn’t even initially sure it was a date. To say the least, things went so well that Friday night that we were out again the next night. A kiss followed on Sunday and by Monday, we were talking about marriage.

As insane as I found it myself, a few months later we were engaged. Everyone that knew us personally was supportive and even thrilled. From strangers we heard almost constant “You’re so young!” or of course, the strained, forced “congratulations.”

We were warned almost constantly about how difficult the first year of marriage was. But for us, marriage was easier than being engaged.

We often joke that if our first year was the worst year, we’re set for life. Of course, when we share that with others they tell us it’s because “we’re in the honeymoon stage.”

Now after two years, if I’m talking positively about my marriage  — mind you, my marriage is not perfect — it’s not unusual for someone to tell me to “just wait.” As in, when you’ve been married for x-amount of years, or when you’re in x-situation with your spouse, you’ll see how much you don’t get along.

Obviously, these conversations are the exception and not the rule.

But every time these exchanges happen, I wonder why someone would give a discouraging comment about a marital relationship. Is it because they honestly believe all relationships are the same? Is it because they’re really trying to give helpful advice? Are they frustrated with their own relationship?

I’m not saying my marriage is a fairytale or exceptionally romantic — or anything like that. We’re best friends, though. Which means sometimes we get along perfectly and other times we drive each other crazy. And of course, our relationship does take effort, work and compromise.

But it’s wonderful and beautiful and endlessly fulfilling. And it’s not an accident. It’s not because we’ve only been married two years or because we’ve never been in the right situation that foreshadows a doomed relationship.

So in the future, I’ll vow to always encourage others’ healthy relationships —  no husband-bashing, no comparing relationship horror stories. Because what does that do except focus on the bad in relationships? And when having a healthy, successful marriage takes so much work — every relationship needs all the support it can get.

What do you think? Is a healthy marriage the result of consequence or effort? What will you do to focus on the good in your own relationship? What will you do to help others focus on the good in their relationships?

41 thoughts on “Marriage: effort or consequence?

  1. I’ve likewise received a lot of disparaging remarks about how hard the first year of marriage is/was or how hard it is yet to come. Yes, there are struggles, but I have yet to experience anything that people like to warn of. I believe such remarks are just an individual trying to be helpful like a prophet warning, “Be prepared because trouble is a’comin’.” The problem with such predictions is that they’re based on the assumption that their own experiences are universal.

    I believe that the state of one’s marriage is both consequence and effort. I know that my marriage would be entirely different if I’d marriage now-DH at 19 instead of 29. A decade of life is a lot of time. As a consequence of being married later I came into marriage with a better ability to communicate, financial stability, and a greater apreciation for DH. However, it is only with effort that the quality of our marriage is maintained.

  2. It’s not just marriage–people love to one up each other. I always think of this as the elementary syndrome–when a 2nd grader disparages a first grader or a 4th grader makes fun of a “baby” 3rd grader, etc. When I was pregnant with my 5th child, one of my friends (who had just had her 6th) said, “Just wait until #6 is born! It’s a wild ride from there!” “Um yeah, sure,” I thought, remembering her penchant for one-upping. My least favorite though was when I was so sleep deprived with three children ages three and under and someone would come up to me and say, “You think it’s hard now? JUST WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE TEENAGERS!” Well, I’m here to say I have THREE teenagers now and my opinion is that it WAS harder when they were little. So there! :)

  3. I said it wrong–I was pregnant with my 6th, not my 5th when my friend made that comment. ;)

  4. I think part of it is a need to talk about how challenging things can be. As a culture, we talk about marriage in such rosy terms. It is difficult to reconcile the gritty, hard work of marriage with the “get married in the temple, then you’ll be happy” discussion that happens so frequently. Also, I wonder if people might secretly feel overwhelmed by the work of the relationship, the lack of general community support for couples, and the quick adjustment into parenthood. Their warning might be an expression of “man, I wish I knew then what I know now- I might have waited a little longer.” Regardless of what they might be feeling, you get to enjoy the fruits of your hard work in your relationship and can sow seeds of positivity about marriage. Thanks for the post.

  5. Wow. It has never appealed to me when other people disparage their spouses as a conversation technique. I think that some people are just negative, no matter what. I wouldn’t dream of advising newly-weds to be cautious about their loving enthusiasm because the future will be lousy. Wow. And, I’d like to add–there was NEVER a time when I felt like my children were a burden and a chore. Yes, even with three under three. I didn’t love every minute of being a young mother of five, but I was always concious that this wouldn’t last. When it was challenging, I just reminded myself that this part wouldn’t last, either. Be nice to your husband, always praise him to the other wives. He’ll find out and love you even more. (It’s worked for 38 years so far.)

  6. I really dislike that kind of negativity too. I taught a marriage lesson in RS last year and the most outspoken ladies were the ones touting how HARD marriage is, how much work, making it sound like drudgery rather than a wonderful blessing. It was really hard to get the tone of the lesson back to positive and we were at church where the majority of us have been married in the temple… I don’t know if they were trying to be funny or if their marriages really are hard work, it was not the direction I was expecting the lesson to take when I prepared it.

    For me, we are 12 years in and we both think our marriage is great. It started out really good and has only gotten better. We’ve had our own stresses and rough moments here and there just like the rest, but we are happy and feel really good about the life we have together. We talk about our marriage to each other, are considerate of each other’s feelings, and work really well together. And we love each other a whole lot.

    Good luck to you! It sounds like you are starting things out right! Congratulations on 2 good years!

  7. Great discussion. My take is that it all depends on what kind of spouse you choose to be. I hate it when women complain about their husbands. I don’t have a perfect marriage, but after 21 years it is very good and when it isn’t it is because I’m not choosing to be my best self. I’m not focusing on all my blessings if I allow myself to distance myself from my husband or focus on his few faults or even when I contemplate if I made the right choice all those years ago instead of loving in the present and moving faithfully forward.

    I’d say a good marriage is a consequence of effort by both spouses to be united and to continually strive to love wholeheartedly. Marriage is the path to becoming a more celestial person as you love, repent and forgive day after day.

    So, my words to newlywed couples is look forward to deepening your love and growing more than you can imagine as a child of God. The process of creating an eternal family is filled with joys and challenges that will shape you into a true human being at its best! How exciting it is to see it that way instead of assuming you will grow apart.

    Best wishes!

  8. I met my husband when I was 18. Due to several circumstances, we dated for 2 years before we got married.

    It was a great time for us to get to know each other well (we dated long distance and only saw each other once a week) and when we finally got married it was a natural progression in our relationship.

    Those newlywed days were sweet and wonderful, but our relationship now, 11.5 years in, is much deeper and meaningful. We’ve gone through health problems, miscarriage, kids, house moves, job changes, etc. He the grounding force in my life and I am excited about our future together. If the first decade has been this interesting and fun, I look forward to more. :)

  9. I made the choice a few years back that I would try really hard to not say anything negative about my husband in public. This turned out to be easier then I thought! Now when people start “husband bashing” I say someting positive about mine. It generally brings the “bashers” up short, and they start to talk about thier husbands in a better light.
    We have been together 13 years, and I am not going to say it’s been all sunshine and roses, there have been some super rough patches. But he is the only person I could ever imagine being with, and I feel so grateful that the Lord saw fit to put us together! (It was a goofy, complicated, round about way! lol)
    I love seeing newlyweds, and love to hear how they met, and about their dating. I guess I am one in the camp of “It takes a ton of work, and compromise, and sacrifice on both sides of the marriage.”
    It is both effort and consequence: when you put in the effort, you get great consequences!

  10. Count me as one of the negative Nellies then. When I teach YW about marriage I add how difficult it is, and worth it! Because saddling YW with a universal expectation of wedded bliss isn’t preparing them for a future where marriage takes effort. If they go into marriage believing it is all roses what will they do when it’s not? If they know trouble is coming they can ride out the difficulty, or turn to God for the balm of Gilead, knowing that they are not abnormal. Facing it with the realistic expectation that working through things is part of the process.

    Maybe you were raised in a home that taught you how to love and be in a relationship so those things come naturally to you? For me that was not the case, I needed to talk to friends and others about how to be married because I didn’t have many relationship skills. Yes, there is such a thing as too much negativity, which can tear down a marriage instead of build it. (Which is why I don’t talk about my marriage on my blog.) But to shut down any type of discussion about difficulties is to turn an uncharitable ear to those who need help and support.

    If you have a wonderful marriage then congratulations! Those people who warned you about the first year cared enough to prepare you. You wouldn’t condemn the prophet because you never used your food storage, you thank him that you never needed it. Be grateful that you didn’t have to walk that thorny path and allow a little room for those of us with sore feet.

  11. “Count me as one of the negative Nellies then. When I teach YW about marriage I add how difficult it is, and worth it! Because saddling YW with a universal expectation of wedded bliss isn’t preparing them for a future where marriage takes effort.” Yes, exactly.

    And I am struggling, really, really hard not to say something about how the first ten years of my marriage were amazingly easy and wonderful and then – all hell broke loose.

    Oops, I guess I just did.

    I think part of this comes from a desire not necessarily to be negative about your marriage, or to talk badly about our husbands, but because it is really annoying when someone who has been married for half a minute lectures other people about how easy and blissful marriage is. That’s when the “JUST YOU WAIT MY PRETTY” instinct can kick in fierce. Yes, it’s ugly, but it’s true.

    And you may not realize it, but when you verbally insist to people in your life that your marriage is fantastic, and it was never hard, and you can’t imagine why it would ever be hard, what you are unintentionally saying to other people is My Marriage Is Better Than Yours and Obviously You’re Doing It Wrong. It is a little bit insufferable.

    I say this as someone who used to say the exact thing you are saying right now to other people. If I could, I would go back and smack myself upside the head with a little marital humility.

    My sisters and I had a “no negative talk about husbands” rule for a long time and all it did was keep us distant from each other, because we didn’t feel like we could share our struggles and pain.

    Because most marriages ARE work, and there ARE periods of struggle, and there ARE times you will be in pain, and it’s really good if you have people that can support you while you try to do the work to heal your marriage. Pretending like everything is awesome all the time is sort of pointless. If your marriage is Completely Awesome All The Time, Now And Forever, well, then congratulations. But I don’t think that’s the case for most women, and I don’t think it’s healthy to promote that as the idea. That just makes everyone feel like they are failing.

    But congrats on your marriage. I truly hope yo u stay blissfully happy, now and forever.

  12. Now, I do feel that there is a difference between sharing struggles and husband bashing. In the former you are seeking support and strength and help; the latter you seek solely to degrade and make yourself feel like you’re better than your spouse. That’s my two cents about that.

    Oh marriage. We’re at 5 1/2 years and let me tell you it has been interesting. But we’ve been happy through the interesting because we choose to rely on each other and be reliable. But this is a daily choice. I find myself mentally choosing my attitude every single day. I can choose to notice that I didn’t get some of the help I was wanting, or I can choose to see all of the help that I did get. I can choose to list off all of the things I do every single day or I can choose to be mindful of what my husband needs me to do to help him feel loved. So marriage, to me, is a consequence of my effort and that of my husband.

    Whenever my friends are having troubles, I try to be careful. My parents’ marriage failed because my dad has a severe personality disorder and that is not visible to anybody outside of the immediate family. When I give encouragement it’s mostly of the order of ‘you can’t control what they are going to do, so just do your best to find peace in what you do in your relationship.’ Because there are always problems I am unaware of.

  13. A neighbor of mine just celebrated her 50th anniversary. She told me the other day that a lot of people have been asking them “How did you do it?” She supposes they want some kind of advice. Her standard response is “We never got divorced.” Simple as that.

    And I can’t imagine a first year of marriage being the hardest–unless perhaps you were combining families from previous marriages or caring for an Alzheimer patient in your home or you gave birth to quadruplets that year. Is there anyone out there whose first year was their hardest? It doesn’t count if you only stayed married one year.

  14. For us the first year was definitely one of the hardest, because you have two different people from two different families coming together. We had massive fights about how to hang the toilet paper, squeezing the toothpaste wrong, etc. My husband cared, I didn’t. But my favorite is the one where I went to put the pumpkin pie in the fridge, and he insisted it didn’t have to be refrigerated, so I said “fine go ahead and get food poisoning,” and left it out on the counter. Then he told his mom about it, and she said “we have 6 boys, the pies were all eaten before they needed to be refrigerated” and he had to come and apologize.

    Thankfully we’ve both mellowed over the years (17 now), and we don’t fight very often. Of course, if helps that my husband travels and is only home on weekends. Who wants to waste precious time arguing?

    Our first year sticks out as the hardest because of the adjustment needed, even though rougher times followed. What has really helped, although I didn’t see it at the time, was the waiting 10 years for our one and only child to come along. Our relationship had a lot of time to solidify before adding kids to the mix.

  15. I decided a while back that that saying about the first year being the hardest must have come from the generations when a couple’s pre-marriage life consisted of a “courtship” (using only the connotation of the word) where they saw each other on official dates and that was mostly it. Combine that with the era of people only sharing and teaching the rosy things about life, and I can see how marriage might come as a big shock.

    As much as people bash on “hanging out” (and I do see the potential dangers in that), I think there’s a lot to be said for being familiar with who your spouse is in most situations *before* you get married. We are coming up on six years and I don’t remember being surprised by much of anything that first year, or since. I knew beforehand that he didn’t hang up his towels and stays up much later than I like to, and he knew I sleep with my mouth open and am always late to everything. Combine that familiarity with an era of openness about problems and more widely spread acknowledgement that marriage is not bliss, and I think the adjustment to marriage becomes much easier – and that saying becomes mostly untrue.

    I’m not trying to imply that marriages now will be more successful than they were before – especially not with the widespread lack of relationship skills happening – but am speaking only to the applicability of the saying. Most people I’ve talked to who got married in the last decade or so have felt that the adjustment was great – life is the same as before except you don’t have to leave after you say goodnight :)

  16. Okay, now I have to add: we’ve had a lot of hard times. A lot. I didn’t mean to say that marriage is easy. It isn’t. It takes a continual adjustment of attitudes and actions. I’m like Amos’ neighbor: we’re still married because we didn’t get divorced. Plus, when it looked like divorce was the only reasonable choice, we would make the decision to try again. Yes, be honest to the YW, they need to hear it. But the newly-weds? Nah…just give them congratulations and smiles.

  17. Thank you all for your comments! This is such a wonderful conversation!

    I definitely agree that it’s important to always view marriage in an honest light. I think when you (and the spouse) are honest about the dynamics of marriage, it becomes easier to deal with the ups and downs — and really enjoy the good!

    I agree with what a lot of you had said, being open about marriage is important when we teach our young women. I’m in our ward’s YW presidency and whenever we have a lesson about marriage, I’m very careful to be honest. I hated when I was a YW and my leaders told me to “marry a return missionary in the temple.” As if that meant we’d have a successful marriage. I tell my girls, no matter who they marry, it should be a prayerful decision made with the Lord. And then once they are married, they should remember that their marriage is a covenant between them, their spouse and the Lord, and if their marriage is focused on Christ and gospel principles, they’ll see success. And, most importantly, I tell them the work isn’t done after the temple. I feel like all too often we preach this formula of success and talk about “temple marriage” as if it’s final. But really, it’s always a work in progress — 1 year in, 50 years in, the two in the marriage need to be committed to their covenants (each other and the Lord) continuously to feel happiness.

    Like Sage said, “Marriage is the path to becoming a more celestial person as you love, repent and forgive day after day.” Exactly! That means it both takes work, but provides deeply fulfilling joy!

  18. I love this post, and completely agree with it. I’m coming up on my 4th anniversary this summer. My husband and I had the engagement from you-know-where, truly, and so after that marriage was blissfully easy in comparison! All that “newlywed advice” we received seemed outdated by the time we got married – our engagement had been so tough that we had really already covered the communication stuff, letting go of selfishness, etc. We have had a truly wonderful marriage. And you could ask any of my single friends – I’m a huge advocate for marriage, but I also always try to stress the fact that marriage is work. It takes continual, daily feeding and effort. But it’s such wonderful, rewarding work, and a strong and happy marriage is about the best thing I can possibly think of.

    (As far as the “you’ve only been married two years” thing – don’t listen to them! I know people who have been married for two years who are already have tons of problems, and I know people married for far longer who still seem like “newlyweds.” I will say that my fourth year of marriage in some ways has been harder than my previous three, and I actually just read something recently about the initial “honeymoon phase” lasting 1-3 years, which made a lot of sense to me. But it still hasn’t been VERY hard, and it certainly hasn’t been bad. As you say, my husband and I are best friends. I love spending time with him. He truly is the light of my life.)

  19. I’m coming up on 20. I’d say the worst year was the 8th and the best year was the 17th. The first was pretty awesome but it got better and so looking back I could see we fixed some things, but I do think previous generations knew less about each other than my husband and I did, so we did a lot of adjustments during the engagement.
    I think the best thing my parents taught me was that good marriages all have tough times so you have to be mentally prepared to get through them. I love having a marriage is great love fest talk with people, but I like to temper it with “this has been hard but we work on it” type of talk, and if I have been around husband bashing I like to temper that with “my husband doesn’t do X, but he does do Y so I can live with the lack of him doing X” and then suddenly wives remember that even though their husbands aren’t perfect they do have some redeeming qualities.

  20. I was really uncomfortable recently at a Relief Society conference where the speaker spent an enormous amount of time going through very cliche marriage problems of the wife being frustrated with her “knucklehead husband.” I felt really out of place and did not identify with that at all. After 5 1/2 years of marriage people still tell us we are “newlyweds” but I agree with you, we are not perfect, but we work at it. I think good marriage relationships are a consequence of our effort!

  21. I’m really liking this conversation. I was feeling bad after the first few comments because they were all rosey and cheery, but then Jendoop piped in with a dose of realism and I felt at home.

    My husband and I will celebrate 21 years this summer. We have definitely had some rough patches and divorce seemed like it could happen, but my husband was too stubborn to give up on me and I was humble enough to apologize. Our marriage is a result of effort, on both our parts. I’m so glad to be taking this celestial journey with him.

  22. Also, as many of you have noted — there is a definite difference between having a heart-to-heart with a friend about struggling in your marriage, and gossiping/bashing your spouse.

    No matter the situation, we should always foster a positive, loving atmosphere for others to nurture their relationships.

  23. What do you think? Is a healthy marriage the result of consequence or effort? What will you do to focus on the good in your own relationship? What will you do to help others focus on the good in their relationships?

    I think that a healthy marriage is mostly the result of consequences — until it’s not. Many of us at some point have an “I didn’t sign up for this” thing happen in our marriage. We have a husband who develops a mental disorder, who beats us or our kids, who leaves the Church, who has an affair, whose addiction(s) take them over, who chooses to leave, who differs with us on if/how many kids to have, who screws the family over financially. T he most important aspect of a healthy marriage is that BOTH partners are choosing things to improve or at least maintain the relationship. If one’s choices are against the marriage, then the other is at their mercy or the marriage simply fails. You can’t have a marriage of one person.

    There are also the other tricky things that come into our relationships that, technically we did ‘sign up for,’ but that still kill many relationships: disease or disability or death of a child, financial loss, caretaking of elderly parents, disease or disability of a spouse, natural disasters, infertility, to name a few.

    Your average, everyday marriage takes effort in the normal, usual course of daily life together, with work, Church, kids, and all the other million things. It takes effort to keep building rather than succumb to entropy.

    We frequently talk abour our marriages in my group of friends. We are all at different places, and we are able to help each other. We are fairly good at avoiding bashing our husbands, but we also address issues fairly and honestly (but, obviously only from our viewpoint) in seeking help and solutions or just perspective. We can discuss some of our husbands’ less-than-desireable traits without bashing them. And we are all good about sharing what is right in our marriages, too. In the end, we like and respect others’ husbands as much as they do (evidenced in their conversations about them).

    It’s the big changes that come along in a marriage that make for a bumpy ride that not everyone survives.

    Thanks The One True Sue, I can identify with your post.

  24. I hope my comment didn’t upset anyone. I certainly do not mean to say that my friends can NEVER say anything negative around me. I am speaking more about those people that find it to be almost a sport when it comes to finding mean things to say. I have had many heart wrenching conversations with loved ones about troubles they or I have had.
    I agree most heartily that marriage is hard, and sometimes we need to let people vent. (Trust me, my marriage hasn’t been perfection. We are both human, and do stupid things!)
    Sorry if it sounded as if I think that the hard stuff should be glossed over. I certainly don’t believe that!

  25. I got married very young. My first year of marriage was wonderful. Second year…not so much. Since then, our marriage has gone from fantastic to meh to insanely difficult and back and forth. I’ll admit to often going to temple weddings and just wishing I could really warn those kids at the altar what they’re in for. (I never have…I figure they’ll find out soon enough. Or maybe their hardest trials will be in another venue, so my warning wouldn’t apply anyway.)

    To be frank, I had no idea what kinds of hell awaited me because of my choice to marry my husband. And he’s not even a bad guy. Not at all. He’s a good good man with depression and anxiety and those things have shaped our lives enormously, as have my own negative characteristics.

    I’ll be frank: there were years where I wished I had chosen differently. After much prayer and thought and experience though, I know that our marriage is right and good and was designed to shape me. No other institution than the family (as siblings, parents, children, spouses) has the power to let us see our rough edges in such magnification.

    I’m hopeful that right now I see through a glass darkly, but that in the eternities I’ll see him face to face, that love will be easy then. For now, I beg for love every day. Some days it’s there in abundance. Other days, I act loving and pray for more love. This is hard. I wish I could have a heart transplant and end up with a doting, adoring heart. I’m hopeful that the promise in the Book of Mormon will be fulfilled in me and that as I pray for charity, I will eventually be filled with it.

    Until then, forgive me, but I still think my marriage is hard. Good. But hard. I’m so glad that not every couple has the same experience I have had, and I will continue NOT to warn young engaged couples about the possible pitfalls ahead, hoping that most of them will avoid the ones I’ve hit and many of the others. :)

  26. Been married almost 30 years, and as a public official, perform civil ceremonies all the time. I remind couples that marriage is a four letter word called “work.” A good marriage is a consequence of effort. The best marriages I’ve come across in my experience are those where both parties stubbornly refuse to give up, no matter what challenges they face. Then, over the years, the challenges tend to diminish, and they become united in all that they do. I’m lucky in that I don’t ever consider muyself to have had a “hard” marriage, and I don’t think my wife would consider our marriage hard, either. Obnoxious and frustrating at times, but not hard.

  27. I kind of look at marriage like a mission. You often hear a lot of people describing a mission as “the best 2 years, a 2 year spiritual high…” blah, blah, blah. But it’s not and we don’t do any perspective missionary any favors by pretending it is. We have to talk about the hard parts. I LOVED my mission but it was super hard and in ways I never expected. But in a lot of ways the hardness made it all the more sweet.

    Same thing with marriage. When you marry the right person, at the right time it can be awesome. But it still takes a lot of work. What about all those people who didn’t marry the right person…

    I think when the author encounters people’s “negative” attitudes it is probably from a place of experience more so than negativity. There are probably a lot of people who make these comments who are coming from a place of pain. I don’t think we realize how many people really struggle in their marriages. IF you have ever been in a relief society presidency or known a bishop they would probably tell you that there are tons of people in your ward who are struggling in their marriage and you would have no clue by seeing them each Sunday.

    I think of course there needs to be a balance. We don’t want to be too negative but I think we also need to be realistic and most importantly we need to be a safe place for others to share their struggles.

  28. I remember the story I heard in an assembly during high school. Well there were two stories. A new bride came to her mother on her wedding day and said “I am so happy I have come to the end of my troubles.” Her mother replied. “The problem is you don’t know which end.” The other piece of advice the speaker gave was that when you get to the end of your rope tie a knot and hang on

    My marriage has provided me the best forty years of my life. Our first year was easy. That means the adjustment was smooth and mostly trouble free. As difficult as life can be it is a lot better to have a partner than to struggle alone.

    We have had some difficult times but we have faced them together. We have learned together and changed together. Some of our issues continue and probably will never be fully resolved. One thing we have done is agree not to talk casually about the details of our relationship with outsiders and to put the relationship first. I try to ask myself before I do something radical if it will hurt the relationship. If I decide it will. I don’t do it.

  29. I cannot read all the comments for lack of time, but I would like to add a possible perspective (and mine).

    My marriage was wonderful until about year 3. At that time I learned of lies and mini as well as large betrayals. Since that time, there have been good times, but, unfortunately, a majority of bad times. Is this mostly my husband’s “fault,” no, I think not. I think he does things that cause problems and then, for lack of emotional maturity, doesn’t do anything to change what he’s doing and things have progressively gotten worse.

    I hope the chasm I believe we are climbing out of currently is the worst we’ll ever experience… but when I was at 3 or 7 or even 10 years, I NEVER would’ve thought we’d have to face what we’ve been through.

    Anyway… the point of all that information is to present the possibility that perhaps the person you are listening to is suffering and doesn’t have a way out because they have heard the word of the Lord (to stay married), but the situation is only getting worse because they cannot change the other. This has truly been my situation and it has been painful so much, often and for so long that I have a difficult time trusting the improvements that seem to be coming about now.

    It may be simply that this Sister who is talking about the difficulties you could face is hopeful that you will not face what she does, but warning you that you could have to deal with much you cannot imagine at the present moment. And, truly, that is usually the case… isn’t it?

    JMO based on my experiences, of course.

  30. Wow, thanks to everyone for a respectful discussion.

    Like jendoop, Sue, heathermommy and others I believe marriage is difficult but worth it. I’m amazed at everything my husband and I have survived (our biggest challenges came in year 20) and how we’ve thrived and built an incredible family. But it’s required sacrifice and patience and plain old hard work from both of us.

    Happily, I chose very very well. My husband continues to amaze me with his growth and capabilities.

  31. one more point— this isn’t my issue but I’d love to hear your opinions

    As a culture who takes marriage so seriously, I often think we aren’t serious enough about the choice of WHO to marry. Like other commenters have said, we often act like just marrying an RM is the ticket to eternal happiness. But it’s not. Choosing WHO to marry and doing it at the right time is essential. I have see people marry to cover a multitude of sins: affairs, pornography abuse, addictions, child abuse etc. and hide behind their ‘temple covenants.’ In my mind it’s not much of a covenant if you lie and hurt other people to make it. There are a whole slew of 22 year old divorcees in the church right now because we’ve told them, “just get married and your problems will disppear.”

  32. When my four children were small I went back to college so that I could support myself when I got divorced. Those children are all grown now and last month we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary. Never give up but sometimes give in.

  33. I’m one of the growing number of (never married) mid-single adults in the church. Over the past several decades it seems like there’s been a shift from talking about marriage as “marry an RM and live happily ever after” to what some would say is a more realistic view of the challenges of marriage. I completely believe that it’s important to talk about the work involved in marriage. I also believe that much of the less-than-positive talk about marriage stems from very real, very difficult personal experience. I don’t at all mean to trivialize that heartache and trials that some here have described.

    Yet sometimes I wonder if the pendulum has swung to far in the direction of “realism.” We hear and see so much of divorce, infidelity, pornography, etc. in the media and in our own experience that sometimes it’s hard to have hope in a strong, faithful, loving marriage. I wonder if, with the good intention of painting a realistic portrait of marriage, we’ve contributed to the hesitance, insecurity, and reluctance to commit that we’re increasingly seeing in young adults. The reasons for staying single into the late 20s and beyond are obviously complex; I don’t mean to suggest that negative talk about marriage is causing this, but perhaps it’s not helping.

    As in most things, I think a balance is best. Sure, let’s talk about the fact that marriage won’t always be rainbows and unicorns, but let me hear about the joys of marriage too. When I’m feeling hopeless, I love to hear that there are men out there who love their wives and put their families first and honor the priesthood.

  34. I believe that tune of “marry an RM, the end” has been changing. It was definitely the tune my mom heard in the 70s and I heard in the 90s. After serving a mission and seeing all kinds of boys that come home with the RM title, I realized discerning a husband wouldn’t be that simple. Having said that, my mom did marry an RM and at the surface everything seemed wonderful. But, no matter the circumstances in your choosing and marriage, there is still the glaring factor of agency. If your spouse changes course and invokes their agency, that is sometimes something you cannot foresee or plan for. After years working with the youth I would teach them that they needed to be prepared for whatever comes, be it a mission, be it marriage, be it not getting married until you’re 29 like me, be it not getting married ever, be it marrying a jerk etc. etc. etc. These young women need to be prepared spiritually, emotionally and intellectually to stand firm on their own when the storm hits.

  35. I love the balanced discussion here. I know several dear women who have done everything right and yet they are married to men who live far below their potential and privileges. Watching these women struggle with marriage reminds me that there are no guarantees. Like others have said, it takes TWO to make a marriage blissful and wonderful. I’ve seen other marriages fall apart because one person turned from the light and made choices to betray his spouse.

    I remember talking to a woman once who was trying to gossip about another woman we both knew whose husband had cheated on her. “You would never put up with something like that!” she told me. “I don’t know what I’d do in a situation like that and I hope I’d never have to face it,” I replied.

    “Yeah, but you won’t have to face it because you married a moral man!” She congratulated me.

    I told her that while that was true, it’s still no guarantee for the future. We’re all vulnerable to sin and temptation and I know plenty of people who have married people who later change.

    At times, even in the best marriages, one spouse will pull much more weight than the other. That inbalance and how to hold up under the stress and strain of it can make for a very difficult life.

    All this is not to say marriage is just hard, hard, hard, but simply to point out that for some, it is the very hardest thing they’ve ever done. Others find their challenges come in other forms. We’re all here to be tested, one way or another.

  36. Anon–I totally know where you are coming from. My marriage is good but it’s been hard right from the beginning. I pray for love every day.

    The thing that really boggles my mind is how it seems like the person you marry is a total crapshoot. I’m shocked how many of my friends get married to a spouse that falls apart one way or another. And they had no idea when they got married that this is how that person would turn out.

    It makes me wonder, Michelle, how the Lord is going to give us a smackdown. Will our choice of spouse spare us as big a smackdown? Or will it just come in another way? Hard to say.

  37. I have several friends who also married faithful RMs only to have them fall apart later on–without any indication it would happen that way in the beginning. I count myself blessed every day (so far) that that has not been my lot. I think the best thing to do when talking with happily married newly weds (or couples who are not so newly wed) is to be happy for them, not warn them, not tell a cautionary tale. We have no way of knowing what trials we ourselves will face, let alone what someone else will have to deal with. Throwing cold water all over their happiness will not help prepare them for what may or may not be coming down the pike.

  38. “for some, it is the very hardest thing they’ve ever done. Others find their challenges come in other forms. We’re all here to be tested, one way or another.”

    I am just chiming back in to say how much I agree with this comment. What I didn’t mention in my first comment is that my husband and I have had a LOT of other struggles; I have a serious, life-shortening genetic illness that has been a huge focus of our life together. In addition (and related to that), we have been experiencing infertility for quite some time. And of course, added to that, there are the regular newlywed stresses of frequent moves, graduation, jobs, new jobs, tight finances, etc. My husband and I have talked a lot about conversations we’ve been in where people have talked about marriage as “the hardest thing they’ve ever experienced,” and that that is definitely not our experience. We are most certainly being challenged and tested in other ways, often to what feels like the breaking point and past it. But our marriage itself is not, for now at least, the source of that trial.

  39. I think Mara and Danny have a lot to add to this discussion in the way of showing how marriage can be loving and wonderful. I know it won’t work for everyone; we are all different. But someone mentioned that we don’t show enough hope in the possibility of a great marriage. And it is a crapshoot…which is probably why this couple didn’t cnect until both had marriages that failed, while they continued to seek Christlike behavior…a blog about love.

    Anyhow. If we try to base our marriages on the principles of the gospel, it helps (but takes two dong that and there’s the rub!)

  40. Great discussion.

    I’m reminded of this from Elder Hafen:

    “Three summers ago, I watched a new bride and groom, Tracy and Tom, emerge from a sacred temple. They laughed and held hands as family and friends gathered to take pictures. I saw happiness and promise in their faces as they greeted their reception guests, who celebrated publicly the creation of a new family. I wondered that night how long it would be until these two faced the opposition that tests every marriage. Only then would they discover whether their marriage was based on a contract or a covenant.”

    I think some measure of realism is consistent with our doctrine, because we are here to grow and marriage gives us lots of opportunities to grow. I also agree, though, that some people’s trials may not come in a ‘hard’ marriage but in other ways.

    I think what we should avoid is cynicism. I think realism is one thing, but cynicism is harmful. I also think realism is different from hopelessness…so Melanie, don’t lose hope! ;)

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