Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Marriage is Hard and Musings On How You Can Make it Worth Your While

Disclaimer: Though I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I am not an official representative and the things I say in this blog post may not necessarily represent the church's views.

I told you a couple posts ago that I was asked to speak in church. About "Eternal Marriage: Blessing or Curse? with the specific focus of, "Why Marriage is Hard". This blog post is a slight adaptation of what I said in church on Sunday. It is written assuming an LDS audience. Though I realize everyone reading my blog may not be LDS, I decided it might still be a fun bit of my life to share anyway. And, apparently it's "Resurrect Romance Week", anyways so this post fits right in. This is what I came up with:

old couple
Image Credit: spazbot29
               What do you think when you see an old sweet wrinkly married couple holding hands and gazing lovingly into each other's eyes walking out of the grocery store? Does your heart skip a beat as you think, "I want that for myself and my spouse."
            
              Or maybe your heart sinks. As you think about how you can never obtain that for yourself. At least, not with how your marriage is currently faring.
             
Just married and enjoying Cafe Rio - things can only get better, right? :)
            As you know, I was out of town this last week - my older brother just got married in the Logan temple. It was a beautiful sealing. There is so much hope and happiness at the beginning of a couple's new life together. Isn't there? But there is also this looming feeling . . .

On our wedding day: blissfully unaware. :)
                 I remember when I announced my engagement, I got lots of words of congratulations, but I also got a lot of snide comments on the side, "Enjoy it while you still can!" As though, marriage was a death sentence for my happiness.
 
                 What is the difference between the two - and blissfully unaware (?) newly wedded couple and that too rare old wrinkly one who still hold hands and wink at each other? A lifetime of trials and sacrifice - that's what!
             
                It isn't without difficulty that you get from being Newly wedded to celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary - or your own "Happily Ever After" into the eternities for that matter. Any couple whose marriage has stood the test of time will tell you that is wasn't easy.  Because marriage is inherently difficult.
             
The scriptures give us several examples of trials couples (and their families) faced. Though the trials we personally experience are different in the details, I think we have all experienced variations on at least one of these:
Outside trials aside, just the fact that in a marriage you are taking a man and woman and saying - yes, you are two separate individuals who have your own agency and who have come from completely separate backgrounds, but just leave that old self behind,  and be one! (Not to mention how the whole multiplying and replenishing the earth element doesn't tend to make things easier either. ;))

Maybe you think, "Yeah, I get all that but we're still two . . . and honestly  I don't really like his idea of what one looks like - in fact, that one looks an awful lot like what he's already got going on his own already . . ."(Or visa versa.)

It's not for no reason that Neal A. Maxwell said, "Life's most demanding tests as well as life's most significant opportunities for growth usually occur within marriage and family." (Ensign July 1982, p. 53) 

So, what's the secret? How do you get from newly wedded to happily ever after? How do you become one with your spouse?

President Spencer W. Kimball, said: ". . . it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price…Two individuals approaching the marriage altar must realize that to attain the happy marriage which they hope for they must know that marriage is not a legal coverall, but it means sacrifice, sharing, and even a reduction of some personal liberties. It means long, hard economizing. It means children who bring with them financial burdens, service burdens, care and worry burdens; but also it means the deepest and sweetest emotions of all.”

So, there you go - the secret to successful marriage: selflessness.

Now you're thinking, "Thanks for that. But how I am supposed to cope with the fact that . . .": 
  • I don't like the direction he installs the toilet paper
  • She doesn't squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom
  • He forgets my birthday every year
  • She doesn't try to look nice  for me anymore
  • He spends too much time at work/with his hobby
  • She's only willing to give attention and affection to the children
          
            The truth is, if we spend all our time pointing our finger at our spouse - we will always be too busy to notice the three we have pointing back toward us. We have to humble ourselves and accept that marriage is hard, not only because of the external reasons and trials that come upon us, but because WE make it hard. Not HE or SHE, but ME. I make marriage hard.

            When we pause and take the time to ask the Lord the questions, "How am I making marriage difficult for the both of us, for our family? How can I make it better?" we will receive answers through the Holy Ghost.  Moroni 10:5 tells us, "...by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." And that the Holy Ghost will also show us, "...all things what ye should do." (2 Nephi 32:5)

            I know in just the (almost!) three short years we've been married, I've had moments of instruction from the Holy Ghost with regards to Squire's and my marriage relationship. Sometimes the Spirit will tell me, "Don't speak so harshly!" or "You should really have dinner ready for him by the time he comes home, he will be tired." or "Send him a text to let him know you're thinking about him." or "Don't just pass the baby off to him tonight - he still has a lot of studying to do, and he's exhausted from waking up at 5am." "Write a love note on his napkin in the lunch you should pack for him now." I liken all these instances to the direction the Liahona gave Lehi's family as they traveled through the wilderness.

             These instructions or small promptings from the Spirit - when I follow them diligently - lead me to "fertile parts of the wilderness". (1 Nephi16:16)  They create moments of happiness and renewed love in our marriage, even through the daily strive.

            Sometimes, I receive promptings about who I am. Bigger things I need to change than just small acts of selflessness to perform. There is no excuse of "It's just the way I am!" when you are communicating and learning from the Holy Ghost. Though it may be our natural man/woman to be over-indulgent, selfish, lazy, inconsiderate, dishonest, or any other number of evil things, God requires us to be - and to become so much more. But I know we can travel from fertile patch to fertile patch in the wilderness - and even eventually to the Promised Land - by following the Spirit's instructions in the small things: 

In 1 Nephi 16:29, about the Liahona it says: 

"And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read,"
  • The instruction we receive from the Spirit are simple and clear in our hearts and minds.
 "which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord;"
  • They teach us what God would have us do, and how to become more like Him.
"and it was written and changed from time to time,"
  • The direction the Holy Ghost gives will not always be the same - it will be tailored to our individual situation at the time.
"according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it."
  • The more faithfully we follow the Spirit's instructions, the more we will receive from Him.
 And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things."
  • Through following these little promptings to do good, great things (happy Celestial marriages!) can happen.
Or, to sum it up in another way, "Pure hearts in a pure home are always in whispering distance of Heaven.” (President David O. McKay, Church News, 7 Sept. 1968, p. 4.)

            Let us not be like Laman and Lemuel whose hearts wouldn't be softened by the tears and prayers of Nephi's wife and children, their wives, or the distress of their parents. "Nothing save the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts..."(1 Nephi 18: 20)

Lot's Wife
Image Credit: seriykotik1970
            Let us not be like Lot's wife (Genesis 19), who rather than heading the hastening of the angel who warned that they had to leave," lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city." "looked back . . . and became a pillar of salt." Or more clearly stated, let us not be unwilling to make the changes we each need to make to leave our iniquity behind when our spouses and families needs exactly that from us in order to move forward - to a better future. Our own spiritual deaths will not heal our relationships.

            Instead, let us do what Terry Warner suggests in his book, Bonds That Make Us Free. Now, his book is not written from an LDS perspective per se but he is LDS and what I think he is talking about in what I'm going to quote, is how to follow the Spirit to become more charitable. He said:

            "Let us say that we live truthfully when we let the truth about others,      including their needs and hopes and fears, guide the way we treat them. Living truthfully toward them is nothing more or less than being considerate of them and letting ourselves be influenced by the truth about them." (Bonds That Make UsFree, By: Terry Warner, pg.183)

Adam Eve Alter Mormon
Image Source.
             I pray when we get to the end of our lives, we can say something akin to what Adam and Eve said. That because of our difficult and sorrowful experiences in mortality, we more fully understand, "the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient." (Moses 5:11) And, that we can say and understand all of that - while still lovingly holding our sweet spouse's hand.

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