By Lea Child
This post is part of a 10-part series celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, specifically the sentence, “”Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
Similarly, how many times do we see a happy, loving couple and we think, “they’re lucky” or “they’re blessed” or something similar? What we don’t see is the work and effort they put into their relationship. And that is the key to any relationship:
A simple word that carries so much meaning and importance. I think sometimes we tend to overlook it or brush it aside. It isn’t a word like faith or love or respect that carries a spiritual significance. Nonetheless, work is a vital aspect of marriage. Without it, honestly, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish all those other principles.
Happiness in marriage isn’t something that just happens. It takes work. Hard work. In looking at this I want to break it down into two sections: how successful marriages are established by work and how successful marriages are maintained by work.
I want all of you to think back to when you first started dating your spouse. I personally enjoy thinking back on those first couple of months with my husband Greg. It was hard for either of us to believe that we might have actually found the person we would marry. There were certain things that were definitely effortless. We could talk and talk and talk. Conversation on dates and in between dates was never a problem. Other things, however, took effort. Like getting him to ask me on a date. Phew! Talk about work! Then further establishing our relationship by making sure that we did have time to go on dates in the midst of a very busy semester.
Once we were engaged, it seemed that the hard part was over. We had found one another! Of course, we were wrong. Dating was the easy part. Now we had to plan a wedding and a life together. I think we all know the work that goes into planning a wedding so I’m not going to talk about that.
What I am going to talk about is the time that we spent discussing our future. This took what I call a more abstract type of work. It wasn’t physical labor, but an emotional kind of work. I had to learn to open myself up and share with my future husband my goals and dreams for the future. Which, believe me, when you’re telling your future husband (who attended and taught public school) that you want to homeschool your children, it takes an emotional toll. Luckily, I was blessed with a man who was not only open to the idea but supportive of me. We discussed many things in the weeks leading up to our wedding – our opinions on child rearing, discipline, different gospel topics, etc.
All of this time spent talking about what is truly important helped us to establish a relationship based on open communication and trust. Of course, once we were married we had to further establish our relationship as we worked together to truly understand each others expectations, strengths, and weaknesses.
I wish I could say it was a seamless transition and everything was perfectly wonderful. We had our moments. My husband discovered my snappish side (usually fixed with food) and I discovered that his wonderful gift of the gab could result in him coming home a little later (30 minutes) than expected. However, we worked hard to maintain the open dialogue we had started prior to our marriage, further establishing our marriage.
Which leads me to the second part:
Successful Marriages are Maintained by Work
This is better than letting it fester and then exploding. As my sister put it, “I would end up keeping things inside and then a teeny little argument happens and I just go off, leaving my husband thinking “Dang, I didn’t realize she cared about toothpaste so much.” I think we have all been there at one point. Or two or three or fifty. Just remember, there’s a big difference between “Hey, honey, would you mind doing such-and-such?” and “Why do you have to drive me nuts? You NEVER do such-and-such!”
Reaching out to our spouse, trying to understand one another is not an easy task. This is in large part because we are always changing. As we grow and develop, so should our marriage.
My brother said something which I found perfectly illustrated the point of maintaining a marriage. He said, “It…helps to think of a marriage relationship as a living thing. If you want a fruit tree to produce good fruit you have to work at keeping it healthy and pruned. There never comes a point where the fruit tree doesn’t need attention.”
As long as our overall progression is forward, then hopefully we will be the couple people look at and think how lucky and blessed we are.