Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Marriage: get on with it.

This post is written in answer to a post on Modern Mormon Men blog written by Matt Lipps.  Please read his post by clicking here.  It will make my post even more understandable!
When I was a young man aged 18 I was planning on a mission.  I had been planning for years.  Maybe because of my uncle who was a missionary for another church and had served his life as a missionary to Haiti and was celibate throughout, it was impressed in my mind that a mission was JUST for two years and then we were expected to get onto the even more important business of building a family.  Consequently, and unusually I'll bet, I studied to be a husband and parent for years before I served a mission.  Yes, I read books on the subject, but probably more importantly I paid attention to several examples around me.  I paid attention to my Dad and Mom and how they related to each other.  I watched my sister and her husband and learned all kinds of good things for my eventual marriage.  The married ward members provided me with supplimental material as I paid attention to the little ways they showed that they cared about each other...or not.

Now I don't tell you that to make all Mormon young men think that is what they should be doing with their time.  After all, I just did that with a little bit of my time.  I still liked playing and watching sports, adventures, and of course girls.  What I am trying to say is that I think most of us have noticed some of these things about the relationships going on around us.  We have likely noted things to do and not to do in a marriage relationship from our parents.  Consequently, we are not without preparation.  Even if you have been totally inattentive or lacking in opportunity and missed it growing up, you now have time to start paying attention, learning and preparing for marriage.
So many people are worried that they are not ready to get married.  I doubt very many people can be ready due to the fact that generally we cannot anticipate adequately most of the ways that marriage requires us to learn, grow, stretch, and repent.  All we have to be is committed to the institution of marriage by accepting that it is the pattern that we need to be a part of in our life and then to choose a person (note, I do not say fall in love) but choose a person that we decide we will love and commit to not stop loving them.  Voila you have a marriage ready to start and then can get down to the real work of marriage after the ceremony.   

The real work of marriage is of course making it last forever.  If we worry over much about getting ready to marry we will be tempted to think that the work is over when we are married.  Admittedly it does feel like that after you have gone through an engagement and done all the preparation that our society demands to get married; but that is just the beginning.  Now begins the real work of learning, respecting, repenting, loving, growing spiritually and every other way, caring, accepting our weaknesses and making them into strengths or at least adequately kick-starting the change, forgiving, sacrificing and the many other things that are a part of marriage.  Then after that foundation--whether months or years--have children and dig deeper into all the things you thought you had learned, because now you have to know them well enough to teach someone else--not just think you know them enough to get by--but really know them inside and out. 
I suspect that there are additional major transitions in married life yet to come that I haven't experienced yet.  Maybe the transition we call empty nest which some might say should be called "empty next".  Then what about maintaining a marriage through the older years of loss and infirmity.  Caring enough for each other to still love even when your spouse, or maybe you, can't show it in the same ways.  Possibly finally showing that we will not forget our love, our promises and our covenants when only one of us remains here alive.  Marriage and family life are so full of transitions, major and jarring transitions (sometimes) that we can't possibly prepare for them all adequately and yet we need to move forward through them and beyond when they occur.  And don't forget learning all the cumulative lessons along the way.

You see my wife and I married shortly after each of us returned from a mission.  We had minimal money, not even a car for the first couple years we were married.  We didn't find that college courses nor low income were good enough reasons to not start having children right away.  And when our first child was born dead we continued on despite the loss and pain.  Why should we be spared the pain that many others go through?  We learned about each other and used our challenges as methods to learn to trust and depend on each other.  We always kept building our relationship and love for each other.  There were frustrations, lack of money sometimes, always plenty of ways to spend what money we did have, but we wouldn't allow that to define our marriage or each of us individually.  We even had joy throughout!  Maybe not always as much as we hoped for but enough to let us know that life was good and that we were on the right track. 

My wife and I knew each other as missionaries.  When I returned home seven months before her from our mission I knew it was time to get going on the part of life that would really define me: husband and father.  So when I considered my options a lightbulb went off in my mind when I thought I would like to marry someone like Lisa.  Why not her?!  Well there wasn't a good reason, so I waited until she finished her mission and flew to her state shere she picked me up from the airport and I asked her to marry me.  Yup, it was our first date. 
I know that in this day and age of caution and distrust, when we wonder if people are who they really seem to be and worry if they will continue in the same upward trajectory over the next many years that we find it hard to trust enough to choose.  Often we either go with our hormones alone or give up and back out.  Many let fear and uncertainty take control and we exclude ourselves until temptation or failure overcomes us.  We have a resource to help and guide us (I'm talking about God here and not just parents and siblings and etc.), we have our own best efforts and our willingness to commit.  Maybe I am most clear on the fact that I know I personally have a great influence on how things turn out--maybe we could call that confidence or maybe it is stupidity, you choose.  Sure there is much outside of my control, but I prefer to see and accept and use what is within my control to work toward the goals that I choose and have covenanted to work toward. 

The preparation for marriage was helpful, but the experience of living marriage was more worthwhile.  Reading and watching got me thinking but reality got me acting in the ways I needed to act.  Marriage is a fantastic way to learn who you really are and then repent and be better.  The best preparation for a man is not the books or even the observation (though still valuable).  The best preparation is an honorable mission.  It will probably not make you feel ready for marriage and fatherhood, but it will start or strenthen your confidence and provide humility enough for growth.  Missions also are great for young women to help them prepare for marriage.  In their case however (possibly because they are older when they serve) it seems to polish the confidence and humility and etc. that they already had inklings of. 
Oh, and a note about fears of getting married.  Heavenly Father isn't the author of fear, rather he is the author of hope.  Hope that like faith requires work and effort to make meaningful.  So ditch the fear stuff and get on with it.  If you have some emotional problems or special circumstances than get some help for those to get in better shape.  If not then carry on, move forward and see what all the marriage hullabaloo is about.


  1. a great response to that pre-elder's post!! i hope you posted it on his page so he could read it too! i've thought for a long time that nothing can actually prepare you better for marriage than just working on being your best self - and we all know that the gospel does the best job of helping you achieve that :) i think being a missionary does give some preparation that would be tough to gain otherwise because of missionaries functioning in companionships, and putting the Lord and other people first. definitely not the exact same, but similar in several ways that are helpful to marriage.

    i would tell that pre-elder to revisit these questions once he is home after serving an honorable mission. as long as he continues to put his faith and trust in the Lord, everything will work out okay. i suspect he will gain experience in trusting in the Lord as he serves. i would tell him that there's no magic amount of time to be with someone before feeling confident that the two of you can make it work. there are instances of people knowing each other for perhaps only weeks or days before deciding to get married and their marriages have turned out to stand the test of time and the world. however, there have been plenty of people who felt they needed to be with their significant other for a certain period of time in order to make sure they really "knew" them first. perhaps after several years they finally decided to marry, yet sadly it did not last. it's important to listen to the Lord and seek His help, but also to keep in mind that every person still has his or her agency to make choices. (that's in response to one of the comments i saw on the original blog)

  2. I would also agree that marriage is a choice. And its a great choice at that. Although I haven't been married long (12 days and counting). I feel like marriage and choice to love will change me into the person God intended me to be. Marriage and the choice to marry requires us to exercise many Christ-like attributes (i.e. faith, hope, charity, patience, forgiveness, humility). These attributes are things that missionaries should work on their entire missions, but probably won't be fully developed until you find someone that you can be perfectly honest with about your hopes, fears, dreams and weaknesses. And إن شاء الله that same person will be willing to share those same things with you and help you as you make adjustments. Companions may or may not do that for you, but when you've decided to make someone your best friend you is willing to help you work through your weakness and point out your strengths, then you are truly blessed.


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