Editor's note: If you are in the Washington DC area you are invited to attend a fireside by the Lundbergs on creating happy family relationships at the Washington DC Temple Visitors' Center Auditorium, Sunday, August 3, 7:00pm.
Recently, as we sat in the airport waiting for our plane we became engaged in a conversation with a woman regarding marriage. She said her nephew was married last August and divorced the following November. Three months and it was over! We asked her what happened. She said, "One morning his wife woke up, turned to him and said, 'This isn't fun anymore. I'm leaving.' That was it, and she was gone."
The woman then said, "Nobody said it was supposed to be fun all the time." She's definitely got that right. We asked her how long she had been married herself and she said, "Twenty-seven years. We're too stubborn to ever do anything but stay married."
Being Married Isn't about Fun
This conversation brings up two very important points. First: Being married isn't about fun. And second: A good marriage requires being stubborn, in the right way.
We'll start with the first point. Being married isn't about fun. So what is it about? It's about working hard to reach common goals that bless the entire family. It's about caring enough for your spouse and children to stay with them and give loving support and encouragement through the ups and downs. It's about keeping sacred vows you made at the time of your wedding. It's about being totally devoted to each other. It's about knowing that you are accountable to God for the way you treat your family. It's about creating an eternal family. It's all about commitment!
And yes, it's about fun, too, but that's only a byproduct of keeping the commitment and making your marriage succeed.
Elder David B. Haight said, “If couples understood from the beginning of their romance that their marriage relationship could be blessed with promises and conditions extending into the eternities, divorce would not even be a considered alternative when difficulties arise. The current philosophy — get a divorce if it doesn't work out — handicaps a marriage from the beginning.” ( Ensign , May 1984)
Notice Elder Haight didn't say, “ if difficulties arise.” He said, “ when .” There will be difficulties, and it may not be all that fun when these difficulties come. That's when we have to remember that it's not about having fun. It's about creating an eternal family.
During a therapy session, a young married couple who were struggling with their new marriage of only a few months expressed their concerns. She was disappointed in marriage. The question was then asked, "What did you expect marriage would be?"
"I thought it would be wonderful," she said, "and fun. I thought we would always get along, no fighting, that we'd have the same opinions and would want to do the same things. I thought all we needed was love."
"And where did you get that idea?" was the next question.
She couldn't really tell how she came up with it. "Maybe TV, I don't know," she said. She just thought that's how it would be.
Too many couples enter marriage with that false perception in mind. They simply aren't prepared for the realities of everyday living as a married couple. If, before marriage, they see other couples having problems they can't understand it and are certain that their marriage will be different — blissful and happy.
Marriage is wonderful, and it takes work. Couples need to understand the work part. They need to know that part of the beauty is the fact that you don't always have the same opinions; that you will be different in multiple ways, and these differences will be a blessing, not a curse, if you understand and respect them. Couples need to understand that sacrificing for your spouse is vital to having the happiness part happen. That focusing on each other's good qualities nourishes the marriage relationship.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “If husbands and wives would only give greater emphasis to the virtues that are found in one another and less to the faults, there would be fewer broken hearts, fewer tears, fewer divorces, and more happiness in the homes of our people.” ( Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , Deseret Book, p. 322)
That means that when your husband doesn't hang up his pants at the end of the day you don't nail them to the floor to make your point. It means you acknowledge how hard he's worked to keep food on the table and that he's just simply exhausted. Compliment his hard work and ignore the pants.
Does that mean exhausted people don't have to hang up their clothes? No. Find a time later, out of the heat of the moment, when you both discuss ways to keep your home neat and tidy. Be ready to make your own contribution. Who knows, maybe he's slightly, or more than slightly, annoyed at the way you leave your scrapbooking stuff scattered all over the dining room table. Work together to make your home as pleasant as possible. Snapping at each other over things that annoy you is worse than the thing that causes the annoyance.
Not a 50-50 Deal
People sometimes say marriage it's a 50-50 deal, when in all actuality, it's not. If you believe it is then you'll be standing around a long time waiting for the 50% you're owed. Real marriage is a 100-100 deal — each person giving his or her all. This is illustrated in the following story of a couple, written by the wife.
I remember when I had major surgery and was pretty much bed-bound during recovery. My husband brought me numerous meals on a tray, gave me back rubs, and told me over and over how much he loved me. He even brought me his favorite cartoons from the newspaper and laughed over them with me. I felt pampered and loved. I know it took extra time to do these things, but he did it. We've had our rough times when we didn't do it right at times, but the thing that has made our years together rewarding is the fact that we are committed to each other and our marriage and we never stop trying to get it right. And we're happy, even if life isn't fun all the time.
A friend of ours whose husband is in the latter stages of Parkinson's disease expressed her sorrow at his condition. She said his memory is failing, he can't carry on a conversation, he drools, he falls easily, and is failing in numerous other ways physically and mentally. It's heartbreaking to her, and there are times she cries and pours her sorrows out to us. It breaks her heart to see him like this, but she could do nothing less than give him her full devotion.
She said, "I will never stop caring for him. The thing that makes it possible is the fact that I know without the slightest doubt that if it were me with the disease, he would do the same for me." She has had a lifetime of sweet memories with her husband, and these memories help her have the strength for the task she's now facing.
A Lifetime of Security and Trust
That's what marriage is all about. It's enjoying a lifetime of loving security and trust. It's caring for each other in tender ways, every day.
Sometimes those tender ways are simply a loving kiss and warm embrace after a hard day's work, and a thank you for what you're each doing. Sometimes it's pitching in and helping with dinner, the dishes, a work project, paying the bills, or putting the kids to bed.
It's sharing the responsibilities that come with rearing a family.