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For most my marriage I felt like I married the wrong person, and it’s never quite felt right to me. What has always felt right is my relationship with God and my career. Even being a mother to my kids feels right. Marriage never has.
There was a time when we were engaged that my dad (who I’m close to and who is a really good man) counseled me to break it off with my husband. I was stubborn and I didn’t. I’m getting hung up on that and wondering about what my life could have been like if I had made a different choice.
At some point I know I need to figure out how to want and love the husband and life I have, but I’m not there yet. I know he loves me and he’s trying so hard. Talking about this to him would not be productive.
Do you have any ideas to help me embrace the reality and stop getting hung up on what might have been? It’s a daily battle to want to be around him and stave off the aching sadness I feel inside.
I believe there comes a time in marriage where we have to consciously decide where we stand and what we want. For some people, that happens before we marry someone. For others, it may happen thirty years into the marriage after they’ve built a life together.
I have seen situations where divorce made sense. Anytime a couple is dealing with patterns of abuse, addiction, or affairs, divorce often happens as a way to protect the dignity and safety of the victims. However, I have seen more situations where divorce didn’t make sense. In fact, it rarely makes sense, especially when there are children involved.
I think it’s smart of you to stay married while you’re asking these questions. Blowing out of your marriage to answer this question would be selfish and destructive to your children. There is no question in their mind about how they feel about their parents. They count on both of you to be there for them. If I asked them, they would most certainly tell me to get your relationship figured out so you’re both there to protect them forever.
Elder James E. Faust spoke strong words about the importance of staying in our marriages and working things out, especially when there are children. He said:
I have strong feelings about what is not provocation for breaking the sacred covenants of marriage. Surely it is not simply “mental distress,” nor “personality differences,” nor having “grown apart,” nor having “fallen out of love.” This is especially so where there are children.[i]
I believe we all marry the wrong person when we get married. None of us are who we need to be when we’re first married. Our reasons for getting married are often about us. We tell ourselves things like, “He’s just like me”, or “She likes what I like”, or “He’s attractive to me.” The list goes on with evidence of why this person works for us. We often select someone because they make us feel a certain way. In other words, most of our reasons are self-centered. At some point in the course of marriage, however, our commitment must expand beyond our own narrow self-interest.
If we stayed exactly the same as we were when we first married, most of us wouldn’t be able to stay married. It requires us to adapt and grow into someone who can be there for someone during times when we may not get much in return. Marriage is the perfect environment to rid us of selfishness. Adding children to a family presents us with more reasons to lose our self-centeredness.
None of us has the capacity to generate the kind of love necessary for enduring the storms of marriage without heavenly help. Our hearts have to be changed, not by forcing ourselves to love our spouse, but by asking God to transform us and give us capacity beyond our own. Elder Holland explained it well when he said:
In Mormon’s and Paul’s final witnesses, they declare that “charity [pure love] never faileth” (Moroni 7:46, 1 Corinthians 13:8). It is there through thick and thin. It endures through sunshine and shadow, through darkest sorrow and on into the light. It never fails. So Christ loved us, and that is how He hoped we would love each other. Of course such Christlike staying power in romance and marriage requires more than any of us really have. It requires something more, an endowment from heaven. Remember Mormon’s promise: that such love—the love we each yearn for and cling to—is “bestowed” upon “true followers of Christ.” You want capability, safety, and security in dating and romance, in married life and eternity? Be a true disciple of Jesus. Be a genuine, committed, word-and-deed Latter-day Saint. Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Or, to phrase that more positively, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the path of love and happiness for you and for your sweetheart. How should I love thee? As He does, for that way “never faileth.”[ii]
Good marriages are built by two people who are constantly asking themselves what they can do for the other person to ensure their comfort and happiness. They aren’t constantly taking their own temperature to see how they’re doing. Elder Bednar taught that we often confuse “love the verb” with “love the noun”. He said:
The word “love” is both a verb and a noun. Sometimes we think, “Well, I have to have “love – the feeling” (the noun) before I start doing “love” (the verb). It works both ways. Now, I don’t want this to sound unromantic, but the feeling follows love (the verb). You don’t just fall in love. That doesn’t just happen. You engage in love (the verb) and then love (the noun), the emotions and feelings, are just remarkable. I think you create it, you don’t find it[iii]
Even though you second-guess your choice years ago, you can choose to love your husband every day. By doing that, you are acting in a way that reflects your commitment to turn toward each other. I am confident you can turn your heart to your husband and experience the love you’ve been missing.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.