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Question

My wife and I have been married for 18 months and we still love each other. We don’t fight or even argue often. We do have different opinions. We have definitely learned to compromise and had adjustments to make and still continue to make adjustments. Learning how each other communicates things that are important is something that we are currently working on. We give each other the benefit of the doubt and trust and love each other. We were both married when we were “older” 29 and 30, and we have loved it. I get along with her family well and she with mine. It seems great, but in talking to other people with more seasoned marriages they make marriage seem very difficult. I am wondering if we are still in the honeymoon phase or if people are allowed to be happily married? We have both strived for our whole lives to find someone with whom we could be happy and strived to become that person. We have both hoped to have an eternal relationship where we love each other, and live in a culture that promotes that, but yet are surrounded by people who seem to think that we are just delusional and that we will one day wake up.

Answer

You’re right that lots of folks are pessimistic about marriage. With about one in two marriages ending in divorce these days, you’re going to hear plenty of negative talk disguised as a reality check for you. However, other people’s realities don’t have to be your reality.

The honeymoon stage is certainly a real thing for most couples. For some couples, that stage ends on the actual honeymoon while for others it can last for years. Researchers have found that the average honeymoon phase of marriage lasts around 30 months.[i] This means that the intensity of marital bliss has leveled out and couples report a different type of marital satisfaction. For some, it’s decreasing as they become divided and overwhelmed with their relationship. For others, it simply transforms into a more stable and mature love.

The honeymoon phase for first marriages is an important part of new love. There is more community support for the new couple, partners idealize each other, there is the neurochemical high of novelty, and generally life is less complex. There shouldn’t be a rush to move through this phase. It’s wonderful, important, and completely healthy to bask in the uplifting joy of a new marriage. I’m thrilled that you are both having such a beautiful experience.

Even though you are both committed to working through things together, life will still happen. There will be surprises and events out of your control, especially if you decide to have children. It will require more sacrifice, patience, flexibility, and humility than you can now imagine. However, this isn’t something you should fret over. Continue building the foundation of your relationship so you have something solid to support you when these challenges come.

There is nothing wrong with the honeymoon phase wearing off and settling into a different type of love. In my experience, this is something that is transcendent and difficult to measure. As couples serve each other, sacrifice, pass through trials together, and continue to deepen their commitment to each other and their family, the type of love they experience is more profound than anything they could have experienced in the honeymoon phase.

I thought I knew what love was when I married my wife twenty years ago. I’m certain I will say the same thing twenty years from now when we look back on forty years of marriage. Just because we talk about “working” on a marriage, doesn’t mean that it’s a grueling and thankless effort. We aren’t afraid of temple work, missionary work, and other types of work in the kingdom. It’s difficult at times, but the joy we experience from those sacrifices far exceeds what we’ve sacrificed.

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that, “A good marriage requires time. It requires effort. You have to work at it. You have to cultivate it. You have to forgive and forget. You have to be absolutely loyal one to another.”[ii] Working on my marriage has been the most soul-stretching, humbling, and difficult thing I’ve experienced. As my dear friend Wally Goddard once told me, “the natural spouse is an enemy to marriage.” Marriage will expose our smallness, our selfish sides, and require us to change from our natural and fallen state into someone more generous, kind, and godly.

Here are seven suggestions you can use to actively work on your marriage:

Reading about and discussing healthy marriages with your spouse

  1. Sacrificing for your partner’s happiness and comfort
  2. Listening carefully and paying attention to your partner’s needs and concerns
  3. Spending quality and quantity time together without distractions
  4. Identifying and repairing personal character weaknesses and committing to ongoing personal and spiritual growth
  5. Forgiving each other when mistakes are made
  6. Practicing vulnerability and asking for things you need from each other

Adam and Eve left the innocent bliss of the Garden of Eden into a world where they worked together, raised children, and dealt with unrelenting adversity. Yet, they both still blessed God for their experiences and said they even felt joy.[iii] Allow the stages of your marriage to develop and hold on to each other tightly as you work on your new marriage and walk through the uncertainty of a fallen world together.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24643282?report=abstract%20

[ii] https://www.lds.org/ensign/1999/02/lifes-obligations?lang=eng

[iii] Moses 5:10-11