“We’ve come so far my dear, look how we’ve grown…”
Our marriage is Five Years Grown now and I have some things to say now that I’m officially an expert. FIVE YEARS!
Sometimes I see posts with captions to this effect: “I don’t get why people say marriage is hard work. If you treat each other well and just show love it doesn’t have to feel like ‘work’. Love is easy and being kind feels good!”
That’s sort of like saying, “I don’t get why anyone has a complicated relationship with food or their weight. You just eat fewer calories than you burn, then you always stay a healthy weight! What’s hard about that? Food is yummy and a healthy body feels good!”
The number of people who are full of hope and dedication on their wedding day is greater than both the number of those who get divorced, and the number of people living in unhappy marriages. No one is trying to have a hard marriage.
Few things shared online offend me, but this does. Posts disparaging my religion or my political views don’t cut as deeply as a well-meaning message saying that the only reason marriage feels “hard” is because someone in it is doing something wrong:
Bad attitude, bad match, bad effort.
This is a message that perpetuates the myth that marriage itself should only exist if it is comfortable and convenient for everyone involved. It focuses on marriage being for some and not for others- “others” being anyone for whom sharing life with another person feels like “hard work” sometimes.
It leads to some of those “others” they just aren’t “cut out for marriage”.
Listen folks, very few people are cut out for marriage… before marriage. Becoming good at it can take a lifetime, and that’s precisely the point.
I believe a marriage that comes naturally and “just works” from the beginning is a gift some people are given, just like some people are given the gift of easily relating to others, doing math, or having faith that is never shaken.
For the rest of us, marriage was designed to be our most challenging, transformative experience. God Himself is in a marriage, and His greatest work is done in partnership with Heavenly Mother. When I remember this truth, I immediately question why it matters to me where my husband puts his towel.
There is no time that I’m more grateful for the belief in and power of Eternal Marriage than when mine is at its most difficult. It would seem like that’s when the idea of being with someone for eternity would scare the final shred of commitment right out of me.
But in those moments, that’s when I learn to shift my success gauge from measuring Arrival to measuring Progress.
Marriage is about enjoying daily life and helping one another through it. It’s about sharing life’s big moments and forming families, and all the things people think of amid the wedding day bliss.
But it’s also about teaching us how to fully give ourselves to love and becoming more than the sum of two parts, and that can be a very tough stretching experience. As stretching as the hardest work out there.
“Because the home is so crucial, it will be the source of our greatest failures as well as our greatest joys.” (Neal A. Maxwell)
With such a tall order, some of us are challenged within ourselves when we have another person viewing our every shortcoming, like living with a magnifying mirror who loves you.
They’re nice about it, but it can still freak you out to know how much they can see. Insecurities we never had reason to face in our more distant relationships can rear their ugly heads and bring out sides we didn’t know existed.
Some find the biggest challenge allowing another person into our heart enough to let them heal the wounds gathered over a lifetime.
Others among us press on when their partner is the carrier of scars from a traumatic past, keeping their willing spouse at arms length, struggling to find the very connection that would heal them.
Some of us never had a model for what dedicated love looks like, so despite our best efforts, we take unhealthy strides to keep the union together, ultimately eroding its fragile foundation.
Some of us have a disparity in commitment level with our partner; no matter how much one person wants something, this endeavor requires all hearts all in.
Others of us have experienced unthinkable tragedy with our partner, the kind that shakes faith and puts everything into question- including the union.
None of these weaknesses are inherently selfish, unloving, or intentionally harmful.
A wise friend once taught me that most people live up to the light that they have. It’s the exception when people are out there trying to hurt one another, trying to make life difficult for someone else.
This goes for marriage, too. I believe aside from bonafide abusers, most spouses would give anything to see their husband or wife happy- they often just have a lifetime of weaknesses and insecurities to overcome before they can understand how much power they have to make that happen.
I’m reading a book where a recent widow mentions how, when her husband was very sick, she would help him with his breathing mask and one day was getting very frustrated with it when it wouldn’t go on correctly. She was flustered and annoyed and acted as such.
He remained patient, and when the nurse came later that day, he said to her, “Help Ginny with the mask. She’s losing her confidence.”
The author continues, “That response…is what true charity looks like. Rather than be offended by my behavior, he interpreted my actions as having come from a place of ignorance rather than flawed character. When we are filled with charity, we understand that the behavior of others is most often motivated by their desires to do good, even when that is not the reality of their actions.”
He is trying. She is trying. It’s not her character, it’s ignorance. Ignorance of her own capacity for change. His ignorance of your faith in him. Ignorance of the potential two committed people contain to change the entire landscape of the marriage.
Marriage is a lifelong mission to change us. If we aren’t vastly different inside from years of efforts to meld our hearts to another’s, we didn’t do it right.
We can make it easier on ourselves the more we allow love rather than brute force to be the changing agent, but even when putting our heads down and powering through feels like the only way, it counts. Hanging in there just to hang in there is valuable, too.
Holding on until you are strong enough to carry your Love at a moment they feel they can’t go on anymore, is good.
Giving one last push to forget yourself in order to give them what you thought you never could, will never be a wasted sacrifice.
He’s trying. She’s trying. Give them the lifetime you promised them to become who, perhaps at times only God, knows they can be.
If the goal is to get to a point where marriage comes easily, you may be disappointed for a long time. But if the goal is to get to a point where marriage brings you joy, that is within reach.
Sacrifice is power. Selflessness is strength.
It gets easier because being willing to work is half the battle. It gets easier because you’ll realize that “needing work” and “broken” aren’t the same.
It gets easier because Charity Never Faileth.
I celebrate every great day my husband and I have together, because our success is in our progress. I know we created these good days through hard fought sweat and tears, and therefore no matter what lies ahead, we can create more.
I know many of your stories, and I know you can say the same. I have listened to your sobs over the phone as you tried to work through questions your wedding day self couldn’t have imagined.
I’ve held your hand in my home when you felt like your only option was to leave your own for the night.
I’ve read the lengthy texts, sent many of my own, and spent hours exchanging thoughts as you’ve grappled with the choice you have to hang on or let go.
I’ve cried with you when we both recognize that the more difficult choice is to stay.
I know what you’ve come back from, the demons you’ve fought off, the thrill you’ve felt when the two of you can happily cuddle up together and share a laugh. After what you’ve been through, the high price you’ve paid, that is a triumph.
I’m here for the fighters, the hard workers, those in the trenches.
I’m one of you, and I can hardly believe how far we’ve come.
Happy Five Years to my one and only. You make me feel like I am both enough and becoming more.