Seriously. I never knew we were that couple… or that we ever could be. That couple that could work at home together… and spend every minute together… complement each others’ abilities… and actually enjoy each other.
For many years, we were the couple barely hanging on. We were the “why do they even stay married?” couple. We struggled. That’s an understatement. I describe those days as very dark. Life felt dark and heavy. It was hard. Really hard.
But we stuck with it.
And then, miraculously, we became the couple that found great joy in our children together. We were happy watching our babies and toddlers learn and grow, we found fulfillment doing everything with and for our children.
But I always wondered what would happen when the kids were gone. All of our happiness and togetherness was tied up in our roles as parents. I feared we really only were happy together because our amazing, beloved children united us.
And then, miraculously again, we somehow, one day, had a great time together without our children. We wanted more of that time together. We actually began to love and appreciate each other again… outside our roles as mom and dad. I don’t know exactly how it happened. But I’m sure glad it did.
I’m truly humbled and amazed that now we can spend all day, every day together and appreciate and support and strengthen each other. That doesn’t mean it’s always hunky dory; we definitely still disagree often and have very different perspectives. We have trouble communicating. Our short-term priorities don’t always match and sometimes we can be selfish. But we truly value one another and are unified in our love and purpose. So, amazingly, finally, we are that couple.
It’s been almost twenty years since we made eternal covenants as husband and wife. We take those covenants very seriously, and are so grateful that we have figured out we can have great joy together… more than I ever thought possible. Seriously. This is better than I ever imagined!!
So we’ve reflected about how and why our relationship has transformed for good over the years, and offer the following reasons. Maybe they will be of help to you. The work that is marriage, is worth it.
- We kept having prayer together all those years, even when we didn’t feel like it and it was just “going through the motions.”
- I still pray every day to be humble and have charity in my marriage.
- Even when I felt I was the only one trying, I never gave up. The Lord blessed me with the gift of faith.
- Though the burdens were very heavy at times, I tried to not talk negatively about him.
- My dear, divorced Jewish friend taught me that even difficult marriages are better than the pain of divorce. [I realize that is not a universally true statement.]
- I relied on the motto: “If a man is worth loving at all, he is worth loving generously, even recklessly.”
- I relied even more on the Lord.
- I try hard to apologize even when I don’t want to. It’s better to be happy than right.
- Managing expectations is helpful; I try to be grateful for whatever he can do or be or give at various times. I remind myself how often he overlooks my weaknesses.
- Don’t jump to conclusions; it really helps when I give him the benefit of the doubt and am extra patient as we try to communicate.
- Remember that love is a choice. And it is an action verb. Choose every day to love him.
- Prayer, every day. As a family, couple and individually. Sometimes we forget, sometimes it’s rushed, but we and I strive to consistently pray.
- I try to have those prayers focus more on gratitude than needs. Granted, I need a lot, but looking to be consciously grateful – while challenging – helps get and keep the correct mindset.
- Author Aldous Huxley said, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” To that, I would add, “and seeing the negative.” I think this mindset comes quite naturally for both men and women. Consciously decide to NOT take things (or people) for granted; to look for and recognize the positive. Sometimes that is hard, and often I fall short on this. That segues to my next point.
- When you or your spouse make a mistake, or don’t do something as well as you’d like, don’t dwell on it, move on. By all means, give some thought as to how you can do better next time. Societal norms teach that failure is a bad thing, but great people see failure as a learning opportunity. Resolve to be great, as an individual and a couple. Understand that takes time. I love this well-known quote about failure:
I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s precisely why I succeed.”
– Michael Jordan
- Tell her she’s beautiful. Mean it.
- Use the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change and become better, bit by bit, day by day.
- Faithfully take action. There will be many times when you don’t know what the right thing to do or say is. Exercise faith in God, make a decision that He would approve of, and do it. If it turns out to be wrong, refer to the Michael Jordan quote above.
- Say “I’m Sorry” and “Thank you.” This has been shared who knows how many times. It may seem cliche, but it’s not. Be quick to forgive, quick to ask forgiveness, and always look for reasons to be grateful.
How do you strengthen your marriage? We’d love to hear what works for you!