Marriage is Not Hard

Maybe Jenni and I are just weird, and maybe we’re naïve, since we’ve only been married 10 years, but we feel like marriage isn’t hard. WeddingMarriage is not tough. Life is tough. Life stinks sometimes. It can be excruciatingly painful and hard, but marriage is one of the best systems for dealing with the difficulty life presents. Having someone to talk to, to lean on, to reach out to, to serve, to help, to confide in, to love, to cry with, to hold, makes life manageable.

Even the genuine differences of opinion, and different views on various topics aren’t difficult in marriage. Pride and selfishness are hard, and cause problems, but pride isn’t marriage, and selfishness isn’t marriage. Those things hurt marriage, damaging our best system for dealing with the difficulties of life.

Life is hard. Sin is hard. Pride and selfishness are hard, with or without marriage. Marriage is not hard.

What I’m talking about is less intended as a statement of “fact,” and more of a statement of perspective. And while words alone do nothing to dramatically change the day to day experiences of life in an extremely challenging and cruel world, a change in the way we see the world around us can. What I’m promoting is a paradigm shift: an entirely different way of viewing marriage.

I see marriage as a perfect ideal. Marriage is selfless, kind, generous, loving, patient, empowering, binding, synergistic, and even exalting. Marriage is something that goes well beyond the simple addition of two individuals entering a life-long partnership. It’s the essence that takes that initial partnership and turns it into the germinating seeds of divine companionship. Marriage, as an institution, ordained of God, is perfect. It lifts, it deepens, and it expands. It has no flaws, and it always pulls people together.

People, on the other hand, are flawed. People are imperfect. People are emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and physically unstable in countless ways. We’re mortals living on a very, very mortal world. Life on this earth is intended to be hard. It’s intended to be infuriatingly challenging, almost to the point of impossible, for one simple reason. We are the direct offspring of God. No simple life would suffice to teach embryonic deities the essential lessons to become all that our Father intends us to be. Life, in all its stages, was never intended to be easy.

God sends us here because He knows what we have the power to become. He has given us the tools necessary to become like He is. There’s a reason that the family is central to God’s plan. It’s not just a way of keeping us organized. It’s not just a way of saving us from loneliness. Marriage is an exalting organization. It’s an endowment of power, the very seed of exaltation. There’s a reason that the sealing covenant is called the covenant of exaltation. Marriage, most especially temple marriage, actually begins that process.

And yet, in all of this, we’re still imperfect, flawed, mortal beings. But we’re learning. We’re growing. We’re failing (a LOT), and if we’re taking the right approach, we’re learning from our failures and becoming better. That process is hard. It’s really hard. But it’s not the exalting powers and gifts given by God that make it so hard. It’s the imperfect, flawed, mortal parts of ourselves that make it hard.

I don’t deny that life as a married person is hard. Life as an anything is hard. But marriage itself—that ennobling, binding, wondrous blessing that strengthens us as a couple and as a family to endure the crosses of life—is not hard. It’s wonderful, liberating, and joyful.

The problems arrive when I act against my marriage. When I am selfish, when I am prideful, when I forget to exercise the power God has bestowed upon me in order to bless, strengthen, and love my wife, I am being a problem. And at those times, I need to change. I can’t act against what I know is right without hurting my marriage, and marriage is the very embodiment of everything I know to be right.

That’s why I can never blame marriage for any of life’s problems. Marriage lifts. Sin pulls down. Marriage exalts. Pride and selfishness damn.

When I find that I’m not measuring up, I don’t blame my marriage, and I don’t blame my wife. I try hard not to allow myself to get too discouraged with myself, either. And the simple way to avoid discouragement is to change—to humble myself, apologize, and change my behavior. I know I won’t be perfect in this life, but the journey is so empowering and ennobling that I can’t give it up, I can’t stop. And I certainly won’t ever throw away one of the best tools available for making that happen for both me and my wife. We’re in this for the long run. We’re in it forever. It’s not eternity or bust, it’s just eternity.

And we’re going to make it work, together.

Revolutionizing the Course of the Universe

This story took place a short time before Jenni and I were married.

Revolutionize

It was a very dull day at Deseret Book as I leaned against the counter, chin in hands, waiting for something to happen. One of my co-workers stood only a few feet away, bored as I was.

“So,” I said, trying to break the monotony, “What should I do to revolutionize the course of the world today?”

He thought a moment. “Got any bombs? You could always blow up an important building somewhere.”

“That’s true. But I don’t have any bombs. Besides, that’s a bad thing, and there are plenty of bad things going on all the time. I need to find something good to do.”

“That’s true,” he replied. Then we both fell back into silence.

I began thinking more about our conversation. What could one do to revolutionize the course of the world? What about the universe? Could one person effect the destiny of the universe?

There have been many people who have changed the course of life on this planet; Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. George Washington led a revolutionary war that led to the foundation of what might be considered the most powerful nation in world history. But did those things change the destiny of the universe?

It occurred to me that the person who best fit that description would have to be Jesus Christ. Not only did he save the destiny of every person who would ever live, but He provided a way for us to become like His Father.

Now there’s a new approach to the question. If I have potential to become like my Father in Heaven, then certainly I have power to effect the destiny of the universe.
So I guess the next question would have to be, what can I do today to best effect that progress? Of course, a response as broad as “live the gospel” wasn’t really a sufficient, since I had been striving to do that my whole life.

Then I realized that I was in the process of beginning one of the major aspects of the perfecting process. I was about to get married in the temple. I decided that maybe the best thing I could do to work toward that goal would be to strengthen my relationship with Jenni. How could I do that? That question is easy. I could be kind and loving to her.

I looked around the store. Everything was quiet, normal, ordinary. Customers came in and left. Employees straightened bookshelves or stood patiently waiting for something to happen. I had a date with Jenni scheduled for that night. I decided that tonight I would change the course of the universe – I would show love and kindness towards her.

Date Ideas for Breaking the Ice

Breaking-the-ice

Jenni and I are writing a book together about dating, and one of the chapters discusses various types of dating ideas.  I thought it might be fun to share some of those categories of date ideas on this blog, such as creative date ideas, funny date ideas, educational date ideas, etc.  This is the section (so far) about date ideas to help break the ice.  Sometimes the hardest part of going out with someone is just penetrating the shell of awkwardness that is inherent in first (and sometimes second) dates. Here are some ideas that might help both of you feel more relaxed and have a great time.

  1. Do a group date. They’re not just for teenagers, and it’s easier to keep conversation alive in a group. If you really want to help your date feel comfortable, plan a double date and have a friend of yours ask out your date’s friend, and then go do something as a group. With their friend there, your date will be more likely to act natural and have fun. If you don’t want to line people up, just plan a group date of three or four couples. If you get enough good people together for a fun activity, everyone is likely to have a great time.

  2. Go to a mall, museum, zoo, or gallery. If you walk around a mall or gallery together, there is a lot to see, and a lot to spark conversation. Zoos and Museums have a lot to see, hear, and explore. Anywhere where there are many kinds of displays of different kinds will provide dozens of avenues for conversation. If conversation starts, don’t rush through it to get to the next display, but use the opportunity to learn about your date and to help them get comfortable talking with you. The conversations that you have will do more for nurturing a potential relationship than anything else.

  3. Do something athletic such as a sport together. Even something as simple as Frisbee can be a lot of fun on a date. If you are both decent at a certain sport, play it together. Sometimes doing something physically active can help both of you get your mind off the fact that you are on a date. When your body or mind is active and focused, your emotions are generally positive, and your experience together will likely be uplifting and fun.

  4. Anything you can do that will get both of you laughing; a funny movie, a clean comedy show – whatever it may be.  Humor breaks ice faster than almost anything.

Do you know of other date ideas that might help a dating couple get past that initial awkwardness?