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.

Date Ideas: Zero-Cost Dates (freeeeee!)

Everyone likes free dates. And there are a number of ways to make them unique and fun. Here are just a few such ideas.

Playground

Go to a local playground. Swing, slide, play tag or lava monster. You may even want to do a bunch of kid-like activities. If you’re in a group date, play duck-duck-goose, or if it’s a big group, Red Rover. You could even play make believe, like the slide platform is a spaceship, and you’re landing on a planet. The key to making these kinds of activities incredibly fun is to get totally into it. Really play it up.

Board Games

Good ol’ board games. They don’t cost a think, and they’re just fun. Get out some favorite boardgames, make popcorn, and have fun!

Live Video/Blog Your Date

If you’ve ever seen a live-tweeted event, or live videoed event, they’re fun to see, and they can be a blast to do. Pre-arrange with your date and bring a video camera, or just bring phones to tweet everything that’s going on. Make a hashtag for it, too. #BobMaryDate

Newspaper Story

Open a random newspaper, and without reading any of the words, start inventing a story based on the picture. Pretend that all the pictures in the paper are a continuation of the same story. See if you can make it to the end of the paper with one continuous story.

Start a Blog or Facebook Page Together

If you have a similar interest or hobby, start a blog together about it. If you’re good friends already, share links to it on your social networks. If you’re both shy, keep it anonymous, so only the two of you know about it. It might be fun to use it to send messages back and forth. Only the two of you will know who you both are. People bumping into it will find it quite interesting.

Try to Beat a World Record

Get a Guinness Book of World Records from the library and look through it together to try to find a record you think you could work together to beat. Then try to beat it.

Foxtail Catch

Put a tennis ball in the end of a long sock, or in a closed end windsock (or you can just tie thick yarn around the ball), and play catch. Foxtails are fun even if you can’t throw or catch well.

Volunteer at a Day Care for a Day

Ask a local day care if you can volunteer to work together for a day. This can be way fun, and help you get to know you’re date’s interest in and skill-level with children.

Video-Conference

If the money issue includes one of gas for a semi distance relationship, plan a video-conference call. If you’re not sure what to talk about, you can share fun youtube videos and picture with each other, or play a LAN game. If the sound isn’t syncing, make fun of the fact by trying to sing in harmony together, or play a game where you try to make it seem to an outsider that it’s right on (by replying before he’s quite done speaking, or laughing at potential jokes.

Find the Weirdest thing in a store

This is a favorite of mine. If your in a group date, go to a store (grocery stores work great for this) and split into couples to see which can find the strangest thing in the store. Then meet back together after five or ten minutes to compare findings. If you’re on a single date, just go together to see the weirdest thing you can find together. Did you know common grocery stores carry pickled watermelon rinds and electric nose-hair clippers? Yeah, I’ve played this game on a lot of dates.

Date Ideas: Youth Dance Dates

Youth dances, including high-school proms, certainly aren’t typical dates, and shouldn’t be considered such. And it shouldn’t be expected that to ask someone out for an ordinary date, you need balloons or a fog machine, but if you’re looking for some fun ask-out or respond ideas or a unique approach to the date for your special youth dance, here are a few ideas:

Costume Date

Decide on a theme, like a favorite movie or book, and dress up as if you were characters from that story. Plan the activities around that theme. A Harry Potter theme might have food from cauldrons and you might dress in wizard robes. Choose a theme based on something you both enjoy.

Sidewalk Chalk

Trace yourself in chalk on your date’s driveway, with a message, “Going to Prom with you would be to die for!” and post “Yes on one stone and “no” on another, with instructions to take the rock with the appropriate answer to school.

Oh, and make sure the rock with the “no” is a massive boulder, so they can’t turn you down. If you’re responding, you could just do the outline bit.

Five Course Meal at Different Locations

On your date, go to five different places for a five-course meal. The appetizer at one place, the soup at another, a salad at the third, a main course at the fourth, and desert at the fifth.

Make a Cake

Frost a cardboard box to look like a cake, with the frosted message, “I have a question for you (inside)”

Then when they try to cut the “cake” they’ll open the box. Have chocolate dipped mini containers or plastic easter eggs with a message, “Will you go with me to the dance?”

Then when they go to eat a chocolate, they’ll discover the containers, in which will be some fun trinkets (maybe jewelry or little toys), and a message with your name, so they know who’s asking. This could be altered slightly to make it a response.

Cardboard Cutout

Get a life-size photo of yourself (two posterboard photos might be enough if the photo is of you on your knee), and tape a quote bubble to it saying, “(Name,) will you go to the dance with me?”

Then stick it on their doorstep and doorbell ditch. Or, if you’re responding, have the quote say your response.

Color Theme Date

Pick a color (maybe your date’s favorite) and base everything around that color. Dress head-to-toe in that color, eat food of that color, drive in a car of that color, and have all the decorations in that color.

Write on the Back of a Puzzle

Write a message, asking your date to the dance, on the back of a finished puzzle. Then break it up again and have it delivered to the person. They’ll have to put the puzzle together to read the message. This works for responding to an invitation as well.

Silly String the Question to His/Her Lawn

Write your question on their front lawn with silly string. If you want to, include something like, “You drive me silly!” This works for ask or answer.

Peanut Answer

If you’re answering an invitation, get a bag of peanuts and a cleaned out two-liter pop bottle. Crack open a few peanuts carefully, and replace the nuts with small messages that say things like, “What’s crackin? Keep trying!” and “Going nuts yet? Keep going!” and one that says, “I’d be nuts to say no! Yes, I’ll go with you to the dance.” Lightly glue the shells closed again.

When you pack the peanuts in the bottle, put the response nut in early, so it will be toward the bottom of the bottle. With the small neck, only one or two peanuts can pass through at a time. Drop the other teaser messages in halfway and quarter to the top.

Shredded Paper

Shred or cut up a bunch of papers and either write a message on one of the shreddings (or two or three, in case they can’t find the one), or write one word on each of the shreddings with a number on the back of each, designating the order they go in.

Have the person’s family or friends spread them all over her bedroom, or in her car or locker.

This works for answering, too.

Date Ideas: X-travagant (and X-pensive) Dates

I suppose there is a place for extravagant dates, and if you really want one, here are a few unique ideas for those with a little extra money (okay, a lot of extra money).

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Come on, you know you’ve always wanted to! If you’re going extravagant anyway, why not now?

Skydiving

Just think what you’ll learn about both yourself and your date!

Disneyland

If you’re within a few hundred miles of Disneyland, Disney World, Six-Flags, or Lagoon, start your date bright and early and go until late. A guaranteed blast.

The Most Expensive Restaurant in Town

Find out which restaurant in your town is the most extravagant, and take your date to it. Chances are, she’s never been there either.

Buy a Couple Remote Control Airplanes or Helicopters

Get some remote-control planes or choppers and go to a park or parking lot and have a ball! If your phone is light enough, connect it to one, so you can video the experience. If that works, use Skype and start a call on your date’s phone, so you can watch the flight live in action.

Rent a Limo

The quintessential extravagant date. Whether you’re going to a restaurant, play, dance, or whatever, take the long scenic route so you can hang out in the limo longer.

Paragliding

Google to find out if there are places to paraglide. If you need some kind of training, take it together, then go fly together.

Helicopter ride

Speaking of flying, why not Google to find out how you can get a helicopter ride with your date?

Fly Somewhere and Back

Still speaking of flying, there are probably lots of places within 700 miles (average of about three states) that you could go to with a simple two hour flight each way. Take an all day trip to somewhere your date’s always wanted to go, with a return flight in the evening.

Go to a Big Concert

Find out who your date’s favorite band is, and buy tickets. If you have to fly to get there, do it, as long as a return flight is available the same day after the concert.

Date Ideas: Working-Together Dates

One of the great ways to learn about compatibility is to do dates that see how well you work together. Here are a few ideas:

Cook Dinner Together

You’ve probably heard the term, “Too many cooks in the kitchen.” Cooking together is something married people usually do together a lot, and if the relationship is good, it’s a fun experience.

Do Chores Together

If one of you has some things that need to get done, do it together. Learning how each other prefers to work can be incredibly insightful.

Detective Date

Try to solve a mystery together. There are mysteries all around. If nothing comes to mind, ask a parent about a family history mystery, or check the recent papers or library billboard for a recent minor crime or missing animal. Try to sleuth out the mystery together. The bigger the mystery, the less likely you are to be able to solve it in one date. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get very far, just use it as an excuse to go out again!

Plant a Tree

Plant a tree together in one of your yards or in a local park or garden.

Mine Field

Set something on the far side of a room, and then crumple a bunch of paper and throw it about randomly. Then take turns being blindfolded and trying to get to the thing on the other side of the room. The other person can only help with verbal instructions.

Fix Something

If one of you has a car, computer, or piece of furniture that’s broken or not functioning properly, work on fixing it together.

Build a Balloon Tower

Get a pack of balloons (the bigger the better—both size and numbers), and using only balloons and tape, build a tower as high as you can. Try to reach the ceiling. Oh, and no using walls or other objects for support!

Do a Puzzle Together

Set a timer and put a puzzle together as fast as possible. Puzzles can be a great casual date, but timing yourselves can turn it into a great problem-solving-together date.

Gift Shop Together

If one of you knows someone who’s having a birthday soon—or if Christmas is coming, shop for a gift together. It’s best if both of you know the person, but even if only one of you knows the person, talk about what the person likes so you can work together to find the best gift for him/her.

Silent Date

When you ask your date out, have an activity in mind, but tell them that the trick will be that neither of you can say a single word the entire date. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it’s a fabulous exercise in communication, since it all has to be nonverbal. If you’re going to a restaurant or movie, you may want to have a small notebook or sticky notes on hand to place your order.

Date Ideas: Talking Dates (Conversational)

Sometimes a relationship could have great potential, but you don’t seem to do much talking. “We never talk!” some complain. It could be that your dates don’t involve activities that are very conducive to talking. Try some of these conversational dates, see if they help.

Go for a Drive

Nothing like being trapped together in a small for a while space to encourage conversation, and with a great view, too!

Watch the sunrise or sunset together

Swing by the store and get muffins and orange juice, then go watch the sunrise. Or stop at take out to eat while watching the sunset.

Climb a Tree

Climb a tree together and hang out there for an hour or two. Not only does it make for great conversation, but there’s usually a cool view up there.

Skip Rocks in a Lake or Pond

Find a lake or large body of water to skip rocks in. If you don’t know how, have your date teach you. See who can get the most skips.

Have a Picnic

Most cities have a park, and most country areas have hills or forests that make for great picnic areas. If you want it to last a little longer, pack the picnic ingredients instead of ready food so you’ll be making the food while together talking.

Take Your Date’s Dog(s) for a Walk

If you run out of things to talk about, hey, there’s always the dog.

Play, “Would You Rather?”

Think of two equally extreme situations, and take turns asking each other which they would rather do. It can be related to pain, ethics, fear, or discomfort. For example, “Would you rather die by freezing to death or burning in a fire?” or “Would you rather eat a ball of lint the size of a basketball, or eat a ball of horsehair the size of a baseball” or “Would you rather betray your mother to save a city, or passively allow the destruction of a city to be loyal to your mother?”

Play, “What’s Your Favorite Smarty?”

This is a game where you ask your date a question, and instruct them not to answer, but you try to guess how she would answer. Then she tells you if your right or gives you the correct answer. Every time you get a right answer, you get a point. Then switch. Have her ask you a question, but then guess the answer, and you tell her if she’s right. See who can get the most right answers.

Play, “What would you do if…”

This one’s kind of like “Would you rather,” but the idea is to find out what your date would do in a given situation. For example: “What would you do if there was an earthquake right now?” or, “What would you do if you saw tiny child driving a car?” or, “What would you do if an alien ship swooped down from the sky and put a spotlight on you?”

Compare your responses with his. See what you can learn about each others personalities from the differences and similarities in your reactions.

Study a Hot Topic Together

Get some newspapers, mobile devices, or computers, and study a hot topic together. What’s something big on everyone’s mind right now? See how each other feels about the issue, and see if you can find some things to give you a different perspective.

Date Ideas: Spontaneous Dates

Sometimes the best opportunity for a date is in the moment. With spontaneous dates, since they’re unplanned, you don’t have to use the word date when you invite someone, even though you will be paired off together. Here are a few ideas to have in mind in case the right opportunity comes along, and you can say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. If you have a little time, we could…”

Run an Errand Together

Need to pick up a loaf of bread, or return books to the library? Invite the person along. If you’re already in conversation, say, “Hey, want to come with me?”

Walk to Class/Car Together

If the person’s car or class is more than ½ a block away, ask them if you can walk them there.

Lunch at the Cafeteria or Fast Food

If you’re at a school, and the girl you’ve got your eye on is eating in the cafeteria, ask if you can join her. Or, if you’re in conversation, and it’s lunchtime, say, “Hey, I’m heading over to Burger King, if you’d like to join me. My treat.”

Know the Local “Cool Sites”

If you go to school, church, work, or have a specific place you regularly bump into him, keep an eye out for locations that have something unique that might be fun to show him. Examples might be: a top floor large window room overlooking the surrounding town, an area with especially fun acoustics (like a crazy echo room—works great for musical people, anyway), stairs that allow the public onto the roof, an escalator (come on, tell me there aren’t a ton of fun things you can do on an escalator!), or a fountain (you could even make some sticky-note-sized boats). Invite him to come check it out with you.

Challenge Him to a Game

Many public places have basketball courts, volleyball nets, or tennis courts. Schools, parks, and even some workplaces have ready sports available.

A Sports Store Climbing Wall

Some outdoorsy stores have a climbing wall available to anyone who comes in the store. Find one in your town, and the next time your in conversation, invite her to come and try it with you.

Crash a Class

If one of you has an especially fun class, such as pottery, photography, or food, go together. The teacher probably won’t mind you having a guest for just one day.

Have Him Teach You a Skill

If you know he enjoys kung fu, basketball, origami, or any other skill, ask him to teach you something simple. Then ask him to teach you something else.

Flip a Coin Walk

Take a walk. Whenever you get to an intersection, flip a coin. Heads means you turn right, and tails means you turn left.

Look for Puddles to Splash or Snow Piles to Climb

Every season has things that make for quick dates: Spring puddle splashing, summer fountain wading, fall leaf jumping, winter snow piles, are only a few.

Date Ideas: Occupational Career Dates

One of the things that you’ll want to learn about your date is her career plans. Once you find out what she wants to do for the rest of her life, plan a date based around that thing. (And don’t forget that full-time parent is a fully legitimate career choice!)

Shadow Someone

Find someone doing the career that either you or your date is pursuing, and arrange with them to either follow them around for a couple hours or assisting them.

Watch Videos About Your Date’s Career Choice

Look up some videos on the subject of your date’s career choice, including steps that can be taken now to work toward that occupation. Talk about what you learn.

Attend a Conference

There are conferences on just about everything. Look up a local conference on the subject of your date’s interest or occupational goals. Invite them to go with you to it.

Go to a Company Party

If your job has a party, invite your date to come along. (Just be sure to check with the people in charge to make sure it’s okay.)

Plan a Presentation

Together, plan a presentation, lesson, game plan, or sales plan, or whatever follows the right career path.

Build Something

If your date is going into a building, creative, or construction field, build something together. It could be big or small, so long as you do it together.

Hold an “Official” Interview

Tell your date you have an assignment to interview someone pursuing a career (I hearby assign you to do so—there, now you won’t be lying when you do it), and you’d like to interview your date. Ask questions to get as much detail as possible.

Come Up With Career Mission Statements

Sit down together and come up with mission statements for your career(s). Doing so can not only help you focus your efforts in trying to fulfill your dreams, but doing it together can help you come to know some of the deeper aspects of each other’s personalities.

Watch a Movie Based on that Career

Go to a movie based around your date’s career path, and use it as a launch-pad for a great conversation over dinner about your date’s goals, hopes, and dreams.

Go Shopping For Career Stuff

Most careers involve items unique to that occupation. Once you know your date’s career ideas, go shopping at some places that carry items that might be useful in that career.

Date Ideas: Nature-Outdoorsy Dates

Sometimes just getting outside can make a great date. But what to do while you’re out there? Try a few of these:

Boating, Canoeing, or Kayaking

Find a big lake, and get out on the water. Explore, and see if you can find a small island or obscure corner of the lake that takes a boat to get to it. You can try white-water rafting if you have a good guide. But whatever you do, don’t forget to wear life-jackets.

Biking

If you both have bikes, or one of you has a sibling that’s willing to lend their’s to you, go biking together. Explore an area new to both of you, or a place you know has a beautiful view.

Four Wheeling

Take an ATV up into a camping area or open public area, or just take it for a ride in the country.

Hiking

Depending on your fitness level, and the fitness level of your date, go hiking up a mountain together. Don’t go anywhere dangerous, but find somewhere with just the right level of beauty, privacy, and safety to make for a fun adventure together.

Climbing

If one or both of you knows the proper procedures, and has the equipment, go rock-climbing together. Find a local slot canyon or just a decent rock-face.

Fishing

I personally recommend fly fishing, since it allows for more skill and strategy, but bait-on-a-hook fishing can be fun, too. And remember that as long as you let most or all of them go, you can catch as many as you want.

Outside Sports

Play soccer, volleyball, basketball, badminton, tennis, or any other outdoor sport you can think of.

Snowboarding

This can be a little pricey, but it can make for a great all-day date. It’s kind of like skiing, and is usually done at a ski resort—unless you have your own equipment. Many people like it more than skiing.

Geocaching

If you or your date have a GPS phone, there are tons of resources on the Internet to find local geocaching “treasures.” Look up a few, write down the coordinates, and go treasure hunting.

Outdoor Concert

In spring and summer, most major towns have outdoor concerts, and many are free to the public. Look up any outdoor concerts in your area, and attend one. Don’t forget to bring a blanket to sit on!

Date Ideas: Lazy Dates

Most lazy activities don’t need much explanation—just an initial idea. So if you’re not feeling like being fancy, or even very active at all, but still want to spend time together, try some of these lazy date ideas.

Sit On the Front Porch

There’s just something about porch sitting that’s relaxing and conversational.

Read a Book Together

Get out a book and take turns reading. It’s funner than it may sound.

Go Fish (The Card Game)

The nice thing about Go Fish, is you can do it with any kind of cards, and it takes little if any mental power. “Do you have any yellow Skips?”

Whatever Task You’d Be Otherwise Doing… Together

Sometimes laziness comes out of a desire to not be doing something different than what you’re already doing. So, just do it together!

Popcorn and Talking

You can’t lose with this one. What girl can refuse a guy who says, “Let’s just sit and talk,” and what guy can refuse a girl who says, “Let’s make popcorn!”? Do both, and everyone’s happy.

Ride a Light-Rail Train Its Entire Route

Or a bus works, too. Light-rail might have more comfortable seats, though, depending on what city you’re in.

Surf the Internet (carefully)

Don’t wander aimlessly over the web, but get on Facebook or Twitter, and read each other’s walls. Find cool stuff to pin on Pinterest. Don’t do this every date, but it’s a date most people will enjoy on a lazy day.

Listen to Music Together

Admit it, you used to hang out with friends and just listen to music. Why not do it with a date? Plus you’ll find out their music preferences and values.

Sit in the Grass and Talk

Grass is great for that. Plus if there’s ever a lull in the conversation, you can always start a grass fight.