Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What I Wish I'd Said



A few days ago, I was part of a conversation discussing marriage.  I was the only one in the room who was married, and I felt a little out of place.  One young woman had said something about "her fiance," so I asked when she was getting married.  She answered with a shrug and an "I don't know.  It doesn't really matter.  We've been engaged 3-4 years, together for almost ten.  The piece of paper doesn't really mean anything to us."  I answered with some light-hearted, almost flippant comment about how marriage forces them to forgive you faster or something--a comment I immediately regretted and wished I could retract. 

The next comment surprised me.  A young, unmarried man quickly responded, "You know, you really should get married.  It's not about the piece of paper.  It's not about what the government thinks.  Being married will change your relationship.  It will change the way you view each other and change the way you treat each other.  Change it for the better."

And that was the end of the conversation.

Ever since that morning, I've wished I could retrace my steps. I've wished I could tell them the truth about marriage and explain to those young people what marriage means to me after twenty-four years--in my life, in my family, where I live. I know that marriage isn't always this way, but this is my perspective.

Marriage is more than a piece of paper.  Marriage is a level of commitment unequaled in the rest of the world.  Companies make mergers and countries negotiate treaties, but marriage is different.  A marriage is two very different people from different backgrounds and experiences who promise to walk the rest of the road together, no matter what. 

Marriage is more than a government entity.  Marriage is a covenant. It isn't about politics or nationality.  Marriage is a promise between the couple and God that they will "forsake all others" forever.  It is above goverment--marriage is monitored from heaven.

Marriage isn't taking the high road or the low road.  Marriage is taking the same road. Finding the same road isn't easy, and sometimes you just don't want to.  That's when it is most important.

Marriage isn't two people.  Marriage is investing time, heart, tears, sorrow and joy into someone else so that your goals and focus become one as often as possible.  Differences occur and differences are okay, but when two people center their lives on each other, the differences matter less and less.

Marriage isn't husband and wife.  Marriage is family. The sacrifice aspect of parenting and raising a family is getting lost in today's society.  A family needs the full commitment of Dad and Mom, not just when times are effortless or when kids are easy. Marriage is dirty diapers, throw up, scripture reading, Christmas mornings, fighting in the car on vacation, service opportunities, Primary talks, wrestling matches, bedtime stories, missionary farewells, and weddings. It's about guiding a group of individuals towards similar goals long enough that the bond of family lasts beyond kids leaving the nest--even beyond the bonds of mortal life and into eternity.

Marriage isn't about self.  Marriage is burying your selfish needs to serve the one you love. It's hard to remember to put your spouse ahead of your needs or your kids' needs or your work's needs, but when I consciously and prayerfully decide that Brad's needs are my highest priority, then I'm the happiest.

Marriage isn't choosing the perfect person.  Marriage is making the one you choose perfect for you.  I was so young when I got married--not even twenty--and I had no idea what I was doing or who this man I was marrying really was.  Many times I have reflected on that day and wondered how I got so lucky to have him in my life.

Marriage isn't a honeymoon in Hawaii.  Marriage is work. That daily struggle to make ends meet, to get kids to school, to recover from hurt feelings, to teach kids to pray, to fix dinner when you really want to watch TV, and to find time for an occasional date together--that's what leads to true happiness.

 Marriage isn't easy.  Marriage is hard. Sometimes marriage is easy.  You wake up and think, "WOW! I'm the luckiest person alive."  The truth is--these mornings are few.  Most mornings, you wake up and your brain immediately grinds down your to-do list and you neglect the reality that you have a partner in it all. Reality is morning breath and school lunches and work meetings and balancing the budget.  Reality is disagreements and arguments and learning to negotiate. 

Marriage is more than love and sex. Marriage is intimacy. It's knowing just how he needs the itchy spot on his back scratched every night, or knowing just how to arrange the pillows on the bed, or buying his favorite snack because you saw it on sale, or spending your lunch hour at home so she can catch a quick yoga class. It's ignoring the smell from the bathroom or the sweaty socks in the laundry.

Marriage isn’t getting tied down.  Marriage is soaring to new places then returning to the security of home.  People change as they get older.  I never thought I would be getting a master's in gifted education when I was 44, but Brad has supported me in this crazy adventure.  No matter how bad my grade on an assignment, or how ornery I am in the morning, I know that he's the foundation of my life.
Marriage isn’t boring.  Marriage is having a permanent companion for life’s roller coaster. Twenty-four years.  We've had many rides on that roller coaster.  Law school, moving, infertility, loss of a child, Church callings, difficult children, financial mistakes, with many more in between.  Through it all, he's been strapped in next to me, and he even occasionally will lift his hands above his head during the scariest parts of the ride.  I need that.

Marriage isn’t keeping score.  Marriage is not keeping score at all. Yeah--he didn't help get the kids ready for bed the way I wanted him to, and I forgot to take in the dry cleaning.  He was short-tempered when he came home from work, and I was even shorter-tempered that he was home late.  The score doesn't matter, and the faster you learn that, the better.

Marriage isn’t perfect.  Marriage is being able to let go of perfect and letting that be okay.  Reality is that your spouse will let you down.  Sometimes that disappointment is small.  Sometimes that disappointment is almost crippling.  Sometimes, asking God to help you see past those flaws to the soul of the person you love takes every ounce of strength you've got.  The beauty of marriage is that your spouse is doing the same for you, because you're not perfect either.

Marriage isn't without risk.  Marriage is a risk worth taking. I know the divorce rate.  I know the odds are stacked against marriages today. I know all this, and yet I know it's still worth it.

Every day for the past twenty-four years, I have looked to Brad for humor, for joy, for reassurance, for guidance, for love, for solace, for backup, for comfort, for help, for happiness.  His hair is increasingly more gray and his eyes crinkle more at the corners now.

Every day for the past twenty-four years, he's been there. 

And the greatest joy of my life is knowing that he always will be, no matter what. I couldn't be happier.

This is what I wish I'd said.

12 comments:

  1. standing O on this post! such an honest, brave, and from the heart post. i LOVED every single word. i am very flawed and yet my hubby keeps showing me how to be my best self with his own patience towards me. marriage is the BEST thing that every happened to us. you and your hubby are a beautiful pair. i love the cute pictures of you two in this post :)

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  2. I think this is going into my top 5 post of all time. So well said!

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  4. "Marriage isn't taking the high road or the low road. Marriage is taking the same road. Finding the same road isn't easy, and sometimes you just don't want to. That's when it is most important...."
    "Marriage isn't a honeymoon in Hawaii. Marriage is work. That daily struggle to make ends meet, to get kids to school, to recover from hurt feelings, to teach kids to pray, to fix dinner when you really want to watch TV, and to find time for an occasional date together--that's what leads to true happiness."

    jen, this is why i LOOOOOVE YOU. really, best thing i've ever read on marriage. this is what i believe, and i love that you wrote, and i'm so grateful to have sean doing it with me too. you're amazing!

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  5. Fabulous! So true...every great and hard detail!

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  6. Love this post Jenny! So true...every bit of it. I'm glad I'm not the only one who says something in the moment and then frets over it for days..wishing I would have said something different.
    BTW, that last picture of you and your husband is too cute!
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

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  7. Well stated. I always say that too many worry about the wedding and not enough about the marriage.

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  8. I think I found a new favorite post on your blog. :) 6.5 years ago, I made a covenant with God that I would stay by my husbands side for eternity. These past six years have been heaven and hell. Infertility, an inactive husband, lots of lying, etc have surely made the road rocky but I was still in it for the long haul. Unfortunately, he wasn't. And that is a choice I can't make for him.
    So maybe it seems weird that I LOVE this post mid-divorce but you see, the way my marriage panned out hasn't broken me for life. I still believe in marriage and I wholeheartedly believe in the sacred covenants I made and will hopefully make again someday. Heavenly Father has been right by my side the entire time. I know more marriages that thrived than ones that failed. For a long time, I felt alone in my single mom future but I understand I am not. Everyone has challenges...this is one of mine. I look up to you so incredibly much for how honest and amazing you are. Thanks for always seeming to write exactly what i need to hear. :)

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  9. Beautiful post.
    I love how you reflect and put in to words such eloquence. You hit it on the head.

    Next time you'll know what to say.
    And there will be a next time.

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  10. Yes, agreed.
    There will be an opportunity at some stage to share your thoughts with an indecisive couple.

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