Watching my youngest three siblings finding their missing halves all simultaneously has been so exciting and nostalgic for me. Those are days to cherish. The excitement of loving and being loved, truly seen and respected for the first time by someone who you truly see and respect. The magical pulses of energy that course through the unknown pathways of your body every time you see their face unexpectedly, or hear their name, or hear what they’ve been saying about you. It feels like flying. Like what you were meant to feel. In my case, it felt so perfectly natural and comfortable that I could not deny my fate.
But, like everyone, I struggled hard with the decision to marry my husband. Rising to the top of my worries was a concern that I would be miserable. Ben and I were both very independent, but I got the impression that, as a woman, I should keep the peace and be kind, that my opinions should be more subtle. Which mean that I never spoke up for myself. I was sure that if I was a good example for long enough, Ben would follow my lead. But it wasn’t happening; the date was looming closer and I was afraid I had tied my eternal life to someone who wouldn’t listen to me or respect my quiet opinions. And he just didn’t know what I was thinking because I never spoke up.
And yet, in spite of that raw emotional edge that divided us, there was that magnetic, undeniable pull that kept us together. And choosing to follow the promise both in the scriptures and in my patriarchal blessing is what pulled me over that divide. Adam and Eve were married. They were told to multiply and replenish the earth. I understood that we were all commanded to get married and have children. It was a commandment, not just a lifestyle choice. If I had the chance to get married, and I felt like it was the right thing to do, I should do it. Even with my qualms. At that point, I felt like I had put my faith in God, not in Ben, that the marriage would be fine. During the same period, I remembered a line from my patriarchal blessing: “Your life will be happy in marriage. You will have challenges, all do.” It was like a soothing balm over my burning mind. I could have faith in that promise too; and faith requires action. So I married the guy. And I couldn’t be happier. We do have challenges, all do. But we have multiplied and replenished South Texas and God is blessing us for following His commandments.
God continues to be my partner in this marriage. I have found that when I am having a problem with my husband, and talking it out openly doesn’t seem to change anything; I pray for God to change his heart in a natural and clear way. When we discover things “for ourselves” rather than being told we are doing something wrong, it is much easier to change and take the problem seriously. Prayer is indispensable in a happy marriage. Not to say that talking things out rationally and objectively is not another indispensable part of marriage.
As I see my siblings wonder if this person is the “right one”, I think of things that are deal breakers, and things that really aren’t. Most things just require open communication and a desire to see the marriage work as a partnership.
- Don’t get along with his family (yes, you will see/hear from them often. Yes, he was raised by his parents and holds all of their values somewhere in himself)
- Priorities about 1) Spiritual things 2) Family 3) Work are in different places. Priorities don’t change very easily, and it can be very frustrating if your #1 is his #3.
- Not attracted to him/her. Your children are going to look like your spouse. Be sure you like the way they look. You don’t have to think they are the most attractive person in the world (because they aren’t) but you have to like to look at them.
- Doesn’t take marriage seriously.
- Bully/abusive tendencies. Is he super controlling? Doesn’t let you go and do what you want to do? Keeps you away from your family? Steer clear!
Not Deal Breakers
- Weird habits (chews loudly, talks loudly or softly, eats ketchup on everything. . .)
- Not smart, funny, athletic, etc. Hobbies and tastes can change; school makes people smarter, these are all in flux during your lifetime. More likely than not, you will discover hobbies and ways of life that are meaningful to both of you that neither of you have even thought of before marriage.
- Weird smells (just go to the grocery store and say, “let’s try this shampoo/deodorant instead!)
- Domineering/passive (as long as you are willing to help them become their better selves this is not a deal breaker—but watch for signs of abuse).
- Past sins. The atonement makes people whole. If Christ can forgive someone, so can you. If they are current serious sins, maybe you should steer clear until they become “past sins”.
People say, “Don’t go into marriage intent on changing the person” I say: Change me and I’ll change you. Let’s perfect each other. Marriage is really the beginning of adult life not the end of it; the person that you marry is just a shadow of the person that they can become. My husband is the most influential person in my life—he knows me. He can scrutinize me down to the very bottom of my soul because I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not after eight years. And I can take his suggestions very seriously, knowing that he can see me objectively; which I cannot always do. He’s probably praying for me to change too. It’s nice to have another person on my team.
So remember: Engagement is magical! Marriage is not. But it is wonderful and happy and if you just communicate with the realistic view that it isn’t going to be spontaneously roses and gummy bears without any effort, you will be steady and stable. Even better than stumbling upon a perfect life magically made— you get to build a life that is perfect for you.