Friday, October 26, 2018

Sacrifice in a Marriage

Strong marriages require sacrifice in some way or another by both partners. I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I wasn’t sure what I or my husband have sacrificed over the years. But after careful reflection and some journaling and prayer, I realized both my husband and I have sacrificed a great deal for each other to achieve our dreams. 

Our first week in Seattle. My brave face.
Since our dreams started out to be so individual and different, it hasn’t always been easy to work things out between how to best support each other. My husband has always had the dream of living in the big city and working for a company that had a lot of upward mobility. For us, that meant moving to Seattle so he could work for Amazon. It was hard for me to leave our two acres of land, potential horse property, and log cabin behind in Utah and go live in overpriced, undersized tiny house in Seattle with no land and lots of people. My husband was never fully into the horse property idea and honestly, didn’t have time to be a horse guy, since his commute in Utah took three hours a day, round trip. 

We have since scrutinized our choices we made leading up to purchasing the horse property and realized our decision making was too biased toward ‘my dream’ and not ‘our dream.’ With some honest and hard conversations, we realized we had to compromise and make changes. 

After moving to Seattle, we had to reassess our choices again. I had The Hardest Time acclimating to the Pacific Northwest’s rain and climate, as well as the claustrophobic feeling of too many people and not enough open spaces. 

I’m just not a city girl. And my husband just isn’t a country guy. So how do we compromise and meet in the middle?

We decided to put a time frame on our Seattle time. We made a plan to stay there for five to seven years, then move back to our home state of Utah. Once returning to Utah, we would look for a house on a decent plot of land, but keep things sane with the commute and not invest in horse property. 

We’ve since done both of those things and are feeling more ‘settled’ than ever before. I’m happy with our manageable home and yard, and he is happy with his manageable commute and job with a great company in Salt Lake City. In other words, things have worked out. 

Sometimes I look at other couples and compare how my husband and I are doing in regards to ‘working together toward a common goal.’ An example of this is whenever I watch Fixer Upper on Amazon and see Chip and Joanna Gains and how well they work together towards their common dreams. I sometimes find myself wishing my husband and I were more like Chip and Joanna. In reality, this is silly since we have different talents and purposes in life than the television couple. But even though I know this, I find myself comparing. I’ve had to consciously make an effort to quit comparing and just let myself be inspired by their example versus letting what they are doing take away from being inspired. It is so fun to see what they accomplish together and how well they support each other. 

The biggest thing I’m working on personally in my marriage right now is to support my husband in his career and life goals. It is important to communicate regularly about these things since we are in the busy phase of life chauffeuring our teenage children to endless activities and feeling like ‘two ships passing in the night. . .’ The weekly date is crucial for our marriage satisfaction. So is nightly prayer together. Without these two things, we feel very disconnected, and more like business partners. 

The concept of sacrifice in a marriage is hard. Even with the gospel and all of its beautiful promised blessings, it’s hard to sacrifice. I appreciate Gottman’s plan of working on our Love Maps in marriage so that we can be prepared for life’s changes and challenges and better support each other as they come up. I’ve been praying this week on how I can better nurture my Love Map with Ethan. I have high hopes for implementing the ideas I’ve come up. (More on that later, hopefully.)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Strong Marriages Have Strong Friendships

I love the idea of my husband and I being best friends. But I am guilty of treating him less than my best friend, especially when I’ve felt ‘let down’ or unimportant to him in our marriage. Since we’ve been married for so long, and because I’ve known him longer in years of my life than I’ve been alone in life, it is becoming difficult for me to imagine life without him.

I am learning that the strongest marriages are those where the husband and the wife can share a deep sense of meaning and purpose and work together toward a common goal of purpose in the marriage. The couples I admire are those who don’t just tolerate each other and avoid conflict, but those who support each other’s dreams and help each other accomplish them.

Image Source
I’ve learned it is fruitless to try and change my husband. And I’m learning that I don’t really want to. But I haven’t always felt that way. It used to drive me nuts how he would always order the same kind of ice cream Every Time we go out for a treat. (Burnt Almond Fudge.) But now, I think it’s endearing and it makes me smile. I used to try and convince him that putting up Christmas lights would be magical and that he would do it if he really loved me . . . well, that hasn’t happened yet . . . it’s been twenty-six Christmases together, and honestly, it’s okay. There are bigger fish to fry in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and I’ve since learned that he is far better at holiday shopping and Santa prepping than I ever could be. (I really hate holiday shopping.) He’s a shopping ninja and nails it every time for Christmas morning smiles and holiday cheer.

Friendship is so important in marriage because it is the essence of our innermost human desires to feel connected and understood by another human being. If we don’t have the slightest understanding or concern for each other’s joys, likes, dislikes, fears, and stresses, how can we feel safe and hopeful in a marriage? The couples I’ve watched and admired over the years are those who are emotionally intelligent towards each other and who have made a conscious effort to get to know their spouse in a deeper way over the years, versus shutting down or becoming apathetic. This kind of effort takes intentional work and dedication. It is easy to get caught up in the raising of children and busy work/life schedules. But the work of cultivating friendship in marriage is so worth it!

How can we truly love someone if we don’t truly know them? Even though I’ve known my husband for a quarter of a century, I still feel like I’m learning new things about him. And I don’t want this to ever end. To know my husband is to love him. I feel so lucky to know that!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Natural Adversity of Marriage

     Reflecting back on the twenty-six years of marriage my husband and I have experienced, it humbles me to see how we’ve weathered some pretty tough storms of natural adversity, though we haven’t come through unscathed. But I love my husband even more for the gray hair showing around his temples and the soft beginnings of smile wrinkles around his eyes. He grows more handsome to me each year.

     I’ve never been under the illusion that marriage was easy based on the experiences I witnessed as a young girl. I learned from my grandmother’s stories about my grandfather about how hard marriage could be. My grandfather came back from WWII a changed man. He wasn’t wounded in body, but his spirit and his mind suffered. He fought in General Patton’s 3rd Army, and came up through Italy to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. The war took a lot from him. His piercing blue eyes told countless stories of pain and I wished I could hug the pain away whenever I would give him a hug as a little girl. He was drawn to alcohol to help numb his pain. My grandmother used to say that she stayed with him for the sake of the children (my mother), but then realized she had to leave him for the sake of the children. Their divorce was very hard on my mother and uncles. 

     My mother had a difficult time choosing healthy dating relationships. When I was three, she died in a tragic way after a domestic violence accident that only she knows the details of. I was then adopted by my uncle and aunt (my mom’s brother and his wife) who became mom and dad. In some ways, it was like hopping out of the frying pan and back into the fire since they fought a lot and soon divorced when I was six. My uncle (dad) had grown up with an alcoholic father and my aunt (mom) had also grown up with an alcoholic father. They both described their dating season as one of strong attraction, chemistry, and bonding over wanting to create a better life and home for their future family. They were married in the temple and were on their way on the covenant path when infertility struck along with money tensions. The stress of financial strain and years of infertility took its toll on their marriage, both lacking the skills of how to work together in times of adversity, since they didn’t have role-models to help them.

     Divorce is the natural consequence of growing apart, feeling misunderstood, little betrayals along the way that add up to big betrayals, and finally, utter contempt for each other. I don’t blame my parents for falling into this pattern. I honestly feel like they didn’t know any better. As I work on my personal Genogram project, I’m deeply saddened that our family has experienced so much heartache with love and marriage. Seeing the pattern of divorce laid out on a graph is hard. It teaches me that patterns repeat themselves if not interrupted and improved upon. 

Link to photo
     In my own personal prayers, I’ve had the distinct impression that I knew before I came to earth what I was coming into with my family and that I would play an important role. I hesitate a little to share that, because it might come across like I’m ‘so righteous’ and better than everyone else in my family. I know this isn’t the case. It’s just that I have a certain role to play with hopefully establishing a pattern of a covenant marriage and teaching my children to choose wisely and do the same.

     My husband and I have had our own share of natural adversity; we’ve experienced infertility for eight years, lost our first child, excessive pregnancy illness, financial strain from the 2009 housing crisis, raising a son with special needs, and raising a brilliant daughter who has struggled to find her place in the world. Our adversities aren’t unique – we have many friends our age who’ve experienced similar things. Through the years, we’ve learned to rely on the Lord and to turn to Him in all things. Adversity can really strengthen the bonds of marriage and commitment. I have a strong testimony of this. Or, adversity can pull us apart and cause the very ground to shake and tear asunder beneath us. Because of what I’ve seen and experienced, I hope to be a force for good as I continue my education in Marriage and Family therapy. There is just such a strong need.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Traditional Marriage Being Redefined

I just had such a great discussion with my daughter tonight via Facetime about marriage and dating. She's off to her first year in college in Boston, loving Berklee, and loving the east coast. I couldn't be more proud of her. She's always focused on her studies and violin practice more than dating and dividing her attention between her academic goals with romantic things, so we haven't really had a lot of opportunities to talk about dating yet. 
During our discussion tonight, the topic of the legalization of same-sex marriage came up since I told her that I've been reading the actual document of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in every state in the United States. I mentioned to her that she is residing in the state that first re-defined marriage. One of our main points of conversation was about why our church has such a strong stance on traditional marriage. I don't think I've been as clear on this point and have really wanted to understand.

I haven’t been able to articulate my thoughts until this week’s readings and study. Whenever the Court removes the democratic process from the people, and instead rules in such a way that dictates a social opinion as Law, there are far reaching consequences. Those consequences include losing the ability for a people to have fundamentally different views. When the Court tells the People that certain opinions are seen as ‘racist,’ ‘bigotry,’ or ‘stigmatizing,’ then laws can be enacted as an act of will versus an act of legal judgement. Who defines what is racist, bigotry, or stigmatizing? A Court of nine people or a nation of 350 million People? The Court, with this ruling, invalidated the will and minds of the People with the legalizing of same-sex marriage. When it was left to the States to decide, legal process was being honored.

When it comes to constitutional rights, it is difficult to separate the legal opinions and cultural beliefs of the Justices with what Law is and how it should be enacted. A legal precedent was set in Obergefell v. Hodges where the Court invalidated the laws of the States and told the States how to transform a fundamental societal institution, marriage. Our country lost the right to think for ourselves and instead was told how to think, and that decisions no longer rest with the people. In other words, in my readings, I learned that I lost the freedom to keep my personal definition of marriage and was told how to define it. 
Chief Justice Roberts wrote a strong dissenting argument about how dangerous the Ruling of the majority of the Supreme Court was and the precedent it set for religious freedom. He stated,   
 “Marriage did not come about as a historical coincidence . . . a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history – and not as a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians. It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship. "
This quote resonates with my sense of reason. I read the entire 103 page ruling and dissenting arguments regarding this historic Court case. I read it because I deeply care about families and children and our society thriving. When families break down, society as a whole suffers and individuals lose a sense of connection and love for their fellow man. I'm working hard in school to learn how to help build families, marriages and individuals thrive. I personally believe that thriving involves a connection to inspiration. 
I'm also working hard to teach my children to have faith in the traditional family and in the traditional roles of mothers and fathers. I want my children to know how important and special marriage is. They are bombarded with messages, both overtly and subtly about how marriage is blasé, unfulfilling, something only old people do, and not desirable. While my husband and I are happily married and work hard to be a team, we've had some rough times and gone through some really hard things. We've tried to be real and honest about how to work through hard things together, setting realistic expectations of how to problem solve, work together, and what true fulfillment looks like.    

I hope that what I'm doing will give my children hope for their future families. It's crazy for me to think that when I was my daughter's age, I had met the man I was going to marry. I experienced a sort of Rocketship Romance with Ethan. (You can listen to a song about it  here. ) Since then, the dating scene has changed so much. I sometimes wonder if I am equipped with the knowledge and discernment I need as a mom to help my young adult children navigate the dating world. I'm so concerned with them learning 'How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk.' (Read this book! It's so good.)
My family has been blessed as I’ve earnestly sought to understand the leadership of my church’s teachings and stance on same-sex marriage. I’ve been blessed with meaningful conversations with my children who want to understand true principles, and I’ve been able to articulate true principles with conviction and testimony, balanced with compassion. Without the Lord’s inspiration and help, it would be difficult to Not be confused on this issue.