After Andrew and I got engaged clear up until we were newly weds, we got the comments and advice about expectations that so customarily surround the topic of marriage these days. You’ve surely heard them.
“Oh, you are so in love now, just wait.”
“Remember, the man may be the head of the family, but the wife is the neck and can turn the head where ever she wants.”
“If you can survive your first fight, you’ll be fine.”
“The first year is the hardest.”
“You sure you want to get married? You’re going to find out all the rotten things about each other.”
“You like sleeping on the couch? You’ll spend a lot of time there.”
“Be prepared to give up the freedom you’ve enjoyed.”
“We’ll see after the honeymoon phase has worn off.”
I could keep listing, but I think you get my point. I got so sick and tired of people telling me and him that we could look forward to power struggles and fighting and one another’s weaknesses. The sad part was that even though most the time people were trying to joke around, most were only semi-joking. Humor might have been the delivery, but the message was serious–Buck up, because marriage has a nasty side.
Now, I wasn’t naive. I didn’t live in a love-land full of rainbows and unicorns. I didn’t foresee marriage as conflict free. And neither did Andrew. But we did have high hopes. And those hopes weren’t naive either.
Elder Richard G. Scott once said, (although I can’t find the source) (I think because he said it when he came to speak to my YSA ward), that he and his wife, Jeanene, never had a fight in all their years of marriage. I know he said it because in that moment, I latched onto that ideal like a leech and I’ve never forgotten it. I wanted a marriage that functioned in such a way that fighting didn’t happen. Elder Scott, in that simple comment, taught me that although conflict may be unavoidable, fighting never had to be the result. And that meant that I needed to learn how such a future could be possible.
I’m thankful to my parents. I don’t know if they have ever had a fight. But I do know that I have never seen it. I have never heard them raise their voices at one another. I have never witnessed them being terse or rude. I’ve never heard name calling or finger pointing. And I’ve never seen my dad sleeping on the couch because he was “in the outs with the wife.” I’ve been aware of them having conflict to settle. But I have never been a witness to my parents handling that conflict in the way that all those people were telling me to prepare for. I know some parents who do. But my parents, like Elder and Sister Scott, were real people. And real people can live the dream.
Andrew and I have been married for almost two years now. We’ve made it way passed a month, way passed six months, way passed the first year, and we have never ever fought. And we don’t plan on doing it in the future either.
Through striving after our ideal, I have learned several key components that keep conflict humane and peaceful.
First, there is a reason The Family: A Proclamation to the World teaches that “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” It’s the recipe for positive conflict resolution and avoidance. Just think about it: a husband and a wife who seek to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and to keep His commandments; a husband and a wife who consistently communicate with God through prayer together and for one another; a husband and a wife who both strive to repent of their weaknesses and to change and say sorry; a husband and a wife who both seek to forgive one another instead of harboring grudges and seeking only justice; a husband and a wife who mutually respect one another’s thoughts, emotions, and needs; a husband and a wife who seek to exercise compassion and to understand one another’s point of view or experience; a husband and a wife who both desire to be industrious above being lazy; a husband and a wife who value and find wholesome, pure, active things to engage in. These attributes and values are at the heart of Christlike relationships. They are the tools for a Christlike marriage.
Second, communication is the relationship. As I have studied conflict and communication, I have learned how to tactfully and efficiently talk about problems or concerns, big or small. I’m not afraid to talk to Andrew about anything. I don’t have to be certain that I am right and he is wrong in order to do it. I don’t have to have a solution. I don’t have to even know what my thoughts or feelings actually are in order to talk to him. Additionally, I don’t keep secrets from Andrew. I don’t keep things to myself to fester. I work to keep the communication channel between us open. I don’t ever want there to be a topic or an issue or a moment that we can’t talk about freely with one another.
Third, I sought for a good communicator when I was dating. After finding a man who loved God and whose counsel I could trust, communication was what I looked at. Andrew was a good listener. He was kind and clear when we would discuss concerns. He wasn’t afraid to talk about hard or uncomfortable topics. He was respectful to our different views or opinions. He was an expert at controlling his emotions. He never was rude or inappropriate. Man, I love him.
Fourth, I sought for a man whose priorities mirrored my own. God comes first. No question. The Lord’s teachings guided and guide both Andrew and I through how to prioritize everything else after that. And we both listen and sacrifice to keep those priorities in order.
Fifth, we actively seek to stay in the “honeymoon” stage. Romance is never dead. I never want our love and romance to become commonplace or stagnant. We both do things for one another to keep those butterflies fluttering around our heartstrings.
Sixth, seventh, eighth, seventeenth. Enough with the lists, right?? But truly and thankfully, marriage is beautiful and good and never ever has to be nasty. I tell all my friends who are preparing to get married (but is true for anyone at any stage of life), don’t listen to what other people tell you marriage is like. You decide what you want your marriage to be like. And then learn how to make it so. And do it.
Cheers and cheers and cheers to marriage.