Saturday, April 13, 2013

Eternity is a Long Time


Photo attribution here
One time a pen pal of mine asked me if he should get married, not to anyone in particular, just kind of a quandary about the whole institution. I was still married to The Mr. at the time, but we were in pretty serious marital misery. This is a good bit of the response I gave him. It seems relevant tonight.

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Hi my friend. 

I should probably start this by telling you the fact that there have been moments where I wanted to respond with a simple, "No", but tonight, for the second consecutive night The Mr. is out of town. The break has been really nice for reflecting. From that place, and for this moment, this is the advice I have to give. 

Yes. Get married. 

However, my experience has lead me to believe that a healthy marriage requires a radical mental reconstruction of expectations for what marriage is. Let's start with a little demolition. 

Stupid (yet common) Reasons to Get Married
1. You feel like you're getting old.
2. Your mission president (or anyone besides God) told you to.
3. You really, really, really want to have sex. (This seriously clouds your judgement on a fate with eternal implications.) 

Next, What Not to Expect
1. Don't expect the things you like to stay the same, or the things you hate to change.
2. Don't expect her to fix you, make you whole, or to have any hope of saving her.

Marriage is Not
1. An escape
2. Perpetual bliss
3. A hiatus
4. A magic crystal that makes everything more clear

Now for the reconstruction.

Marriage Is
1. A commandment
2. A purifying process that takes daily investment of mind, body and soul on a level you've never experienced
3. Godly.

What To Expect
1. For ALL of your personal issues to come up in a way that forces you to confront them and resolve them. (Compounded by the fact that your spouse is going through the exact same thing at the exact same time.)
2. To expose your soul in a way you never have and to have it both admired in a way that puts you in transcendent euphoria and stabbed in a way that you can not understand how it could ever become whole and okay again.
3. To be happy sometimes, and sad sometimes, kind of like normal life, only with a permanent buddy.

Good Reasons to Get Married
1. You have found a person who you feel 1. Is kind 2. Is patient 3. Is attractive 4. Has common goals, interests and life vision 
2. God has told you in a clear, unmistakable way that the person you are asking Him about is a good match. (You'll need this reassurance to fall back on later.)

Now, here's the thing. Everyone knows that when one falls in love the otherwise "normal" person's brain function changes as dramatically as someone who's on crack. It's the fun phase where you never sleep or eat and you kiss a lot and holding hands is practically orgasmic and all you want to do is make this person happy. Once one falls into this state it is somewhat inevitable that most or all practical ideas of what should or should not take place go out the window (at least if you're anything like me, and I think you may be). 

So, in short, all this advice is useless, but I'm going to keep giving it to you anyway. 

Being married, like being on a mission, is hard, but good. How hard you cannot know until you try it. How good we may not know unless we lose it. (*Divorced me speaking here: I do not believe my marriage was good now that I've lost it. I do believe a healthy marriage may be this way.) Times I've spent dating The Mr. are the most euphoric and happy days of my life. Some times in our marriage have been the most earth shatteringly painful of my life. This is what intimacy does to us. Hangs our insides out for another person to poke around in. You don't know what will happen, but you can be sure it's going to be intense. 

And, I think somehow that's God's plan. Joseph Smith talks about being a rough stone rolling, how every time he bumps up into something, one of his sharp corners is rubbed off. We worship a God that loves to shape us. The process can be painful at times. Marriage has been for me. Some of that I think is inherent in marriage. I know some people say that life is 100 times better since they've gotten married. I can only assume they're being honest. I don't know. I can't speak to that. I can only speak from the standpoint of a marriage that has been heartbreaking in many moments. 

And still, from this place, I would say, yes. Get married. Not just because it's a commandment, but because it's an important life experience to have. Being that dedicated to something, learning that kind of patience and humility, diligence and pervading hope. Figuring so many things out about yourself, developing boundaries, learning to care for someone more than you care for yourself.... the list goes on. But doing so with eyes wide open to what the purpose is may help to make it a more pleasant experience than jumping in head first to what you assume and take for granted will be a limitlessly romantic life of adoration. Marriage is a very long process of cultivation with perks of companionship, sex and someone to (hopefully) keep you in check.

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The letter goes on, but my point is this: in surveying my world post divorce bomb I am still unsure where I stand on that question everyone who loves me wants to know: will there be a second marriage for you? But the logic of the letter holds true even now. I sincerely believe that for those in Camp Second Chance, a reconsideration of the function and logistics of marriage is in order. 

6 comments:

  1. You are very wise, and I would say accurate. I am lucky to be in a wonderful marriage, but it's still not the euphoric romance romp a lot of people imagine it to be. Romance is nice, but companionship is better and if you focus too much on one side of it you will have a bad marriage.

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  2. this is very thoughtfully and beautifully done. thank you.

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    1. Thank you, Krist. And thanks for reading!

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  3. Thank you for writing this! I'm so glad it's being said!

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