Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sacrament Talk

Chris and I spoke in Sacrament Meeting today about Marriage. He took the eternal, spiritual perspective, and I took more of the here and now side. I had to type it all out to get my thoughts organized and I realized that it came out more like a blog than a sacrament I thought I'd post it. I'm sure the talk was different, but this did follow the basic idea. This is mostly for my enjoyment later--don't read if you're not interested.

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“Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration.”

Chris and I met in Alaska at a math and science summer program the summer before our senior year of high school. The first time I ever saw Chris, I noticed one thing more than anything else: I could see the outline of a graphing calculator through the pocket of his jeans. My thought: What a dork.

It’s a good thing life gives us second chances, or I wouldn’t ever have gotten to know him any better. As it happened, there were only three LDS students in the entire program, so he and I actually got to know each other fairly well during those six weeks because we were in that small group who would go to church together and who didn’t go on all of the Sunday outings that were offered. I found out that he was the senior class president at his high school with a 4.0 gpa, he had a steady job, he owned his own car, he was planning on going to college and serving a mission…he was all the right things to earn a spot as my first (and only, incidentally) boyfriend.

During the next year and a half of dating long distance, I learned a lot more about Chris that I really admired and came to love—he was devoted to the gospel and always wanted to learn more about the doctrines in the scriptures. He was kind, and had a good relationship with his family. He had a good work ethic and could get a lot done in short amounts of time, and was willing to keep working until the job was done. He wanted nothing less than a temple marriage and planned to have children.

Our dating relationship did come to an abrupt end (his doing), but we stayed in contact. We wrote letters back and forth while he served his mission in Norway, and we got to know each other all the better. He came home and ten days later we were engaged, ten weeks after that we were sealed for time and eternity in the Salt Lake temple. I had married the perfect guy, so we would have the perfect marriage, right? And so begins happily ever after…

Yeah, right.

It didn’t take long for reality to sink in. Both of us realized fairly quickly that it really wasn’t going to be easy and that we would have to put in a good amount of effort if our marriage was going to be happy and productive. We’ve only been married for just shy of three years, so we’re still working out the bugs, but we’re getting better. My parents have been married for 32 years. President Hinckley had been married for 67 years when his wife passed away. 3 years is nothing. But, in the context of this married student ward, we’re old-timers. And while I can’t really claim to know much of anything, I want to share some of the things that we have learned in the relatively short—or long—time that we’ve been married.

Chris was really excited a few weeks ago about a quote shared during a talk—he liked it so much he even saved it into his iPod so he could refer to it again later. President Hinckley, when quoting a newspaper article, said, “Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration.”

Translation: You’re not going agree on everything, and that’s okay.

I had lived on my own for almost three years by the time that Chris and I were married. During that time, I had worked at least two jobs, sometimes three, while going to school full time. I had a good system for managing my money. I paid my bills, kept track of all my regular expenses, and put some away for a rainy day. I had heard that money was the cause of the vast majority of marital conflict. When we got married, I was fully prepared to take over all the family finances and manage them with great skill and accuracy without any assistance needed. Crisis averted. I solved the problem before it could even start.

Well, surprise to me, Chris actually wanted to know where all our money was going. He didn’t want me to just take care of everything and leave him in the dark. So, we started down the road of managing our finances together. In the beginning, that usually resulted in huge fights that would last anywhere from a few hours to a couple days. I didn’t want to do it his way and he didn’t want to do it my way.

Since then, we have gotten a little bit better. We have worked out a system where Chris gets all the information organized neatly on the computer. He does that part by himself because I don’t want to do it and it’s kind of boring to watch. Then I come in and we talk about where we stand, what we may need to change, and make any plans that need to be made for the future. If either one of us starts getting upset or annoyed, we just stop talking about it for a while and come back later—in an hour or in a week. I have accepted that he likes to have everything very meticulously organized to every detail and to have everything planned out for the next year, and he has accepted that I just want to know the basics and how much money I have to spend on groceries this week. Mutual toleration.

You have to decide what really matters and what you’re willing to sacrifice on. For example: laundry. When I hang my shirts in the closet, I want all of them facing the same direction so I can more easily decide what to wear each day. If Chris puts away the laundry, my clothes are not going to look the same as if I did it. But, I’ve learned this lesson: if I do it, it’s done my way. If he does it, it’s done and I don’t have to do it.

It’s also important that we don’t take it personally. Our daughter is 18 months old now, and we have another baby girl due in October. Small children mean lots of dirty diapers. When I ask Chris to change Jane’s diaper and he doesn’t do it, I have to remember that it’s not because he’s ignoring me or trying to make me mad. He just doesn’t want to change a nasty diaper either.

Life is about the story. Think back to your wedding day—do you remember all those tiny details that you so painstakingly arranged so everything would be perfect? Do you remember the arrangement of the flower petals on the cake, or the precise volume of the sound system during your first dance as a married couple? Probably not.

Here is what I remember from our wedding day: I forgot to brush my teeth that morning. Of all days to forget to brush your teeth. In the sealing room when we had the chance to exchange rings, I put Chris’s ring on the wrong hand. When we came out of the temple together after the sealing, my dress got caught on a nail and I almost tripped going down the stairs.

Those are the kinds of things that I remember. I can look back through the pictures to see the perfect table decorations and the cheese and crackers laid out just so. But forgetting to brush your teeth is a lot funnier.

We fall in love with our spouse because of the perfections. We stay in love because of the imperfections.

I fell in love with Chris because he is a good man who honors his priesthood and strives to raise a righteous family in the gospel. I’ve stayed in love with him because he owns a crowbar because he thinks it’s cool to own a crow bar. He likes to slide down long banisters in public places. And he likes to spin Jane around until she’s really dizzy, then laughs when she falls over.

I believe that God created men and women so differently because He knows that we need each other. We need the balance that our differences bring to have a truly successful marriage and to raise a righteous, happy family. I am grateful for my husband and for the opportunity that we have to spend eternity together. And I’m glad we’re not perfect so life will be more interesting.


Britta said...

I wish I'd been there to hear you say it. That was a lot that I didn't know about you guys!

Jess said...

also, that was a great talk!

Jared and Delia said...

That was great. I really like the things you mentioned you love about Chris. I think a lot of us get suckered into believing that our hearts should flutter everytime our husbands walk into the room, but that is not how love really is all the time. Although I get twitterpated *sometimes* I USUALLY don't. Love is more about the little things, about trust, loyalty, friendship, appreciation, and most of all forgiveness. Sometimes it is easy to forget that. Thanks for the reminder!