I grew up in a warm home with good parents and nutty siblings where I really did have a great childhood. My parents worked hard to provide a happy life for us, and we had fun as a family.
One year we went on a Caribbean cruise with some long-time family friends, Sam and Dana (names have been changed) and I’ll never forget noticing that the parents of this family acted differently towards each other than my parents did.
Sam and Dana
Sam and Dana had been married many years and their children were mostly grown, yet they still sat close to one another, cuddled, held hands, scratched each other’s backs at dinner, stole kisses during the gorgeous sunsets, and took walks on the ship’s deck to admire the moon.
My parents are truly admirable people, they’re just not physically demonstrative of their love and affection for each other, especially in public, so this behavior was entirely foreign to me. I was absolutely taken by Sam and Dana’s relationship; I loved watching them interact and hoped to someday have a marriage similar to theirs.
But something unexpected and heartbreaking happened as time passed. Sam and Dana’s kids grew up and moved out, and the couple drifted apart. She pursued some personal interests that required significant travel, and soon Sam found out about Dana’s infidelity.
They’re now divorced and trying to pick up the pieces from their shattered, once-shared life and it’s tough. It’s tough to watch. It’s tough to accept. I’ve struggled with feelings of confusion, frustration, and even some betrayal after admiring their marriage for over 15 years – only to then watch it fall it apart.
Let me insert this caveat here, at the near-beginning of my scribblings: This article is not in any way meant to discourage separation/divorce or encourage couples in harmful or abusive relationships to “stick it out.” There is no hidden agenda, no embedded guilt-trip, no ill-motive lurking in this article insinuating that divorce is wrong. There are certainly relationships where separation and/or divorce is the only answer; there is no judgment from us towards those souls who find themselves in that extremely difficult situation.
I simply write to share what an inspired man and leader talked about as a flaw of our generation in the instances where it rightfully applies–and that is the idea of easy-disposal in marriage.
Easy Disposal in Marriage
Dieter Uchtdorf, German native and prominent religious leader said,
“In so many societies around the world, everything seems to be disposable. As soon as something starts to break down or wear out—or even when we simply grow tired of it—we throw it out and replace it with an upgrade, something newer or shinier. We do this with cell phones, clothes, cars—and, tragically, even with relationships.”
Cue Brad and Angelina. Even the most iconic of all Hollywood couples can’t keep it together. And it’s devastating to watch their union disintegrate and see the tabloids and magazines practically promote them throwing away their once-most-valued relationship.
But aren’t we all guilty of that on one level or another? Have we not all accepted, even a little, the mind frame of relationships being disposable? (Especially with the political storm we just waded through for the presidential election and the differing, emotionally charged opinions that came with it.) I can make new friends, I don’t need that neighbor, I can live without that sibling, I can find a better lover…?
All too often we see our good friends, neighbors, and families members get divorced. Many times there are valid reasons, but other times one partner is tired, bored, or even unfaithful (which is an after-effect of being tired and/or bored). And then the marital vows are thrown out the window and the hunt begins for something newer, shinier, more exciting…
Dieter Uchtdorf describes what happened with Sam and Dana and so many others in our lives,
“Somehow, as the days multiply and the color of romantic love changes, there are some who slowly stop thinking of each other’s happiness and start noticing the little faults. In such an environment, some are enticed by the tragic conclusion that their spouse isn’t smart enough, fun enough, or young enough. And somehow they get the idea that this gives them justification to start looking elsewhere. While there may be value in decluttering our lives of material things we no longer need, when it comes to things of eternal importance—our marriages, our families, and our values—a mindset of replacing the original in favor of the modern can bring profound remorse.”
And he continues with a warning,
“If this comes close to describing you at all, I warn you that you are on a road that leads to broken marriages, broken homes, and broken hearts. I plead with you to stop now, turn around, and come back to the safe path of integrity and loyalty to covenants.”
Marriage is a divine institution that creates a safe haven for love, commitment, communication, vulnerability, and of course the raising of children. While it is all too easy to cast aside the relationship when things get hard, boring, repetitive, or a host of other negative (and sometimes inevitable) things, Uchtdorf’s point and pleading is that we will “save” our marriages. Uchtdorf advises (and scores of marriage counselors around the world agree) that we be intentional in how we nurture the beautiful yet fragile love in marriage. Here are some ideas for how to do that.
Eight Ideas to Help You Save Your Marriage
1. Remember that your spouse isn’t the only imperfect human in your marriage!
If you’re ever feeling frustrated because you have a flawed spouse, remember these words from Dieter Uchtdorf,
“…We are not so much looking for someone perfect but for a person with whom, throughout a lifetime, we can join efforts to create a loving, lasting, and more perfect relationship. That is the goal.
“Those who save their marriages understand that this pursuit takes time and patience and requires you to be kind, envy not, seek not your own, not be easily provoked, think no evil, and rejoice in the truth. All this won’t just happen in an instant. Great marriages are built brick by brick, day after day, over a lifetime. And that is good news. Because no matter how flat your relationship may be at the present, if you keep adding pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness, eventually a mighty pyramid will begin to grow. If it appears to take forever, remember: happy marriages are meant to last forever!”
2. Remember why you fell in love.It’s a sure way to rekindle some love and butterflies!
3. Choose to be happy in your circumstances. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” If you choose to be miserable, it’s likely you’ll find a lot of misery around you to bask in.
4. Look for the good. Dieter Uchtdorf said, “If we look for imperfections in our spouse or irritations in our marriage, we will certainly find them, because everyone has some. But on the other hand, if we look for the good, we will surely find it, because everyone has many good qualities too. Those who save marriages pull out the weeds and water the flowers.” Work each day to make your marriage stronger. It’s the small and simple things that will make the greatest difference.
5. Think about the legacy you want to leave. “What legacy do you want to leave your posterity? One of harshness, vengeance, anger, fear, or isolation? Or one of love, humility, forgiveness, compassion, spiritual growth, and unity? The way you treat your spouse may influence generations to come.” Look at me, I’m not even directly related to Sam and Dana and they’ve influenced me forever. The impression you and your spouse can leave on your children is immeasurable!
6. Sincerely apologize to your children and especially to your spouse. It’s amazing how difficult such a simple principle can be! Make a goal to apologize first the next time a fight comes up…the results are amazing.
7. Set aside pride! “Pride is one of the biggest reasons marriages and families struggle. Pride is short-tempered, unkind, and envious. Pride exaggerates its own strength and ignores the virtues of others. Pride is selfish and easily provoked. Pride assumes evil intent where there is none and hides its own weaknesses behind clever excuses. Pride is cynical, pessimistic, angry, and impatient.” Although pride is ugly, it is a common human failing and one of the biggest reasons why families and marriages struggle. Uchtdorf said, “Even when you are not at fault—perhaps especially when you are not at fault—let love conquer pride.”
At the end of his remarks, Dieter Uchtdorf said, “These principles apply to all; we all can be saviors of strong families.” We can reject the new-age idea of “disposable relationships” and work to save our marriages by applying these eight principles.
Although these principles may seem simple and obvious, they are difficult to put into practice and take time to master. However, as we work on them, we will literally “save” our marriages, create an atmosphere for a strong family, and will find great joy and happiness in the meaningful and eternal union of marriage.