We must all simply do our very best as often as we can.
My parents are in their 54th year of marriage. Was it all sunshine and smiles? Of course not. There is a lot of laughing, but there is a lot of yelling too. There was a lot of travelling for my Dad and lots of meals and events without him in our childhood. There were spankings and chores and a punched wall and a punched window. There is lots of interrupting (or invalidating as our family counselor said in 1984), even to this day. We are a proud, vocal, strong-willed group. Interestingly, me and my siblings all married quiet, mild people. I think to balance us out. As loud as my parents are, they are loving and fun and enjoy each other's company. They've learned to take their space when they need to and to agree to disagree sometimes.
We got the pleasure of enjoying having lunch with my in-laws yesterday. I love them. They are the opposite of my parents. Quiet, calm, always pleasant, warm and approachable. We had a nice time with them. I rely on their strength and I have a spiritual connection with them that I don't have with my own family because I am a convert to the church. They also have a long and successful marriage. I'm sure it hasn't been without pain and difficulty and disagreements, but they keep making it work and continue to be happy together. They also enjoy each other's company and love to do things together.
I think that can be key. No matter what different personality types are involved, a marriage needs to be enjoyable throughout the trials and difficulties. Being able to laugh and keep each other company is important.
Afterward our lunch yesterday, my husband asked me, "Do you ever wonder if our parents have dealt with something in their marriage without us knowing like we are dealing with addiction without most people in our lives knowing it?"
It's a great question and it ties back to that quote that floats around that says something like "Everyone is fighting some kind of battle so be kind".
I think when it comes to our marriages, we need to see them as something independent of who I am and who my husband is. It is its own creation and it includes us, and our families and the kids and the people we associate with and our jobs and our home and our callings. It's a stew.
There is a teaching by Joseph Smith on marriage that I love:
“Marriage [is] an institution of heaven, instituted in the garden of Eden.”
“It is the duty of a husband to love, cherish, and nourish his wife, and cleave unto her and none else [see D&C 42:22]; he ought to honor her as himself, and he ought to regard her feelings with tenderness, for she is his flesh, and his bone, designed to be an help unto him, both in temporal, and spiritual things; one into whose bosom he can pour all his complaints without reserve, who is willing (being designed) to take part of his burden, to soothe and encourage his feelings by her gentle voice.
“It is the place of the man, to stand at the head of his family, … not to rule over his wife as a tyrant, neither as one who is fearful or jealous that his wife will get out of her place, and prevent him from exercising his authority. It is his duty to be a man of God (for a man of God is a man of wisdom,) ready at all times to obtain from the scriptures, the revelations, and from on high, such instructions as are necessary for the edification, and salvation of his household.”
At a meeting of Relief Society sisters, Joseph Smith said: “You need not be teasing your husbands because of their deeds, but let the weight of your innocence, kindness and affection be felt, which is more mighty than a millstone hung about the neck; not war, not jangle [quarreling], not contradiction, or dispute, but meekness, love, purity—these are the things that should magnify you in the eyes of all good men. …
“… When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed with care and difficulty, if he can meet a smile instead of an argument or a murmur—if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings; when the mind is going to despair, it needs a solace of affection and kindness. … When you go home, never give a cross or unkind word to your husbands, but let kindness, charity and love crown your works henceforward.”
As wives of addicts, we may feel a twinge of pain at the words, "cleave unto her and none else". But for me, I know that my husband is desperately cleaving unto me to help him overcome this. I know how much he needs me. And when he falls and is hurting and feeling guilty, I need to be kind. I can do that and still maintain boundaries. Our husbands do indeed have a mighty millstone hung about their necks and we have gifts to help lighten that load.
We each have responsibilities in our marriage. And we with both succeed and fail to varying degrees. It will be hard, but the reason we make commitments is to give us something to cling to during the hard times when we're not sure we can go on. We go on because we promised we would go on.
I recently read a sweet blog about a marriage. I like it because it's honest, but it gives a good perspective on what lifetime commitment means. Read it here.
It may sound here like I'm putting it all on the wives to be strong and endure everything. I don't mean to sound that way. I just hope to show that all people are different and all marriages are different and I think by the examples I've seen personally, and read about in this blog, it is possible to get through the rocky stuff together with a lot of patience and forgiveness. I think it will be worth it.