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Saturday, February 19, 2005 

Thirty-five years and still hanging on

Unless Rebecca was fooling us, we are supposed to talk about two related questions: "If I marry what does this mean religiously?" and "If I never marry what does this mean religiously?"

LDS doctrine is pretty straightforward: those who are sealed in a temple and endure to the end remain married to each other for eternity; those who are not sealed in a temple or who do not endure to the end are not married to each other after this life. That is, however, probably not enough of an answer for a blog post. So we add a question: "What does that mean?"

One thing it means is that ultimately we are not merely individuals. We are most fully who we are in relation, and marriage and parenthood are the relations in which we are most fully who we are. Presumably marriage and parenthood in this life are analogous to marriage and parenthood in the next life, and our experience with them now prepares us for life with our Father. So marriage in this life and parenthood as we know them are important preparations for our eternal lives, lives of relation rather than individuality. We think that explains why those who remain in an individual state can be angels in the celestial kingdom but not more.

The problem comes when we move from straightforward—and abstract—doctrine to particular cases. What about people who desire to be sealed but cannot? What about people who cannot have children? What about people who choose not to be sealed? Here, too, the doctrinal answer is straightforward: God will not withhold blessings from anyone who did not have the opportunity to receive those blessings, but we are responsible for the choices we make and the outcomes of those choices. Deciding what that means in individual cases is not so straightforward. Paul reminds us that we "see through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12), and this is an area in which the glass is particularly dark. There are a lot of things about sealings, marriage, and family that we do not understand well. But we know enough, in spite of the darkness of the glass, to say a few things: the highest form of human relation is marriage, it can be eternal, and God will not deny its blessings to anyone who comes to him in faith.

That said, we would rather talk about a different question: "What can I do to have a marriage that I would want to last eternally?" (We've all done this as students, right, taken the essay question that the teacher asked and turned it into the one we wanted to answer?)

As we approach thirty-five years of marriage, we see some marriages survive that we thought would fail, and we see marriages fail that we thought were perfect. We have often talked about the role of "luck"in a successful marriage, and we have to admit that luck probably played a role in ours. We didn’t know each other that well when we decided to get engaged after dating for less than a month. We knew each other a bit better after the four-month engagement. But there were still some surprises after marriage. Janice was shocked to discover that Jim didn’t think it was his sole responsibility to keep the car’s gas tank full, something she has not yet fully gotten over, and Jim was a bit surprised to discover that she didn’t feel any responsibility to make sure he had a clean shirt to wear. He has gotten over that. It ceased to be an issue about twenty years ago when Jim discovered the BYU Laundry. After years of struggle we have made the necessary Christmas compromises: Jim has agreed to help put up the tree as soon after Thanksgiving as possible, and Janice has accepted that we are not ever going to have any outside lighting that involves someone getting on a ladder.

But we think that luck may be only tangentially related to success in marriage. What makes or breaks a marriage in the long run is commitment. Both people have to be committed to the relationship. Both have to make sacrifices for the relationship and both have to want the other person to be happy and fulfilled. It sounds simplistic, but a marriage works if both people are committed to it, and it fails if one or both people want something else more than they want the marriage. It is luck if you get someone who defines a clean house the same way you do, but commitment is being willing to discuss the cleanliness of the house and to make compromises if needed.

A couple of weeks ago we were cleaning up after a dinner party and one of us said, "We work pretty well together don’t we?" That about sums it up. When you work well together, you want it to last a long, long time—eternally.

Excellent post- I liked the addition of how in there at the end.

I think that a lot of the luck comes in finding some one with whom you don't have to compromise too much, and some one who makes you want to make that kind of commitment that makes compromise possible.

I enjoyed this post very much, (Ah just like being back in teh 4th Ward Sunday School)

What I enjoyed about this post was this: "we are not merely individuals. We are most fully who we are in relation, and marriage and parenthood are the relations in which we are most fully who we are." It is for this reason I feel it important to really find someone and make sure they are what oyu are looking for. And thats why I think its important to date for, oh I don't know 5 years or so.

I also think that the part on commitment was right on. When selfishness comes in thats when the commitement begins to crumble. As disfunctional as my family may appear, my parents are always working together too, and always putting everyone elses needs before their own.
35 years huh? I have never heard the Faulconers fight (in front of people at least) and they are always working together, a great inspiration to everyone who knows them.

Thirty-five years! I can't imagine it from this point, but I'm hoping for it.

Being in a marriage relationship has brought out some traits in both of us that we didn't even know we had. Most of these "hidden" traits have been positive and pleasant, but we sure know for certain what we lack, and what we need to work on!

But I appreciate what you said about commitment. I will not take that for granted in my marriage any longer. Thank you!

Beautiful post. I agree with Mike. It is nice to hear the “how” of marriage, and I agree with Cameron that it is nice to have never seen you fight. I also agree with Carrie Ann, it is nice to know that you are committed to one another for the betterment of one another.

Luck + compromise + commitment = 35 plus years of happy marriage. Very impressive, I am glad to be someone to witness it first hand on a daily basis.

Wonderful post!

"Paul reminds us that we 'see through a glass darkly' (1 Corinthians 13:12), and this is an area in which the glass is particularly dark." It is often hard for many members of the LDS church to accept just how "dark" that "glass" is. It is difficult to not have all the answers to something of such eternal significance.

That being said, I AM grateful for the doctrines and plain, simple counsel given by those "who know" to help those of us trying our best to make our marriages and families as beautiful as they can be. From my 8 years of experience in marriage, I would say that letting go of my pride is the hardest thing to do, but also the most effective way to strengthen our relationship and trust with one another.

Thank you for this post!

-Suzie Petunia

There is so much personal growth that transpires in oneself, only after the commitment that comes with marriage, and then with children too.

Someone told me once that the way you know you love someone, is when their happiness means more to you than your own. The trick for me...after ten years of marriage, is maintaing that. Thinking of my companion and his happiness, before I think of myself. Just like Cameron said. Selfishness. Especially when you add children and real life tradgedy and drama into the mix.

He and I do work together, he and I are truly a team. Though sometimes, we forget what sport we are playing, and we get a little off course on our pathway to eternity.

Thank you for this post.

Wonderful post...thank you so much for sharing this perspective. I love how you also included your successes in marriage and how it all came together. A beautiful example. Congratulations on (what would seem) a very happy 35 years!

And Becca, I still find it SO interesting that my parents' names are Jan and Jim. Spooky... ;)

Enjoyed the post. Win and I just made twenty years, and I think a very important factor was realizing that we really needed to work at it.

We are so very different that it takes work even when everything is perfect. Since our lives have not been perfect, I have to admit it has taken more work, but it has been worth it.

Anyway, enjoyed visiting, it has been a while.


What strikes me about your post the most is you obvious love and committment to each other.

As someone who is about to get married, I really enjoyed the "how" and I think the lessons there will help my own marriage be more successful.

Thank you.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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