There are many different kinds of love, and love takes on many forms. People have been trying to define love for centuries, and I’m not sure that anyone has actually been very successful. Since everyone has their own idea of what love is, I thought I may as well throw in my two cents worth. In the interest of brevity, this post will only deal with the kind of love required for marriage. This opinion is my own and may be different from yours. I speak as a wife of 37 years, which is not to say that I’m an “expert” on love. I’m still learning, and will still be learning until I leave this earth.
Dad gave us advice when we were growing up. He said that at the time we were considering marriage, we should stand back and take a second look. We should picture the prospective spouse coming in sweaty and smelly from a full day of work in the yard. We should think about the person first thing in the morning before teeth are brushed and hair is combed. How will the person react when babies are poopy, kids are throwing up, and the house is a mess? Will he/she be happy when finances are stretched to the limit? How will she/he react in time of crisis? If you know the answers to these questions and more, and you think you still love the person, it’s time to get married. If not, stand back and take a third look.
I think that was pretty good advice. It was advice that I took, and it served me well. I may or may not have been guilty of overkill by giving the engagement ring back three times, but the end result is a 37-year happy marriage. We’ve had our ups and downs like any marriage, but we love each other much more now than we did 37 years ago.
There are a few things I would add to Dad’s advice. Marry someone who is patient and kind. Marry someone you trust literally with your life and who you know will be loyal forever. Are your backgrounds compatible? You are never going to match backgrounds completely, nor should you, because variety is the spice of life. There is something to be said, though, for at least having similar backgrounds. Religious beliefs also need to be considered. My parents were not of the same faith until the LDS missionaries came to our door when I was ten years old, and they did fine. However, differing religious beliefs often cause tension between couples. If you are of different faiths, will you at least be tolerant and supportive of each other? How will you raise your children?
Marrying in the faith is of significant importance for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of our belief in eternal families. We are “sealed” as families “for time and all eternity” in holy temples, as opposed to “until death do us part.” Only worthy members may enter the temple. Therefore, if an LDS member marries outside the faith in a civil ceremony, she/he is giving up an eternal marriage and family. That’s a big deal.
Consider my own situation as an example. I was a member, but I was not an active, practicing member and not able (or even willing) to enter the temple. By the grace of heaven, I managed to fall in love with another member of the church. It truly is a miracle, because I was in no way looking to marry within my own faith. I truly believe that my Heavenly Father was watching out for me and gave His ungrateful child a chance at an eternal marriage that at the time I didn’t even want. I knew how important a temple marriage was for my prospective husband, so we had many discussions about it. It was one of the reasons I gave the ring back three times. I had to be sure that he would be happy marrying me even if we were never sealed in the temple. I didn’t want religion to be a bone of contention in our marriage. I also didn’t want him thinking that eventually I would “come around,” because at the time, I had no intention of “coming around.” I didn’t want to hurt him.
In the end, he patiently waited 17 years and 4 children to have our family sealed in the temple for eternity. Yes, my husband is truly a saint. This is not something that I recommend for any couple. Although he told me that he was not marrying me with any expectation that I would eventually “come around,” in reality, that’s exactly what he did. We worked through all this, but there was a price we paid as a couple, and there was a price that our children paid. I honestly don’t understand why all four of our children are active members of the church, all served missions for the church, and all are temple worthy. This is proof to me that Heavenly Father loves me and blesses me, even when I am obnoxious and disobedient.
Thus, it is my advice for any couple (LDS or not) to seriously rethink a marriage outside your faith. It can work, but it can also be very difficult. In my case, I believe it worked for two reasons, (1) my husband truly is a saint with the patience of Job; and (2) my husband had been married before and divorced, and was determined not to have another failed marriage. In our case (and this may or may not be the case for other couples), the experience of his divorce made him more determined to be a better husband (often better than I deserved).
Having said all of this, what then is my definition of the kind of love marriage requires?
- Looking at someone’s faults and loving them anyway.
- Being able to work together even in the rough times.
- An acknowledgement that we don’t always look our best, and we may not in any way be attractive in some situations (thus physical attraction, while wonderful, doesn’t necessarily reach the top of the critical list of how to choose a spouse).
- Knowing and being able to live with the background and religion of your spouse.
- Being kind to someone and knowing that kindness will always be returned.
- Always having patience with one another.
- Being tolerant and supportive of one another.
- Impeccable loyalty.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.