Editor’s Note: This article includes practices suggested by Church members that are not necessarily espoused by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As always, since this is not a publication of the Church, the views in this blog are solely those of the author.
This post is the second in a two-part series about the spiritual promptings that led Sonja to meet her husband (and how they make their marriage work). Read part one here.
I wouldn’t call myself an impulsive person — I see myself as decisive! Of one thing, I was certain: I didn’t have to “water myself down” in my relationship. I fully intended to move forward with the assurance that the Lord opened this door and I wasn’t going to let the grass grow under my feet! I would be open and vulnerable, nothing wavering.
I wish I could remember precisely what I sent back to him after his letter. Since I am a writer, I’m sure I had a lot of things I wanted him to know about: how I felt about the gospel, family, the importance of uplifting relationships, etc. All I remember for sure is that it fit (barely) into a 10” x 13” industrial-strength manila envelope. I secured it with packaging tape. I did include a note suggesting he take his time reading through it.
I invited him and his son to join our extended family at the beach on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. He explained that he had to work that day and wouldn’t be able to come. I mentioned I would be home by early afternoon on Sunday if he wanted to drive up (100 miles) after church.
When my sister and I got home from the beach, she headed off to a meeting and I was preparing to attend choir practice. I heard a knock on the door. I opened it and my response was “Oh my heck!” He was standing on my porch and I was completely smitten. (He had me at “Hello!”)
I invited him in and we sat in the living room. He just looked at me for several moments, so I asked, “What are you doing?” He smiled and said, “I’m imprinting you on my brain.” We visited for awhile and then I jumped up and told him I wanted to sing him a song. He indicated that he thought it would be embarrassing, so I told him to just sit there and I’d sing from the adjoining room. When I got the karaoke machine set up, I turned and he had followed me into the room. He said, “Driving up here today was something I never do… I may as well do this, too.” The song I chose? “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do.” As I finished singing, he stood up and hugged me for a long time. It felt like we had found home. After 25 years, he still hugs me the same way.
Although he lived 100 miles south, we spoke on the phone every day and he came up every Saturday and stayed for church before heading back home. Sometimes he would bring his 14-year-old son. When it became apparent that we were getting serious, I told him we would have to get married or quit seeing each other. His response? “Well, that’s not going to happen.” His next question? “Where are we going to live?” I said, “Together.” We started looking around for a house to rent close to his work, and I planned to be a stay-at-home wife. 56 days after we met, we were married for time in the Portland Temple and were sealed for eternity a year and 10 months later in the Seattle Temple.
I had been involved for about 10 years in research and development for a revolutionary therapeutic treatment for collapsing and releasing emotional toxins from abusive and toxic generational family cultures. It was coupled with an ongoing life skills class that was focused on the premise that if you didn’t learn healthy coping skills to improve your life, you would just keep recreating the same ineffective outcomes. I have studied and taught about developing emotional resilience, which teaches you how to think and respond differently to the events around you in order to have more productive outcomes. (It is very similar to the training done in the military to hopefully address a needed reduction in PTSD.) I love this quote: “Resilience transforms. It transforms hardship into challenge, failure into success, helplessness into power.”
However, all of this was a foreign language to my husband, whose focus for all of his adult life had been on welding, fitting, fabricating, and becoming a master craftsman with anything made from steel. However, I have never met a more teachable person in my life. I joke that he’s been in a life skills class for the past 25 years.
When I would hold life skills classes in our home, he would sit in the back of the room completely silent, listening to the interactions with and between the other students. None of it was escaping his notice, and he began sharing concepts with co-workers. One of the phrases he shared one day with an ironworker apprentice that had just been harshly reprimanded by a journeyman was “Create your day.” She asked what that meant. He told her, “If you don’t create the day you walk into, you’ll be walking into a day somebody else, who may not even like you, created.” Later that day, he saw her up on a mezzanine and he called out “How are you doing?” Her response, with a big smile on her face and a thumbs up, was “Making my day!”
After we had been married for just a few months, we each got a physical. We went to a nutritionist who was a former bishop. We didn’t tell him that we were newlyweds, but after the routine tests, he said, “I sense that both of you are suffering from what I can only refer to as ‘broken hearts.'” That definitely caught my attention! I shared that we were newlyweds and had both been through a lot. He said, “It will be important for you to heal so you don’t allow past events to affect your relationship.” Then he asked us if we wanted to learn an exercise that would ensure that Christ would continue to be the foundation of our relationship. Of course we did!
He had us sit facing each other. Each of us placed our right hand on the other person’s heart and looked steadily into the other’s eyes. Then he told us to alternate saying “I love you” to each other three times. “Each time,” he instructed us, “let the emotion go deeper as you continue to look into each other’s eyes.” Then we were to do the same with “I accept you.” Then say “In the name of Jesus Christ.” He said if there was ever a time we couldn’t do that, we would know that our relationship needed our attention and we needed to invite Christ back into it.
Through the years, we have added a song to this exercise.
Beginning a life together has many complexities. All of them are manageable when both of you are willing to be kind, patient, and loving. Most importantly, each partner must be able to say how they feel and ask for what they want. Since my husband and I both completely believe that it was Heavenly Father who brought us together, we have always included Him in our relationship. We choose to see each other the way Heavenly Father sees us.
Let me close by sharing with you one of my favorite memories.
When I completed my coaching certification, I worked for a few months with my mentor coach. I helped her put together intensive weekends for couples in relationship coaching. One of those workshops was focused around the husband and wife thinking about a metaphor that would express their relationship. They would journal about that and then share it with each other in the presence of the coach. What a great idea!
Since I tend to think in metaphor anyway, I could see my husband easily as the lighthouse on the rocky shore. Strong, solid, dependable, protective, and trustworthy. I saw myself as the raging sea of emotion — but no matter how hard I crashed into him, he never faltered. I didn’t crash into him to knock him down; I crash into him because that’s what I do!
We have many lighthouses in our little bungalow by the sea, large and small. Just a couple of years ago, I was pondering my metaphor and realized that I had never asked my husband what metaphor he would use to describe our relationship. When I asked him, he pondered for a few moments. Then he said, “Well, I can see that I’m the lighthouse.” He paused for a long time, then remarked, “You are the light and it’s my job to make sure you keep shining.” Oh my goodness! As you can imagine, my heart melted right down into a little puddle of goo.
We thank Heavenly Father every day for our loving companionship. No disagreement lasts for more than a couple of minutes ’til we are embracing, apologizing, and reassuring each other of our love. Our favorite place to be is together.
What a blessing it is to be in this season of life with such sweet companionship. I truly wish everyone could find and develop what we have together. Successful relationships are not made in heaven. They come in kits and you have to put them together by diligently following the Lord’s blueprint, which is in harmony with the nature of happiness.
To close, I heard a wonderful New Year’s greeting that I’ll pass along to each of you: “May the tears you cried in 2019 water the seeds you’re planting for 2020.”
Sonja lives with her husband, Dale, on Anderson Island, Washington. She and her husband are Church Service Missionaries serving in the Addiction Recovery Program, focusing on pornography and sex addiction. She is also a certified life coach and teaches "Life Skills for Emotional Self-Mastery" in her stake twice a month. She does not teach you only to process something traumatic done to you in the past; rather, she helps you learn to feel it, heal it, and LET GO of whatever you still do to yourself and to others in order to cope with what was done to you in the past.