Enduring Relationships

Courtship-After-MarriageI’m in a stage of really working hard to get rid of old baggage and truly focus my life. I’m finding there is a physical component of decluttering my environment, a mental component of changing my habits and my thinking to accommodate the focus, but I’m also finding there is an electronic component — I’ve got a lot of digital garbage stashed in all kinds of places on hard drives, in email accounts, and in other places around the web!

That’s how I found the basis for this week’s blog thought. I found it back in 2014 in an email I received from an author named Marvin Marshall

Here is a question to consider if you are married–or in some variation of a married relationship–and would like to retain your original relationship: ‘If we were not married and you were still courting me, is that how you would talk to me?’

I have mixed reactions to the quote!

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that family is the reason for and the backbone of God’s Plan of Salvation. This makes marriage and spousal relationships high eternal priority. The proper, loving raising of children is also paramount.

The question, as framed by Dr. Marshall is great for evaluating if your boundaries are secure in your relationship. Marriages, courtships, friendships, and all other “-ships” are in danger of sinking if one or more of the people involved are so narcissistic o r even abusive as to run roughshod over your personal limits.

This is not advocating secrecy, this is advocating decency. Boundaries create respect, and there should always be a limit to the amount of unkindness, coercion, and worse that we are subjected to.

If your answer to the question as posed is no, and the behavior is frequent or if the behavior of your spouse or significant other is harming your self-esteem and your ability to view yourself and to function as a human being, I recommend you seek competent help immediately.

Except for evaluating the safety of your relationship, I think the question is actually worded incorrectly. I think the question should be, “If we were still courting, would I speak to you this way?”

(Because I have lost the context of this original quote and because I have been reading Dr. Marshall’s work for years, I suspect he meant something like this when he wrote the question.)

My husband and I are both on our second marriages. Neither of us is proud of this fact, but it remains a fact, anyway. So, we have chosen to learn from our past and our mistakes. One of the things that we have learned personally is that a bad marriage is miserable — but that a marriage is what we each choose to make it.

When my husband and I were dating and engaged, we made time for each other. We listened to each other. We supported each other’s dreams. We overlooked minor flaws. We spoke kindly to each other.

Had we not learned from our first attempts at marriage, these courtship habits would have faded. They have not for us.

Marriage makes maintaining the “little niceties” a little harder, because the person we love the most has become a fixture in our everyday life. As a woman, it is easy to just think of my husband as another object on my todo list. I could take his great qualities for granted, and I could focus on the things he does that create more work for me or just don’t fit with my ideas of how things should be around the home.

Or, I can choose to behave as if I am still courting him! I can look for his good qualities and tell him about them. I can pray for him every day. I can listen when he needs to talk about his frustrations at work. I can remember that he is my best friend, that he is willing to always be there for me and be the rock and anchor that I can depend upon. I can maintain gratitude for having such a wonderful man in my life.

The trick for me is to not worry about what he gives or does for me in return. Courtship was never about a “50-50 back-scratching arrangement”! Courtship was about having special moments and hours with someone that I dearly love and admire. I now have many more of those moments and hours than I ever could have had we chosen to remain only at the dating level.

My husband gives plenty to our marriage, and he has tons of ways to show me that he loves me and is true to our vows and covenants. The beauty is that I don’t dictate to him how that happens. I appreciate his unique ways of demonstrating his affections.

Another “counterintuitive principle”: I receive what I want more by relaxing and allowing my husband to be the man he has chosen to be rather than by trying to dictate who he should be and what he should do.