According to Malcom Gladwell, there is a rule that dictates that after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice at any particular skill or craft, one masters that craft or skill.
This tells me that after 9 years of marriage (which equates to about 63,504 hours, give or take a few) I can consider myself quite the expert (tongue-in-cheek, by the way. I'm flying by the seat of my pants as is everyone else I know).
Back in February, a young RM who I greatly admire posted a vulnerable question on Facebook, which I will sum up here: For those of you who are married, what are the benefits of marriage? Is it worth going through all the conflict, the hardships, and the trials that come with being married, and if so, why?
Of course, many far more qualified and eloquent writers than I went on to comment on his question (last I checked, there were over a hundred comments), but that question has been stuck in my mind for a while now, and I feel that now, two days after my 9th anniversary, is probably a good time for this expert to take a shot at answering these questions beyond what would be appropriate in a Facebook comment section (and with a real keyboard, not just my phone). I want to share my feelings on marriage.
My marriage, to be specific.
Steve and I met when we had both pretty much given up on the LDS dating game. I was a 20-year old 3rd-year at EAC (which, yes, is a 2-year college, long story), and he was a 22-year-old RM who looked like a teenager.
I'm not exaggerating. I thought he was 17 when I first met him.
Can you blame me? Look at that baby face!
As I wrote in my version of our love story, we started dating really just because it sounded like fun. We both had been rejected one too many times before, and although I can't speak for him, I was sick of hanging out with and/or falling for guys who just wanted to eat my food or flirt with my cute roommates (I can't blame them. My roommates were adorable).
So, after a little prodding from some of the best people in my life, I decided that with Steve, I had nothing left to lose (I was going on a mission, after all), and I gave it a shot. I still remember coming home to visit a week after we'd started dating and casually telling a friend from high school that I had my first boyfriend ever.
"Don't worry, though--it's not like we're gonna get married or anything," I added confidently.
Two years and one mission later, we got married.
Us on our wedding morning, getting ready to leave for the temple
Coming out of the temple, one hour and life-changing covenant later
We look well together, don't we?
This part of our relationship was pure bliss for me. I genuinely can't remember any difficulties stemming from our relationship during this time, and although we had our basic concerns (I was quite sick during this time, and Steve let me know later that he actually thought I was going to die a young death and leave him a widower for the rest of his life), when we were together, nothing could touch us.
Life in that first year was just awesome. We had a fantastic group of friends, Steve had a great job, and we absolutely loved everything about being newlyweds. I still remember the feeling of waking up next to Steve the morning after we'd been married and thinking, "We don't have to say good-night to each other at the door anymore! I am so lucky!"
While we did have a few of the little bumps of living with a new person that always happen (i.e., growing up in a family of 13, I only wanted to register for practical, bulk items on our wedding registry, and Steve had to keep reminding me that our family was only 2 people), we got along well.
I want to add the caveat here that I acknowledge that our story is only ours, and that while I'm not sharing in order to compare to anyone else, I do feel truly blessed that my husband is my best friend. He's easy for me to talk to, and we have a lot of the same interests. I also know other couples who seem like complete opposites who also have amazing marriages, despite them having completely different interests or tastes. No story is the same, and while anecdotes and specific advice doesn't always apply across the board, true principles always do.
Our "newlywed" stage didn't last long--we found out we were pregnant with Jack only 2 months after we were married (surprise!), and had him a month before our first anniversary.
Yes, the math checks out.
...and then Maggie.
During this time, our marriage had its fair share of ups and downs. While I won't get into details, I will let you know that both Steve and I had to face some demons (including depression) that we brought into marriage with us. While we were having kids so quickly, we tried to make time for our marriage as well,
This trip to Havasupai was absolutely magical. Especially because we didn't bring our kids.
I love watching my kids play with my husband.
About a year and a half after Maggie was born, our marriage went through its hardest time yet.
During this time, I learned the hard way that Satan attacks marriages the same way he attacks testimonies, and unless we both were making determined, intentional decisions to try to improve our marriage (for me, this had to be done through taking an honest inventory of my own emotional, spiritual, and mental health, and then working on those areas where I was struggling), it wouldn't be a healthy one, and definitely not a happy one.
I learned things about myself I had never really known or wanted to acknowledge before, and I learned things about Steve that I had never really known or wanted to acknowledge before.
It was hard.
I went through a deep depression during this time, and although I would never wish to relive this year, I learned lessons from this year that I could never have possibly learned any other way.
The biggest lesson?
Focus on God first. Everything else comes into its proper place when that happens, even when it seems messy and impossible that things can possibly work out.
You see, marriage is like conversion--just as conversion does not come from a once-in-a-lifetime decision, marriage doesn't, either. It's the series of little, daily, forgettable decisions we make, whether intentionally or unintentionally, every day, that forge a relationship. Do I spend dinner checking Facebook, or focus on talking to my husband with my phone in the other room? Do I tell him about that little thing I did that will probably irritate him, or do I sweep it under the rug and hope he doesn't notice? Do I respond to the message from that guy I had a crush on in high school? Do I bring up that difficult topic or let it go unresolved?
Some of the decisions have farther-reaching effects than others, but just as with the gospel, what we decide to do in our marriage affects more than just the present. The implications are unfathomable.
With a roommate or a best friend or even a sibling, when we have a fight, we know that we can always take a break from the relationship. Give it a few days (or weeks) to blow over, and then reevaluate what needs to happen next. Usually by that point, it's not even an issue, and when things get hard, we can always move on.
Even in companionships on a mission, while the break isn't an option, we know that at most we have to put up with this companion for 6--maybe 9--months. Tops.
In a marriage, however, while separation is a necessity in some situations where abuse is present, those qualifiers didn't apply to my marriage, so when an issue came up that needed to be addressed, I had two choices--either deal with it, or don't.
Dealing with it sometimes involved long nights, tears, silent moments of discomfort, even yelling.
Not dealing with it involved me feeling like a victim and passively-aggressively doing what I could to get things to go my way.
As you can see, I've experienced both options numerous times.
But through it all, no matter what, I knew I was going to do everything I possibly could to stick it out. Because I signed up for eternity, and that's what I want to get with this guy.
And I am SO glad we've made it this far.
Because as bad as it got, the joy from when the times are good?
I can't begin to describe what it is like to watch a man who I admired and loved when we first met grow, change, and become even more than I could have ever thought possible.
And it's impossible to describe the joy that comes from the idea of getting to continue to progress with him by my side, supporting me, loving me, and calling me out when I need it.
And believe me. I often need it.
he may have a point
There is something about having a friend, not just to tell about my difficulties and successes, but who lives them with and through me. When Steve has a bad day at work and I listen to him tell me about it, I ache for him. When I finished my marathon, he was more proud than I was.
So in answer to the questions, yes. Marriage is worth it.
Because although the risk for trials, hurts, and heartaches increases exponentially after marriage (and subsequent to the addition of each child to the family), the rewards are more than worth it. Nothing makes people happier than rich, meaningful relationships.
And after all, isn't that what the Plan of Salvation is all about? Relationships?
I'd like to think so. And I'm excited for what the future will bring to mine.