Dislike the Dent, Love the Driver

CRASH!  That horrible sound of impact as the back of our van met the front of our trailer hitch.  Our family was in the car as we were hurrying to the children’s piano recital.  I groaned.  Mark jumped out to survey the damage (luckily he was the driver).  He got back in, reported the damage, and we were on our way.  “Hey!” said the voice of our young driver in the backseat, “Is that all the reaction he gets?  Dad just wrecked the car… all that I did was pull out in front of another car and everyone started yelling!?”
Well… yes…. pulling out in front an oncoming car was a very frightening experience for all of us – worth a little yelling.   But why would I yell at Mark for a large dent in the van?  What good would that do?  What harm would it do is the better question.  The trailer was not in its usual spot.  He certainly didn’t do it on purpose.  Our feelings on the matter were the same.  He would not have yelled at me if I had been the driver.  It is not the way we work... thankfully.
When we were engaged, Mark and I were asked to speak in church on the topic of successful marriage.  We thought it a bit unusual since neither of us had been married – but we did our research and presented our talks.  Several members of the congregation told us afterward that we would, indeed, be successful if we would follow what we had learned.  All that I could ever remember from that day is that I mentioned that selfishness has no part in a marriage.
Haha – at that stage of life I couldn’t have even guessed what that meant – but the words have stayed with me and I have to catch myself over and over as I try to implement them.  At this stage of life I can certainly testify that they are true.

This semester I have only one class – and in it I am studying Marriage and Family.  As a semester project I am required to blog for 6-8 hours on the subject of Marriage and Family.  At first I was excited, but there is that strange phenomena wherein something that is pleasurable becomes more of a chore once it becomes an assignment…  It’s a shame because these are some of my favorite subjects!!  Now I have only three weeks of class left so I had better get busy…  Today I am thinking of some events that occurred early in our relationship that have helped us to be successful and establish a loving home.

Engaged!

Mark was the third child in his family to marry.  He observed the first two marriages with interest.  They have also been successful, but in the beginning he noticed the normal adjustments to marriage and the small arguments that would arise.  He decided that he would not let little things bother him.  He married with with all of my many imperfections, and he was not bothered.  That set a great precedent for the two of us.
I think that there is a lot of bad advice parading around as good advice when it comes to all aspects of family.  I heard a story as a newlywed that had an impact on me.  In this story the couple had been told that they should write down and discuss the top 5 or 10 things that bugged them most about the other person. [At this point in the story I began to wonder what top 5 things I would write down???]  The wife made her list and it included items such as being bothered by the way the husband ate grapefruit.  She presented her list and then asked for his.  His list was blank.  He said that he loved her completely – all of her.  [Now I am really listening – forget the top top 5 things.]  My decision at that moment was to take any little thing that might be bothering me and instead think, “Well, that is part of who Mark is.  I love him completely and now I love that little thing about him also.”

So young!  So positive about our future!

Mark and I both have very strong personalities.  We both like to be right.  I can recall exactly where we were at the moment we made another excellent decision (we were exiting Hwy 101 on the Madonna Road offramp)… I don’t recall the conversation, but one of us had just proven ourselves “right.”  We were engaged at the time, and decided right there that “I told you so” would not have a place in our relationship.  That’s been a tough one, but we are a better couple for having made this choice.
Optimism – I think that one of the greatest strengths in our relationship has been that we expect it to be successful!  We expect to be happy together.  We expect it and we work at it.  Here are a few quotes on this subject:

  • Belief and doubt are living attitudes, and involve conduct on our part. … You make one of two possible universes true by your trust or mistrust.  [Thus] optimism and pessimism are definitions of the world, [and often we create the kind of world we live in because] our faith beforehand in an uncertified results is the only thing that makes the result come true. (William James, Essays on Faith and Morals)
  • Marriage… is no more satisfying than we are willing – striving – to make it.  Whether we “strive” to make the marriage work may be the most important ingredient in whether it does work. (Bruce Hafen, How We Lost the Plot)
  • Happiness does not come by pressing a button… it must be earned… This is within the reach of every couple, ever person… if both are willing to pay the price. (Spencer Kimball, Marriage and Divorce)

 

Los Angeles – 3 August 1989

We were married about a week when I realized what it meant when people said that a marriage would take a lot of work.  I can’t really define what that “work” is – I think that it has to be experienced.  We have often been told things such as  “It is easy for you because you have a happy marriage.”  Easy?  Why would it have been easier for us?  Granted, we chose each other very carefully and we are best friends… but easy?  Easy???  No.  Not easy.  We work very hard at our marriage.  Work, however,  can be fun.  People put a lot of effort into a lot of things – why not into their marriage?  A lot of effort by both of us has yielded a happy marriage.  We both expected to have a good marriage, we are both willing to do our part, and we have been rewarded more deeply than we had realized was possible.
…And it is good to know that we can dent the car, be disappointed, yet still be smiling when we arrive at the piano recital…

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