We've heard it a million times, right?
And it's usually approached in either one of two ways: you should get married ASAP to the right person in the right place at the right time, or marriage is really hard but worth it regardless.
About a month after we got married, I was even part of a Relief Society meeting where the lesson's main point was [amongst many tears and negative comments]: marriage is a huge trial but you have to do it anyways.
I wanted to raise my little newly-married hand and say something positive about marriage but I had the feeling that most of them would roll their eyes and humph condescendingly, "Newlyweds," as if I'd never witnessed another marriage besides my own.
And while being married for eight months certainly doesn't make me an expert, I think it's given me an insight into something important.
Marriage doesn't have to be hard.
Unquestionably there are marriages which are hard for reasons completely out of our control. [Victims of any type of abuse come to mind.] And my heart goes out to the women [and men] in those situations.
But generally speaking, I think that statement is true. Marriage doesn't have to be hard.
Sometimes I think our marriages are a product of our beliefs about marriage before it even begins, so that it becomes a type of self-fulfilling prophecy. Aka if we think and act like marriage is going to be a trial, it will be. But if that is true, then the reverse is also true. If we come into marriage believing that it will be beautiful, it will be.
Perhaps I am one of the lucky few who already had visions of what a beautiful marriage could be like. And perhaps I am one of the even luckier few whose husband had that same vision. [Thanks, Mom and Dad.]
But I don't think our beliefs about marriage at its inception have to be an indicator of what our marriages will be like, either. Beliefs can change, just as people can. And thankfully, we are given some tools to make our marriages stronger, better. Praying together. Studying the scriptures together. Continually dating each other. Spending quality time together. Making intimacy a priority. Being willing to put each other first. Going to church together. [To name a few.]
And if I could share one thing with the 20-year-old me who was feeling daunted by the "marriage is hard" lessons it would be that marriage doesn't have to be hard. Certainly hard things happen. But the marriage itself doesn't have to be hard. And it doesn't have to feel like work. In fact, ideally, it makes things easier.
Sure, it takes time. Yes, it takes effort. But effort doesn't have to feel the same way as work. To me, work has a negative connotation. But effort? Honestly, putting forth the effort to pray together, to read scriptures together, to date each other, to be patient with each other doesn't feel like work at all. It feels like the best thing I've ever done with my life. And it's pretty hard to feel like I'm working at it when I'm smiling and laughing so much of the time.
And so, yes, marry the right person in the right place at the right time. But right time doesn't necessarily mean right now. If it takes you awhile to find a right someone who earnestly believes that marriage can be beautiful, wait for them.
Why am I writing all of this? I guess because I wish I had heard a few more positive messages about marriage whilst in singlesland. [Sheesh, I wish I heard a few more of them now.]
And because I can attest to the fact that marriage really can be beautiful.
Beautiful and fun and wonderful.