One of the great blessings of the gospel is that we often enjoy counsel and inspiration on how to choose the right and be better. For married couples and soon-to-be-married couples, listening to the counsel from Church leaders about marriage can greatly improve your relationships and unity within the home.
President Spencer W. Kimball addressed Brigham Young University in 1976 in his talk, “Oneness in Marriage.” What he said then is still very applicable today. While his advice runs specific to those who are looking for spouses and preparing for marriage, it is applicable to married couples as well.
He said, “Honorable, happy, and successful marriage is surely the principal goal of every normal person.”
It is true that most of us want a happy marriage. However, we start to misunderstand marriage when we view it as an easy golden switch that turns on our happily ever after. It just doesn’t happen like that unfortunately. You can’t just find the right spouse. You need to be the right spouse in return. You have to prepare yourself as you find someone to wed for eternity.
There are no fairies or wishes, but there are blessings and prayer. President Kimball said, “In selecting a companion for life and for eternity, certainly the most careful planning and thinking and praying and fasting should be done to be sure that of all the decisions, this one must not be wrong. In true marriage there must be a union of minds as well as of hearts.”
You may fall in love with someone, but if minds are not united, the marriage will not be either. When minds are united, it makes compromising a little bit easier, but it still comes with its challenges.
Prior to marriage, couples often think that they will do anything for the other. The sense of permanency and dedication in marriage, though, brings side effects such as taking the other for granted. Suddenly, being unselfish can become a lot harder. It can take larger sacrifices.
“Two people coming from different backgrounds learn soon after the ceremony is performed that stark reality must be faced,” He said. “There is no longer a life of fantasy or of make-believe; we must come out of the clouds and put our feet firmly on the earth. Responsibility must be assumed and new duties must be accepted. Some personal freedoms must be relinquished, and many adjustments, unselfish adjustments, must be made.”
Engaged couples may think that they know each other better than anyone else, but once married there is still so much more to learn. You find out how that person is as a roommate. You adjust to sharing a household along with its chores such as dishes and laundry. A couple that used to bid each other good night and go separate ways now becomes a couple that shares a bed. Along with all of that comes finances and decisions that are beyond the wedding reception.
The love of your life can become the pain in your neck. The key word, though, is can. It doesn’t have to be that way. President Kimball gave a formula in which marriage won’t be perfect, but it will be happy.
“There is a never-failing formula which will guarantee to every couple a happy and eternal marriage; but like all formulas, the principal ingredients must not be left out, reduced, or limited,” He said. “The selection before courting and then the continued courting after the marriage process are equally important, but not more important than the marriage itself, the success of which depends upon the two individuals—not upon one, but upon two.”
The first ingredient, he says, requires that both spouses find the other close to perfection on all matters that are important to each individual. If one considers financial responsibility a matter of utmost important, then it is vital that their partner has that characteristic. You can’t marry someone that is perfect, but it is possible to find someone who meets the needs you find most important.
The second ingredient is simple but sometimes very hard to achieve. It is unselfishness.
The third ingredient requires “continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.”
And last, the couple must live the commandments of the gospel.
“A marriage may not always be even and incidentless, but it can be one of great peace,” President Kimball said. “A couple may have poverty, illness, disappointment, failures, and even death in the family, but even these will not rob them of their peace. The marriage can be a successful one so long as selfishness does not enter in. Troubles and problems will draw parents together into unbreakable unions if there is total unselfishness there.”
Couples must continually love each other, unselfishly. President Kimball compared love to a flower. A flower will wither if it does not receive food and water. Love reacts just the same if it does not receive admiration and “portions of love.”
He said, “Certainly the foods most vital for love are consideration, kindness, thoughtfulness, concern, expressions of affection, embraces of appreciation, admiration, pride, companionship, confidence, faith, partnership, equality, and interdependence.”
Marriage, just like any other relationship, requires work and tender care. It is not always easy, but with God, it is better.
“While marriage is difficult, and discordant and frustrated marriages are common, yet real, lasting happiness is possible, and marriage can be, more an exultant ecstasy than the human mind can conceive,” President Kimball said. “This is within the reach of every couple, every person.”