Whenever I have the chance and the situation is right, I’ll ask people who have been married a few years a question that is met first with surprise, then with confusion, then with deep contemplation and finally with wisdom.
The question is simple–but oh, so complex.
“How did you overcome thoughts of divorce?”
I’ve asked this question over a hundred times, and while it seems really probing, it is surprising how much people will tell you if you just ask.
There are three categories of responses:
1) A handful said, ‘It honestly never crossed my mind.’
2) A few said, ‘I divorced them the first time, but as for this marriage…’
3) But most just say, ‘Phew–tough question…’
In the end though, they all tell me that marriage is “hard.”
Five months into marriage, I can say that the only hard thing is staying humble as I beat my wife in Rummikub over and over and over or making sure I don’t overcook the burgers on our Saturday bbq’s or finding a baby to hold during church.
Now I know that most of you married folks are thinking, ‘Ha…just wait.’
And I know that things will get hard, but for now we are just enjoying our single married life (all the benefits of being single AND married).
But I know that there will come moments when playing games will seem like a distant memory, bbq’s will be a great time for me to get out of the house and we are going to be looking for some young naive couple to hold our kids during church.
And it is those hard times that yield solid wisdom..so that hopefully, when they come, we are not surprised, but we are ready.
So down to it–the advice.
The advice that I’ve been given most of the time as a result of this question is just as simple yet just as complex:
Just keep going.
Lift your head up from the thorns and see the beauty that is the garden.
Yes there are hard times, but if you keep perspective that everything will work out, it does.
Now I’ve met a lot of people where ‘working out’ means divorce and I’ve seem many situations that require divorce. Those are not the situations that people are talking about. Nor are they the situations that Dr. Alan J Hawkins, a man who has devoted his life to studying marriages was talking about when he said, “a large majority of individuals in unhappy marriages who hang in there and avoid divorce end up reporting their marriages are very happy a few years later.” (“Should I keep Trying to Work it Out”)
Or, in the words of Jeffrey R Holland, “Don’t give up…Don’t you quit….You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead–a lot of it…You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come” (“An High Priest of Good things to Come,” Oct 1999 General conference)
I’m grateful for the wisdom of religious leaders, social scientists and the 100+ people who have helped me to see that building up enough momentum during the fun downhill parts of marriage will give you enough inertia and desire to get you through the hard uphill parts as well.