When my husband and I were dating we discussed some of the ‘bigger’ issues that we might face IF we decided to get married. Ed was thirteen years my senior and had been married before. He was the father of two sons, and they had been used against him during a very painful divorce. He was firm – he did not want any more children because it was just too hard to lose them. I, on the other hand, had never been married and children were an important part of my life. I wanted to be a mother!
We talked at length about this issue and shared our feelings. It was a deal breaker for me. I understood how Ed felt and he was very sympathetic to my feelings. After much prayer and discussion, we agreed that we would have two children. It was an acceptable compromise on both our parts. We entered into our marriage with a clear understanding about this critical issue. We are happily parents of two sons. Had we not discussed this prior to getting married, it could have turned out much differently.
Another challenging decision came to light after we had children and the subject of religion came up. Although we were both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we were not active. We had made great non-member friends and enjoyed our weekends just having fun! Going to church each Sunday was not on our radar.
All that changed in November 1977. The lack of spiritually and gospel training in our home was brought sharply into focus. Our oldest son, now three years old, was attending preschool and learning about the way our country was discovered. They learned of the hardships of the first winter and the Thanksgiving feast that followed the abundant harvest. The children prepared a similar feast and all the parents were invited to attend. Britt was to be a Pilgrim and excitedly went about his preparations – making sure his mom and dad would attend.
When the day came, the food was set out on the little classroom tables and we all gathered around for prayer to give thanks and bless the food. Of the twenty or more children at the table, there was only one who didn’t know how to pray – our son. He looked at us and the other children and quickly turned away to hide the tears. As his parents, we had not even bothered to teach our son the simplest form of prayer. Both Ed and I made a commitment that day that we would teach our children the gospel in our home and attend church.
One might think this was a happy ending, but I was not as prepared for the ‘fast track’ that my husband was on. When he decides to do something, he gives it his all. I am a little slower, like to think about it, and take a more cautious approach. We attended church, reluctantly held small callings, and became part of the ward family. We had many discussions about when we would be ready to take out family to the temple. We actively listened to each other, had some ‘heated’ arguments, and eventually reached a mutual decision of when we BOTH would be ready. It would have been much easier to have discussed this BEFORE we were married but it didn’t seem to be a problem since we were both inactive.
In Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, he gives great counsel for those who are facing gridlock problems in their marriage:
- Respect each other’s dreams. It we are aware of our spouses’ dreams, we can consider helping each other realize them. Ed wanted to prepare to go to the temple Immediately. I wanted to feel like I was more prepared to make and keep the covenants that I would make in the temple. I was not opposed to being an eternal family, I just wanted to be ready.
- Explore the dreams. Discuss why the dream is important. Take turns being am active listener and speaker. Talk honesty and suspend judgment.
- Be aware is the discussion is getting stressful. Stop for a few minutes and do something that will calm you.
- Reach a temporary compromise. Make peace with the issue, accepting the difference, and establishing a compromise that will help to continue the discussion. It may not get solved right away but keep working on it together.
Ed and I discussed going to the temple. He kept up his pace of activity but allowed me time to prepare and make sure it was also my decision when we went to the temple. He respected my decision. This has been the best decision we have jointly made in our marriage. We are an eternal family and have received many blessings from our attendance and commitment. We are fortunate that we were able to agree on the timing and pace. It did not divide us, rather it brought us closer together.