“The Apostle Paul likened life to a race. To the Hebrews he urged, ‘Let us lay aside … the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.In our zeal, let us not overlook the sage counsel from Ecclesiastes: ‘The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.’ Actually, the prize belongs to him or her who endures to the end.”
Twenty years of marriage has taught me that happiness in marriage is contingent upon putting all the principles of the gospel into practice. Marriage was created by God with Adam and Eve, and can only thrive when it’s done in the manner He has laid out.
It’s His game, and He made the rules. We choose either to play by the rules, or we’re playing at something else that isn’t as fun for everyone involved.
As we have passed through time, my wife and I have observed ourselves and our brothers and sisters and many of our friends begin their marriages with lots of excitement and anticipation. This is limerance in action, and it can be a good thing. Limerance is the initial power that gives a marriage its first exciting burst of energy to move forward.
Then, months or sometimes even years later, these same hopeful relationships explode, injuring or destroying everyone involved. Often the reasons given as to why the relationship ended (immorality, finances, anger, irreconcilable differences) aren’t the whole story.
The world of marriage can be like a minefield with a safe path down the middle. Finding that safer path is not rocket science. The safe path is following the plain and simple principles found in the gospel.
You don’t have to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to have a happy and successful marriage relationship in this life, but it’s in the gospel where we gain awareness of what it takes to accomplish that, and where we gain access to powerful tools that can help us.
It is only in the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints, where the Lord’s priesthood power resides, there is a hope of extending relationships (with those we love) beyond our temporal existence.
If Marriage is a Game, These are the Rules…
When we follow the path God has laid out for marriage, utilizing such principles as:
- Faith in God and in our spouse,
- Repentance when we hurt our spouse (which we always will in mortality),
- charity and service to our spouse and allowing our spouse to serve us,
- forgiveness when our spouse hurts us (which they always will in mortality),
- facing and moving through fears and insecurities,
- moral cleanliness which saves our strength for our marriage relationship,
- temple marriage for time and eternity,
- humility to allow us to forgive and be forgiven,
- longsuffering in enduring inevitable challenges,
- Cleaving physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally unto your spouse and none else,
- Leaving parents to live in and create a separate home with your spouse
- hope that life will get better than it might be now,
- kindness in and out of the bedroom,
- love expressed verbally, physically, and frequently,
- standing in holy places so the Lord and our spouse can help us stay on the path,
- NOT standing in unholy places so the Lord and our spouse can trust us,
- scripture study to learn the rules and game strategy for ourselves and our family,
- family home evening which strengthens family bonds,
- daily prayer which anchors us to the Lord,
- and so on…
…then our marriages will pass safely through time and into the next life. They develop the habits that enable our marriages to grow and thrive, now and forever.
“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say…”
It’s when a couple holds to a temporal perspective, or they find such a path too boring, inconvenient, or restrictive, they then stray from the path by:
- living together before marriage, not trusting themselves to grow together sexually,
- engaging in intimacies before marriage that program mind and body to reduce inhibitions regarding extramarital sex,
- getting married outside of the temple and risking loss of essential eternal family links,
- having children before marriage and depriving those children of their rights and complete parental influences,
- committing adultery and dealing near-fatal spiritual wounds to all involved parties,
- harboring pride that prevents forgiveness and the Atonement’s healing,
- keeping secrets that prevent our spouse from knowing us and helping us to overcome our struggles and weaknesses,
- expressing selfishness that shrivels our souls, our sexuality and our progression,
- creating proximity, mental or emotional separations that strangle and weaken marital bonds and increase temptation to sin,
- Married and living together but trying to live separate lives like roommates
- One or both harboring the belief that they will stay together but keep themselves open for the day when one or both changes and it time to move on and give someone else a turn
- forcing silence that starves our spouse from the intimacy they crave,
- holding grudges that bring daily pain to ourselves, and alienate our spouse
- exercising coercion that prevents growth and thwarts intimacy and love,
- and so on…
These other paths and rules lead to stepping on emotional mines. These mines blow up marriages entirely, or cause people to live in mutilated, unhappy, quasi-marriage relationships.
“If you have made no mistakes, then you do not need the Atonement. If you have made mistakes, and all of us have, whether minor or serious, then you have an enormous need to find out how they can be erased so that you are no longer in darkness.“Jesus Christ is the light and the life of the world. As we fix our gaze on His teachings, we will be guided to…spiritual safety.”
But what if our mortal weaknesses pull us from the safe path despite our best efforts? What if we find a mine, and we become wounded in some way through our actions or our spouse’s?
The Lord provides a built in way back onto the safe path. It’s called repentance and forgiveness, through the Lord’s Atonement.
If we stray from the path, as long as we both repent, exercise humility, and get back in the game and play by the Lord’s rules, our marriages can ultimately endure the test of time and eternity.
Even if only one spouse decides to play by the rules, the entire situation can improve greatly for all. If our current relationship explodes despite our best efforts, playing by the Lord’s rules can protect us from permanent harm. It can keep us from perpetuating bad marital habits, and help us to find future marital success later with a spouse who also plays by the rules.
A blessing of being in the LDS church is that it reminds us frequently of the Lord’s eternal perspective. Having a marriage built upon the principles of the gospel has given us so much more to marriage than ‘til death us do part’. Twenty years of marriage for me has been a drop in the bucket of eternity. What I discovered is that along with the marital growing pains, there has been a joy, and peace, and a hope for fairer playing weather tomorrow that the gospel brings.
 Thomas Monson, “The Race of Life”, Ensign, May 2012
 The concept of limerance is explained in Joe Beam’s blog, “Choosing Between Lover or Spouse” in greater detail: http://www.marriagehelper.com/lover_or_spouse.php
 Doctrine & Covenants 82:10
 See Part II of “Protect the Children”, Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, November 2012: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/protect-the-children?lang=eng&media=audio
 Boyd K. Packer, “The Atonement”, Ensign, November 2012, emphasis added