marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Game Of Life, Love and Marriage

Marriage itself is like a game. It has rules, and if you choose not to play by the rules, no one has any fun.[i]

My wife and two of my children recently joined in a stake activity called ‘The Game of Life’, based upon the board game of the same name. Some of you may have had a similar opportunity in your area. 

The floor of the gym in the stake center transformed into a living version of the board game ‘Life’ and the kids in the stake got the chance to do a dry run of what their future could possibly look like, and see how they felt about it.

Three Rules for the Adults

My wife reported that the first thing she and the other volunteers found was there were rules for them as well – three rules to remember:
*No changing the existing rules,
*no helicoptering over the kids, and
*have fun!

These rules required great amounts of self-control on the part of the adults.
My wife and the other volunteers naturally wanted kids to have the benefit of their wisdom and experience, but that would change the outcome of the game, the stake explained, and strip them of much of the benefit of learning from their own experiences.

The volunteers agreed, bit their tongues, and did their best to let it all happen naturally. They watched the kids make decisions from a temporal point of view, forget to pay tithing on payday, and experience shocks the adults could see coming across the room; sometimes things the adults had personally experienced in real life themselves.

So What Does “The Game of Life” Have to Do With Marriage?

Most of the kids married. There were more girls than boys at the game, so some of the girls drew widow cards, or got ‘married’ to a serviceman who was off on assignment, mostly raising children themselves. None of the arrangements happened on a ‘romantic’ basis. All of the marriages and the couples were randomly pre-arranged.

My wife observed the subsequent behavior choices of the kids with great interest. Some couples reacted with sarcasm or biting comments when under stress. Others responded with kindness and cooperation; they were going to make the best of whatever the game threw at them. 

Those who reacted with humor and good grace to every test and setback did better and seemed to enjoy the game more than those who succumbed to the temptation to speak harshly to each other.

My Daughter’s Experience

The marriage surprised her greatly (all the kids were surprised to find their spouses were chosen for them), but she and her ‘husband’ got going right away. They as a couple chose to cooperate and work together and roll with the changes. 

As the game continued, they got to know each other’s names, and talked to each other about what was happening. They took turns carrying the dice and the paperwork and everything else they needed to carry. They made up stories about their children along the way.

Halfway through the game, my daughter rolled the dice and learned that she had ‘died’ – her husband was now a widower. Instead of going over to the waiting area for dead people who are waiting for judgment, she continued to follow her spouse through the rest of the game, encouraging him from the ‘beyond’, even though she could not directly participate anymore. 

Through the process of them working together, she felt very connected to him, and even after her character died, she wanted to be there to encourage him and cheer him on. In the end, when his life was over, she greeted him and they happily sat together with the bishop to review their ‘life’.

My Son’s Experience

Our youngest son also ‘married’ a young girl from the stake he had never met before, and by the time they got to my wife’s station, they clearly struggled to get along. Despite his efforts to get along and be pleasant, his spouse’s attitude about him and the game didn’t seem optimistic. 

Later, he told us they did not talk much, and his ‘wife’ took it upon herself to make many of the decisions for the couple, often without asking him for his input. She would walk in front of him, and he would walk behind, carrying all their required paperwork. In addition, rather than be frugal, she insisted on having the most expensive of everything. (My wife saw this happening to many of the couples.)

When he asked her questions to try to get to know her better, she would not answer his questions. They got through the whole game and ‘died’ of old age together. After the game was over and they were waiting for Judgement (the part where the kids talked to the bishop about the experience), they did not sit together until they had to, and at one-point lost track of each other.

No one was shamed, but in the interview, they were asked to reflect on their experience. The Bishop asked each couple to think about how living the gospel did or would have helped their life (in retrospect) and eternal life in the future.

Our son said he tried his best to have a good experience, and even though his wife largely rejected his efforts, he felt that the scenario taught him some useful lessons about thrift and cooperation. We appreciated his efforts to do his best in a difficult situation.

And the winner was…?

The game was not exactly like the board game. Some actions during the game, although no points happened for them right away, brought reward after death – actions like paying tithing, accepting the burden and expense of children, paying off debt, and cooperation.
The couple who won the game had paid tithing on every payday, had 12 children and no debt, and calmly handled every challenge and setback together.

As an anecdote, my wife's favorite part was when the kids came to roll for how many children they would have. She couldn't tell them anything - unless they asked. Many of this kids didn't ask and just rolled. The number they landed on was the number of kids they would have. She was to ask them "would you like to roll again" and keep asking until they told her to stop. What the kids didn't know (or ask to find out) was that it wasn't a "re-roll". It was a "roll the dice as many times as you want to see how many -total- kids you end up with." Some of the kids just kept rolling. So one of the lessons was "ask" and investigate before you leap. 

…Love? Yes! (Sort of…)

Even though none of the pairings were romantically based as we prefer to do in our culture, those couples that did the best in the game followed the rules of marriage – the rules laid down by the Lord – and got through life with confidence that their hard work would pay off, sooner or later. 

“When we truly understand what it means to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take on new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden.”[ii]

The Game of Life wasn’t a perfect simulation of adulthood and marriage. Intimacy and sexuality is a balm that soothes the bumps of life, as well as being the sacred vehicle for procreation, and the children in this game had none of the balm – only the bumps. If they had anything, it was the example they were raised with and remembered, to be kind to each other, and to compromise.

Many of them openly wished to ‘die’ because the game felt so hard – a life of struggle and adversity, with no relief.  Some reinforcing thoughts about marriage that came to me from this social experiment was that a good sexual relationship can be part of that relief, when we have worked to create it and compromise together as a couple.

As well as the gift of sexuality, the Lord also gave us the rules of marriage. These rules come from living the gospel, and when they become part of you, everything is easier, including marriage. Some of the kids in our stake knew what to do from having lived the gospel and from watching the examples of their parents and others, while others struggled and revealed more selfish and temporal attitudes. 

Hopefully, preparatory experiences such as these can help us all reflect, and try to do a little bit better to practice the gospel and receive the blessings of doing so in our own marriages.

[i] The rules to make a great marriage are rules anyone can use, in or out of the Church. A quick list of them lives in The Family: A Proclamation to the World: “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities….”

1 comment:

Latter-Day Marriage said...

Could you post the details of how this game was set up and run? Sounds like something we might want to do here.