There are different kinds of marriages; today I want to focus on just two. Elder Bruce C. Hafen describes covenant marriage as giving 100% and contract marriage as 50%.
A contract marriage is often composed of two people who are in it for themselves. As long as their personal happiness and needs are being met, they are content to remain in the marriage. They don’t seek transcendence as much as sustained autonomy and individualism. When one’s needs get overwhelming or their situation becomes boring or changes in any way that’s not pleasing for the other, divorce is an easy exit door and is used regularly in our society.
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A covenant marriage is between the husband, wife, and the Savior. As the two individually seek to come closer to the Savior by greater discipleship, they naturally come closer to each other as well. The needs of the individual are swallowed up in the needs of the whole, and each person gives all they have to the other and to Christ.
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Wednesday this week, my husband was at a youth activity with three of our daughters. I stayed home with the other four children, and as I helped them tidy up their rooms and get ready for bed, I saw a box of candy bars that my son had stashed in his room. He had gotten them out from under my bed (for my Primary kids’ birthdays), and was hiding them in his closet and eating them at will with his 8 year old (and newly baptized) sister. The baby is 7 weeks old and has been awake and crying for hours, and then my 4 year old daughter tells me she hates me. Because I had four broken hours of sleep last night and the nights previous look much the same for the past month, my ability to cope diminished quickly. I called my husband at his YM activity (he’s in the YM Presidency), and asked him to come home to relieve me. Their activity was about over, but it wasn’t fully, but he left immediately with our daughters.
He got home in about five minutes, asked where I was at with the discipline and suggested I leave right away with the baby; I should take him on a walk so I can feel better and he can fall asleep. I did this. I walked for about 20 minutes and had returned home when my 8 year old daughter was storming out the door to run away. She felt so unloved with the consequences of her stealing coming down hard. This has been an ongoing problem with her and her brother and he lost his toys last week, all of them, as a consequence for his continued stealing from others. She was told she was getting the same one.
I let her go for a little while, but had her eldest sister ride her bike up to where she was and hand her a pair of shoes – she had left in her pajamas. She did, and when I finally caught up to them, the eldest had given her younger sister some good advice and was ready to leave. I squatted down next to Clara and we talked about the situation. We got to a place of resolution and determination for improvement and finally closure.
Tonight, my husband is gone with the scouts at an overnight camp. It’s my turn to support him in his calling and hold down the fort. This kind of commitment on my part takes so much more than 50%. If I were trying to decide where the cutoff line was of “enough” from me and “enough” from him, mine would always feel overburdened and stretched beyond reasonable, and I’m sure he’d feel that way, too. In a marriage, it’s just too massive and full to try and find where to carve out pieces of yourself. You become so much greater and more than you ever could on your own, but one can only get there when lost in the work of the marriage and family.
The stress of parenting is real, and there isn’t a lot of relief from it, especially if there are many children. Having a covenant marriage means I know my husband will be there for me when my steps are faltering and my sanity waning, and that as we work hard for each other, the Holy Spirit of Promise seals our hearts together and pulls us closer to Christ in our journey. It is a full gift of the heart, and the only kind of marriage that can truly feel safe and allow each other to progress eternally. It starts in the temple, but covenant marriage endures through the day to day stresses and upsets. The desire that got us there at the beginning must now extend beyond to eternity together.
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