When we were on our honeymoon we bought a little wooden plaque that had a miserable, forlorn-looking fellow drawn on it with a cloudburst pouring down on him. Beside him were these words: “Into each life a little rain must fall, BUT THIS IS RIDICULOUS!” At the time we thought it was very funny. It has taken on new meaning several times throughout our life together. We still have it and it serves as a humorous reminder that we’ve made it through some pretty difficult storms. And we’re going to do our best to keep on “making it.”
There will be hard times, even tragedies, in every couple’s life. These are the times that can bring you together or break you apart. If you will be determined that, no matter what happens, you are committed to each other and to your marriage, then there is no way these difficult times can break you apart.
To abandon your mate when life gets tough is like throwing away an exquisite diamond just before it has been polished to achieve its most brilliant sparkle. Holding on to each other allows the stormy seasons of life to serve as a bridge that will lead to a relationship more radiant and beautiful than you ever thought possible-a relationship that never could have had the full depth and beauty without the struggle. It’s good to remember that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalms 30: 5)
Accept Each Other’s Comforting
Sometimes when a deep sorrow or a difficult time comes into a marriage, one or the other spouse may put up a barrier that destroys the closeness you have developed. Stress and sadness do strange things. When you need loving arms around you the most, you may actually reject the effort of your mate to give you comfort, and you can’t even explain why you reject it. It can be very frustrating to the one who is trying to give comfort.
Even if you feel like you don’t want any hugs, accept them. The very act of opening up to a loving caress can break down the barrier and start to heal the heartbreak. Hold each other in your arms and allow your mate to cry. If you or your mate don’t cry, don’t be critical or accusing; just hold on to the embrace, and never accuse each other of not caring. Embracing brings about healthy healing. It’s as if energy from your mate infuses you with strength to go on, even when you are both suffering.
An internationally known university professor told us the story of his arriving home one day feeling overburdened and totally distraught. As he sat on the edge of his bed his wife asked him if he was all right. He found himself unable to reply and could only sit there and weep. His wife sat down beside him and held him in her arms without saying a word. That was the greatest thing she could have ever done for him at that moment. He said, “I needed that silent nurturing.”
Stormy seasons come in different forms. Following is an experience of a woman who vividly remembers a difficult time her parents went through when she was a child. She wrote:
My father was a hardworking farmer with a large family of nine children. My mother was supportive of his dream to have a successful farm. They had a large machine shed where two tractors, one of which was brand new, were stored, along with several tons of fertilizer and other equipment. One winter evening my father was out working on one of the tractors in the shed. He had a small oil burning stove going to keep him warm while he worked. As he tested the tractor he accidentally knocked the stove over and the fire spread rapidly, igniting the
tractor and other items. The fertilizer was aflame in seconds. He tried to get the new tractor out, but failed and barely escaped himself.
I can remember standing there by my mother’s side with my brothers and sister, watching this enormous fire destroying my parents’ dreams, with no way to put it out, though they tried. Tears were streaming down her cheeks when Daddy came and stood at Mother’s side as they finally stepped back and watched with horror. There was nothing they could do. Fire engines finally arrived from our small rural town, but only after the shed had burned nearly to the ground. I remember Daddy holding Mother in his arms as they cried together. We all cried. I also vividly remember his words to her, “Heavenly Father will help us through this. We’ll find a way to start over.” Their faith and determination was remarkable . . . and so was their love for each other-a love that we as their children never doubted.
Neighbors rallied to help in amazing ways that year and my father had a successful crop that helped get them started again. It took years, but they held on to each other and their dream.
Some hard times may come as a result of an enormous financial loss. Another couple, Maria and Dallin (not their real names) had an even more difficult time, losing everything when their business failed. The beautiful home that they had worked hard to improve through the years had to be turned over to the bank, with a 50 percent loss to them. With the help of a good attorney, they were able to negotiate a lower amount of debt, but nonetheless they were still left with $120,000. This debt needed to be paid off within one year, or bankruptcy would be their only option. They didn’t want that. They decided that their opportunity to earn the money would be better in a larger city, so they moved. It was difficult to leave the hometown they loved and move into a small two-bedroom apartment in an inner-city area-the only thing they could afford-where Dallin sold advertising.
In describing how they dealt with leaving their home, Maria said, “We decided it was only a house. We still had each other, our three children and a roof over our heads. The thing that kept it from being a devastating experience was that we held on to each other and faced the difficulties together.”
Maria stayed home to care for their children while she did flower arranging in her home to add to their income. By facing their difficult challenge together and making significant sacrifices they were able to pay off the $120,000 within the year limit. It was an amazing accomplishment for them. That was more than twenty years ago. Later they had to face yet another far more tragic difficulty when their little daughter, who was born with a debilitating illness, died. What their prior adversity had taught them helped them through this far greater heartache. Maria said, “The formula is the same-hold on and work through the difficult times together.” Dallin said, “Our marriage is stronger than ever and life has greater meaning as a result of all we’ve been through.”
Was it an easy accomplishment for this couple? At times it was extremely difficult.
Did it always go smoothly in their relationship? No. At times they had to just accept the pain. Did they miss their home? Yes. Did they miss their child? Of course! No one could ever completely understand that agony without going through it. They had their times when they cried together, sought professional therapy for Maria’s depression, and wiped away the tears. Then they went on, each dealing with it in his or her own way, but unified in their determination to keep their marriage strong.
All too often couples let sorrow and heartaches drive them apart. Deserting a mate during such a time never brings peace to either. It only intensifies the agony. Holding on to each other can be a magnificent healer.
Sometimes unexpected surprises come in life-the kind we would never choose, as in the case of Simon and Julie. They had been married eight years and had three children, ages two, four, and six years old and another on the way. Simon’s parents were killed in a car accident, leaving his four younger brothers, ages seven, ten, fourteen, and eighteen, orphaned. They had no place to go where they could stay together, so Simon and Julie took on the responsibility of raising them.
They decided to move into Simon’s parents’ home to make it easier on the brothers. They knew this new life would be hard, but were filled with an idealistic hope that everything would work out. They had no idea how extremely difficult it would be. Simon’s brothers were devastated over the loss of their parents and didn’t want anyone trying to take their place. They were respectful to Simon, but rude and hurtful to Julie when Simon was not around. When tragedies happen, children feel the need to blame someone. When the youngest brother started calling Simon and Julie “Mom” and “Dad” the older brothers threatened to beat him up because, they said it was being disloyal to their real parents.
During the hard days that first year, with her own newborn son, Julie felt overwhelmed. Feeding and caring for eight children was far more difficult than she had dreamed. She remembers that “sometimes I would stand at the kitchen sink washing all the dishes and pans that wouldn’t fit into the dishwasher and I would just cry, watching my tears splash into the dishwater.”
Simon’s brother had not been trained to help in the house and would seldom respond to her requests. To make matters worse, “my husband seemed blind to my unhappiness. He worked later and later at the office. He said he had to in order to provide for everyone, but I sometimes felt it was to avoid coming home to all the chaos.”
At times she would go into the bathroom, turn the water on full force, cry, and express her frustration in one-sided conversations to “no one.” During those early years she said she just lived one day at a time-sometimes one hour at a time. Julie continually prayed for the strength and ability to make it through this difficult period of her life. She kept remembering a little saying her own father had taught her when she was a teenager with problems: “Two men looked through prison bars; one saw mud and the other saw stars.” Julie would say it over and over and try to see the stars.
At one point, Julie considered divorcing Simon. She began to quietly observe other men before taking any action, but soon “realized there was no one out there that I’d rather have than Simon. And that’s when I came up with my own saying, which was: It’s better the devil you know than the one you don’t.” She realized Simon was as overwhelmed as she was and was worth holding on to.
At one point, when two of the older boys had graduated and moved out, Simon was called to be the bishop of their ward, which required doing a lot of counseling, much of it with women. As a result, one day he said to Julie, “Honey, I used to think you were a strange breed. Now, after all I’ve been seeing lately, I realize that women have different emotional responses and needs. As I look at you and what we’ve been through together I realize what a good woman you are and how lucky I am.”
Things changed after that and their love began to grow like it never had before. They began to learn the importance of putting each other first, and they started doing it. They became friends again. “Everything got better,” Julie said. “We learned to talk and really listen to each other.” Their children are all grown now and they have a sweet loving relationship. Both of them are grateful that they held on through those tough years. They only wish they had made these changes earlier.
Similarly, many divorced and remarried couples experience unexpected burdens when they are trying to blend families. The formula for success remains the same: Work together, talk and listen, and keep each other in the number one spot, regardless.
There is a saying that “pain is inevitable, misery is an option.” You may not be able to avoid pain in this life, but you can avoid the misery-the misery that comes when you don’t work together as a couple. There is nothing more important than having a loving relationship with your spouse when the hard times come. And they will come.
Elder Hugh B. Brown said, “The gospel will show us a way through and around our troubles. It promises no crown without a cross, no triumph without a battle. Remember, the storms beat upon the house built upon the rock, even as they do upon the one built on sand.” (New Era, Dec. 1974, 4)
We were at a buffet dinner recently where we witnessed a very tender scene. We saw an elderly couple at the buffet tables, she in a wheelchair and he pushing it. He was bent and frail but obviously in better health than she. He would wheel the chair close to the table where she could see the display of food, then would ask her what she would like. She was holding her plate and he would then take it and put on it what she had requested. We heard him say, “Is that enough, sweetheart? Would you like more?” She would graciously thank him and they would move on to the next choice. It was a vivid display of married love in action-they were holding on through their hard time.
What hard time are you and your spouse going through right now? Are you holding on to each other or are you allowing it to drive you apart? Talk to each other about it and make a conscious decision to be there for each other, whether it be a job loss, a disabled child, a crippling accident, a transgression, or whatever it may be. Discuss what is needed from the other, pray together to have the strength and guidance to make it. And then begin to work together, keeping in mind that “with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19: 26)
We believe that two hearts holding on to each other will keep either one from breaking.
Let the hard times cement your love, not destroy it, and you will enjoy a happy, lasting marriage.
[This article was adapted from the book Married for Better, Not Worse: 14 Secrets to a Happy Marriage, by Gary and Joy Lundberg. To order this book at a discounted price visit their Web site at https://www.garyjoylundberg.com]