In honor of today being our ten year anniversary, (love you, honey) and after reading this great post, which I found on david mcmahon's inspirational blog, I am moved to share some of the things that I have learned about love and marriage and family relationships in the last ten years. (Yes, I'm high-tech. I took a digital photo of a couple of wedding pictures rather than take them to Jared's office to scan them. Lazy is what it is.)
I cringe to remember what a cold new daughter-in-law I was. Jared's parents welcomed me warmly from the beginning, but like many young brides, I spent a while resisting the idea that differences in our families didn't have to be categorized as "right and wrong", "normal and weird." Don't get me wrong--we are not talking about huge, polarizing differences. In many, many ways, the culture in our families of origin were the same. But there are always differences, and I noticed them.
I have come to realize that I was feeling territorial and control-freakish about my husband and our time together and about establishing my own place in his family. I think that women have a tendency towards being territorial and that is why you hear far more cracks about mothers-in-law than you do about fathers-in-law. Again, there were no overt turf wars here, but I think it was very important to me in my immaturity to establish my "claim" over Jared, and then to attempt to claim the title of most accomplished, intelligent, capable, loving, and humorous daughter(-in-law or otherwise). Since my sisters-in-law and Jared's parents had no idea that there was a contest involved, you would think that would have been an easy task; but since I have very accomplished, intelligent, capable, loving, and humorous sisters-in-law, it was lots of hard work to try to measure up. One day I finally realized how ridiculous I was being. Jared's family had always treated me as one of their own, had never asked me to be better than the rest. Besides, I believe that one of the greatest gifts you can give your husband and your children is to love his family and overlook their flaws. I had to learn to relax and just be myself and enjoy the family. I do it for my own family--why not his, too?
Once I really let go of all of my fears, ego, and control (ok, so I guess I haven't let go of all of that, but most of it, perhaps,) I was able to truly love and enjoy each member of Jared's family. I have established rich, wonderful relationships with them and the line between his family and mine has become quite blurry. I feel so blessed to have them in my life.
One of the things that I have learned in marriage and in other family relationships is that you need to stop worrying about being right or who is at fault when there is a problem. If the relationship is important to you, focus on that and just do what you can to make it better. A few years ago, I read The Peacegiver, a book I highly recommend to all. It is written in a story format that is a bit cheesy but the message is powerful and important. We need to offer mercy and grace to our spouse and other loved ones, even when they are in the wrong, and to remember our own need for forgiveness from others and the Savior. Another book that has enhanced my understanding of the marriage relationship as the vehicle to true joy is Covenant Hearts by Bruce Hafen. He first outlines why marriage is so important to us as individuals, to families, to children specifically, and for society at large. He then gives wonderful counsel about striving to be the best spouse you can and of the value of sticking to your spouse when the going gets rough. President Hinckley has also given his secret to happy marriage: "The basis of a good marriage is mutual respect—respect for one another, a concern for the comfort and well-being of one another. That is the key. If a husband would think less of himself and more of his wife, we’d have happier homes." Other great articles about strengthening the marriage relationship can be found here.
All in all, I am so grateful for the man I married. Neither of us is perfect, but we are working together to get there. He works hard at being a good husband to me and it shows. I love him so much and am proud of the man that he is. I'm so glad that I have him by my side through the ups and downs of life, to enjoy the blessings and to overcome and understand the blessings that are disguised as trials. I am grateful for the example that we have of our own parents' relationships and for their support in our marriage. And I am so blessed to have four beautiful children, who bring joy into my life. Families are a treasure. Let's treat them that way!