My concern sounds small, but it brings me a great deal of stress. I always pictured myself getting a full education, having a career, and getting married in my late twenties, sure to date a man for a long, long while before any permanent decisions were made. I’m a very independent person so this idea suited me. But, as I attended BYU and had roommates getting married, the hype of everything got to me. I started dating a real wonderful guy, and got married when I was 20.
Don’t get me wrong–he’s wonderful. And our relationship is good. But sometimes I have this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I did the wrong thing. There’s this deep, dark, secret space that tells me I picked the wrong guy, got married too soon, or that the marriage is destined for failure in the future. I “hear” this voice so often that I sometimes feel regret about my decisions, and great apprehension about any permanent decisions for the future, whether it be buying a house, having babies or even something that’s not a huge deal, like buying a piano or new computer.
If I weren’t a Mormon, I could probably just hire a lawyer, talk with my husband and say “maybe we rushed into this….” and it could be over. But because we got married in the temple, we made covenants and promises that make me feel SO guilty even considering the option of leaving a marriage that is practically problem free (at least with the big stuff like abuse or non-compatibility goes. We do have normal problems, like everyone else.) My “marriage prep” class filled my head with a million quotes about how any two righteous people can make a marriage work, that there’s no such thing as “Mr. Right” and that there can be no basis for divorce unless there are some real, real serious issues.
I hate that I feel this way but I don’t know how to get rid of this feeling! I certainly can’t talk to my husband about it, because I don’t want to cause him unnecessary stress, and I feel uncomfortable talking with anyone else about it because it’s so personal.
What in the world should I do?
Dear, dear “Mrs. Wrong,” you poor thing: your concern doesn’t sound small at all. You surprised yourself by getting married at the tender age of 20. It sounds like you may have been married for just a few months or years now, and you do not have any children. You have what you describe as a healthy relationship with a “wonderful” man. Still, you find yourself plagued by a “nagging voice” that tells you something is wrong.
As I was thinking about your question, I remembered some advice my LDS stake president (that’s a pastoral leader, for you non-Mo readers) gave my husband and me before we got hitched. My stake president held out his two index fingers before him. “The most successful marriages,” he said, “are not ones where the partners fixate on each other and the relationship.” He turned the fingers towards each other and made them collide in mid-air. “Instead, the best marriages I’ve seen are where the partners both focus on Jesus Christ,” he said, moving his index fingers forward at a 75 degree angle until the two intersected somewhere out in space.
Now, given the fact that I married a nice Jewish boy (who despite a mild Jesus allergy didn’t blanche at this point in the premarital interview) the likelihood that our marriage would best function through a mutual focus on Jesus Christ was and is, well, quite unlikely. But I think my stake president’s advice still holds basically true, even if for us it’s not exactly Jesus but Jesus-compatible foci like a shared love of learning, faith, justice, and compassion. Focusing on those big picture shared aspirations as well as our own individual goals has helped distract us from the temptation to sit in a room, look at each other, and fret.
And believe me, there are always times in any marriage when one or both partners might feel like locking themselves in a room and fretting. Sometimes with good reason. So don’t think you’re alone in experiencing the occasional bout of anxiety or regret.
But what I’m wondering about you, Mrs. Wrong, is what your individual goals and big picture aspirations are. You say you “always pictured yourself getting a full education and having a career.” You say you’re a “very independent person.” Please, please, please tell me you didn’t abandon your education and career plans just because you got hitched. Because it sounds to me like you need to grab hold of some goals and aspirations that have nothing to do with your marriage. And, no, I’m not talking about buying a house, a piano, a computer, or anything else to furnish the standard-issue immaculate domestic fantasy life you see in all those pretty Crate and Barrel catalogs. I’m talking about some oversized, change-the-world, rock-the-bells goals and aspirations.
And you must do this as if your marriage depends upon it, because it may.
I’m not telling you not to trust your instincts. At this point, for example, I think you should trust your gut and hold off on having kids. But if there are no evident problems in your marriage and the best that nagging voice in the “deep dark space” inside your head can come up with is telling you that you’ve done it all wrong, try tuning into the bright, fearless voices that tell you exactly how to take hold of your future. Identify some role models. Do some research. Pray for guidance. Imagine the woman you want to be at sixty-five years old.
And when you’ve come up with some goals and aspirations, sit down with your husband, and share your plans with him. As you do, you will discover exactly what your marriage is made of.
Readers, it’s your turn. What words of wisdom do you have for Mrs. Wrong?
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