Christina, my dearest friend here, lent me the book on marriage Covenant Hearts: Marriage and the Joy of Human Love by Bruce C. Hafen on Monday. Covenant Hearts is written by an experienced family lawyer and it covers marriage as the Mormon church believes it should be, along with the many problems the changes in the American legal systems has caused to marriage today. I haven’t read much of it yet, but today is a special day in the Mueller household, so I want to share some thoughts inspired by the book.
Because he is writing to an LDS readership and from the perspective of a Mormon, Hafen regularly discusses the difference between covenant marriages and contractual marriages.
In the LDS church, when a couple gets married in a temple, a “temple wedding,” their marriage is “sealed” and will therefore transcend death. Weddings that do not take place in a temple or are not sealed later will end at death (“til death do us part”).
Hafen is very clear that non-Mormons might have (less eternal) covenant marriages, as it depends on the dedication and expectations of the couple (but he is also very clear that all temple weddings are covenant marriages). A couple who is married by covenant believes and expects their marriage to last, and they act accordingly. This couple experiences true joy as they continually overcome troubles together. There are no conditions on the marriage, commitment, or love of a couple who is living a covenant marriage.
A couple who is married only by contract might believe that their marriage will last, as long as they are comfortable and “happy.” Because they view their marriage contractually, they are free to exit it when their conditions are no longer being met, once they are no longer happy, or once it is no longer roses, chocolate, and love songs.
So why am I writing about this on our 4-year anniversary, you ask, as I am not a Mormon? Because I love and appreciate this view of marriage, and so does my husband.
Through some excellent pre-marital counseling and what we learned from our parents’ failed marriages, Rob and I knew that married life would not be perfect. We are both fiery people who get impassioned very easily (read: we both have tempers). We knew there would be disagreements and–dare I say it?–fights.
But what we were taught early on and internalized very quickly was that those fights, those differences of opinion, upbringing, culture even in our case, they were opportunities for growth. We do not avoid fights at all costs. We each talk about what is bothering us. Sometimes it isn’t the friendliest discussion, but we both feel safe knowing that we are ironing out a difference. And growing together.
It isn’t always smooth, but I literally cannot describe the joy, contentment, relief, safety, companionship, and true love that comes from trial by fire with your soul mate, your lover, your best friend, your spouse.
That, to me, is one of the best parts of being married: Experiencing the great treasure that I get from working through the hard bits to get to the happy ones with Rob.
And we’ve only been married four years! I am certain the troubles we will face in the future will be scarier and harder (they always are, it seems), but I have faith in our relationship and I have faith in Rob.
(I promise a review when I’ve finished the book!)
EDIT: Because I’m enjoying it so much, I’ve started typing up some of my favorite quotes from Covenant Hearts. If you’d like to read them, click here.