Recently, one of my church friends and I had a long discussion.  I had noticed tension in his relationship over the past couple years, but he hadn’t openly discussed it with me until the other day.  He told me he wasn’t sure if he knew what love for his wife was anymore and went on to discuss how they had entertained the idea of getting a divorce.

Divorce is something I do not take lightly.  My parents fought throughout their 10 years of marriage and I constantly worried as a young child if they would get a divorce as I would listen to them fight when they thought we were asleep.  My world was crushed when at the age of 9 my parents were divorced.  Over the 25 years since their divorce, I have seen personal heartache and struggle, struggle and conflict with my siblings, and my parents have been affected emotionally and physically as a result of it throughout the years as well.  I’m positive some within my family are not over it.

In addition to my own experiences with divorce, I have seen grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and cousins go through divorce.  The heartache felt during a strained marriage and emptiness from the aftermath of a divorce are real.

With all of this in mind I said a silent prayer to myself as he confided in me.  I wanted to make sure I relayed to him what was helpful for him and what God wanted him to hear.  As I prayed and thought, I remembered reading a story in Spencer W Kimball’s book “The Miracle of Forgiveness“.  It is about a lady who, against her church leader’s advice went ahead and got a divorce simply because she had “fallen out” of love and she thought it would be easier do go it alone.  A few years later, she approached her leader and he asked her if life was better now that she was divorced.  She said that she regretted getting the divorce and wished she would have worked harder at loving her former husband.  I shared this story with my friend and urged him to try everything in his power to make the marriage work and love flicker again.  Not only for his sake, but for his wife and daughters’ sakes as well.

Spencer W Kimball gave another address back in 1979 entitled “Oneness in Marriage” that provides guidance on how to have a happy and successful marriage.  The following four points are very valuable tools for both my friend and anyone considering marriage or currently in a marriage, which will be discussed.  (The direct quote is in bold letters with additional commentary underneath the quote).

1. There must be the proper approach toward marriage, which contemplates the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection in all the matters which are of importance to the individuals. And then those two parties must come to the altar in the temple realizing that they must work hard toward this successful joint living. 

This is a very serious step that I think many people take too lightly.  The possible “pinnacle of perfection” is different from one person to the next.  In my opinion, one would be wise to write down the non-negotiables of what one wants in a spouse and then some that would be nice to have but not essential.  When dating evaluate this and especially when considering marriage, make sure the potential partner lines up with this.  If it is very important to you, and the partner isn’t appearing that they will compromise, it is easier to break off an engagement or someone you’re dating than it is to get into a marriage.

For those who are already married and may have taken the marriage a bit too lightly before entering marriage, it still isn’t too late.  Write down what is non-negotiable, etc. and share it with your spouse.  Come up with a plan of how you see marriage working out together and work towards it.  If you are having a hard time doing this, get some marriage counseling.  There is no harm in this and if both parties want to make it work, it can be good to have an outside, unbiased, professional perspective.

2. There must be a great unselfishness, forgetting self and directing all of the family life and all pertaining thereunto to the good of the family, subjugating self.

Selfishness is a marriage killer.  I’ve seen friends and family go through divorce because an individual (or both individuals) are not willing to compromise or admit their mistakes.  It is very hard to make a marriage work if both parties are not willing to admit their mistakes and then forgive and forget the mistakes of their partner.

3. There must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.

There are many quotes on love, but one of my favorite most-recent quotes comes from Elder Uchtdorf.  He states “love is spelled T-I-M-E…time” and I agree completely.

When my father remarried, he set a very good example of regularly dating and spending time with my new mother.  Often it was as simple as going to the grocery store together, but they made sure that once a week they had alone time.

I’m not sure that they realized how much my younger brother and I watched them as they spent time with each other and their love grew. It made a very strong impact on me and how I wanted my relationship with my wife to be someday.  Kids can tell when love is alive and well between parents and it affects areas of their life such as school performance, relationships with friends, and self-confidence. 

4. There must be a complete living of the commandments of the Lord as defined in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As my friend talked about how discouraged he was and how negative he felt towards God and life in general, I wondered about his relationship with God.  I asked him a few questions and he did say he hadn’t been praying, studying God’s Word.  I knew he hadn’t been going to church regularly either. 

From personal experience, when we shut out God by not allowing him in through prayer or scripture study or other uplifting activities, it gets very hard to remain positive.  I highly recommended that he start doing these things again, even if he didn’t feel like it.

My prayer is that some things we talked about help him pick himself up and start trying again with his marriage and relationship with God.   I realize that in many circumstances damage is irreparable and divorce is inevitable.  However, if both parties are willing to pick up the pieces, forgive and forget, compromise, and begin again by setting goals together, happiness and love can once again return into the marriage. 

I realize that many of you have had experiences either personally or second-hand with divorce and would welcome your responses.  If this were your friend, what advice would you give?