The One Phrase That Changed the Way I View Marriage
January 2023

Digital Only: Young Adults

The One Phrase That Changed the Way I View Marriage

The author lives in Utah, USA.

I didn’t have an example of a loving marriage from my parents, but my grandmother’s simple phrase taught me so much.

two young adults laughing together

When I was 17, my grandmother said something that completely changed the way I viewed marriage.

We were chatting and making dinner for a large family gathering while my grandfather was out getting last-minute supplies. At one point, Grandfather called to discuss something errand related. Their exchange was quick and ordinary, and I didn’t think much of it. But after Grandmother ended the call, she turned to me and said in her matter-of-fact way, “He’s a wonderful man. I really like him.” Then she turned back around to keep working on dinner.

Rarely have words struck me that deeply, and I still think of them often.

A Lack of Love

My parents did not have a loving marriage. My mom, striving and resilient, tried to make the relationship work for her children’s sakes, but when it became physically dangerous for us to remain with him, she decided to free herself from the 16-year marriage that had drained so much life from her.

Before their divorce, I had been unaware that their marriage wasn’t a loving one, although I did have moments of doubt. There were several incidents where I witnessed the lack of love between my parents, but I didn’t start recognizing them for what they were until years later. Now I look back and can see that even though my parents tried to make the marriage work, they didn’t like each other—they tolerated each other.

After the divorce, I realized I couldn’t use my parents’ marriage as a model for my own future marriage. For a while I didn’t know what a strong, happy marriage looked like. Then, a few years after my parents’ divorce, I started noticing the big differences between their marriage and marriages in which the spouses truly loved and liked each other.

Spouses Who Love—and Like—Each Other

To counterbalance the negativity of my parents’ marriage, Heavenly Father has blessed me with an abundance of “power couples” in my extended family—aunts and uncles and grandparents who have very strong marriages. Whenever I’m at family gatherings or visiting relatives, I watch these couples closely, noting things they do or have that I want in my own future marriage. One uncle easily and habitually slips his arm around his wife’s shoulders and jokes with her in whispers. An aunt always takes time out of her busy schedule to talk with her husband when he gets home from work. And another couple does almost everything together.

There’s romantic love: sweet kisses (often in public), affectionate nicknames, and holding hands. But there’s also deep friendship: humble apologies, good-natured laughter, and impressive teamwork. They understand that, as Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “the first element of divine love … is its kindness, its selfless quality, its lack of ego and vanity and consuming self-centeredness.”1 These friendships have developed over time as both spouses continually live the principles of the gospel—treating each other with Christlike kindness and respect. They seem to live President Russell M. Nelson’s counsel that “marriages would be happier if nurtured more carefully.”2 Through these fantastic examples of friendship-based marriages, I have seen that liking my future husband will be as important as loving him.

Here are some things I’ve observed spouses doing when they like as well as love each other:

  • They want to spend more time with each other than with other people.

  • They feel comfortable doing or talking about anything with each other.

  • They work toward the same goals.

  • They find the middle ground often, but they also are willing to yield to each other when they see that the other spouse needs it.

  • They aren’t afraid to be openly affectionate with each other.

  • They listen attentively to each other.

  • They make time for each other.

  • They work together.

  • They have fun together.

  • They read the scriptures and pray together.

  • They go to the temple together.

  • They see each other as blessings (see 1 Nephi 16:7–8).

These are ideal aspects of marriage, of course. And as Elder Robert D. Hales (1932–2017) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “None of us marry perfection; we marry potential.”3 I have certainly seen disagreements and misunderstandings in my relatives’ marriages. But the strong couples are always able to work through their problems and become better together. Even when they don’t see eye to eye on something, they’re still best friends. Their marriage is the most important thing to them after their relationship with God.

Holding on to my grandmother’s statement that she “really likes” my grandfather, I continue to search for someone I can share that kind of deep, loving friendship with. And I strive to become the kind of person that someone would want to be best friends with.

Attraction and romance are definitely important, but the most common factor I see in strong marriages is deep friendship. I can now say for certain that a marriage built on friendship—which is, in turn, built on the gospel of Jesus Christ—is the most likely to last for eternity.