Friday, May 30, 2008

White or Wheat? Whole or Skim?

Even before our wedding day, I knew that all marriages require a certain amount of adjustment, and as I thought about what changes our individual lives would have to make to be compatible with each other and unified as a couple, I felt like I was very prepared for marriage.

In fact, I thought I was ahead of the game. Not only had I already discussed toothpaste and cleaning supplies with my fiancé, but I had paid attention throughout our courtship to our respective food choice habits. Well, actually the differences in our diet where quite obvious: Brian ate white bread and I ate wheat; Brian drank whole milk and I drank skim. Whenever we made dinner together before we were married I solved the problem by always having Brian over to my apartment. He never complained about skim milk and wheat bread at my house, and I was sure that over time he would just get more and more used to my food choices and everything would work out for the healthiest best.

The afternoon following my first trip to the grocery store after we were married spurred a big wake-up call. I was so excited to have done the shopping all by myself and pulled Brian around the kitchen showing him everything I had bought. He approved of my pasta and canned vegetables selection, but when I opened the bread cupboard his face fell. When I opened the fridge I could see the fear of starvation written all over his face.

My face fell too. I couldn’t understand why wheat bread and fat-free milk mattered so much. I had assumed that we were already unified in food choices and that Brian would easily change his habits to match mine, but I was wrong. To temporarily fix the problem, we took another trip to the store later that week and got a second loaf of bread (white) and a second gallon of milk (whole).

It took me that whole first summer and a lot of reflection since to realize that adjustments in marriage were going to take much more work than I had originally thought. The issue wasn’t figuring out everything that we needed to collaborate on; the effort was going to have to come from me. If my marriage was going to be unified and free from contention, I needed to humble myself and make some changes too instead of expecting all the sacrifices to come from my husband. Elder James E. Faust taught what we need to do in order to unify our marriage relationship: “Unity of heart and mind is manifest in sincere expressions of ‘I appreciate you’ and ‘I am proud of you.’ Such domestic harmony results from forgiving and forgetting, essential elements of a maturing marriage relationship. . . . True charity ought to begin in marriage, for it is a relationship that must be rebuilt every day” (Ensign, May 1993, 36).

The more significant changes that came as we became unified as a married couple were much more important than milk or bread. We soon found that we needed to be unified in how we observed the Sabbath day, fast Sunday, Family Home Evening, family prayer, family scripture study, and temple attendance. We learned how to adjust to each other’s needs and habits in all spiritual matters to that we could enrich each other rather than be divided. We especially learned the truth of President Marion G. Romney’s words: “There is but one way that we can be united, that way is to seek the Lord and his righteousness. Unity comes by following the light from above. . . . The way to unity is for us to learn the will of the Lord and then to do it” (Ensign, May 1983, 17).

New differences between my husband and me in taste, personality, and preference come up often, no matter how long we’ve been married. Instead of assuming that these differences are problems and challenges, we’ve learned to look at them as ways to make our life together and relationship interesting. We also try to see differences as opportunities for us to learn about each other and, by overcoming those differences, as opportunities to strengthen our marriage. By constantly remaining committed and constant to one another, with the help of the Holy Ghost to prompt us to draw closer together as we draw closer to the Savior, we have learned that even though we may never have the exact same taste in food choices, we can be unified in important spiritual things while still enjoying some differences.

Over our first summer, Brian, to his own surprise not to mention my own, learned to like wheat bread. I learned how to make and eat breakfast because he felt that was really essential. However, we still buy two different gallons of milk every week, and we’ve decided that that’s okay. Because unity in our marriage is important to us and so are our differences, we can make a good situation out of anything by “having [our] hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21).

* Leave a comment! What differences in taste and preference have you worked through in your marriage?