Today I feel a bit chastened.
Why? Because I haven’t been putting my family and my marriage first.
“But Heidi,” you’re saying, “you’re single. Doesn’t that give you a free pass to not worry about the state of your marriage?”
Uh… I don’t think so. Let me explain.
It’s Sunday, and instead of regular church services, we had a special meeting today to rededicate the Ogden Utah temple. For those who aren’t familiar with LDS temples, after they’re built we hold a special meeting in which we dedicate the temple to the Lord. Before a temple is dedicated, anyone is welcome to come in and tour it. But after, you have to be a member of the church and keep specific rules in order to qualify you to enter.
Anyway, during the dedication today, one of the speakers said something that I’ve known all my life but have been ignoring lately. He said, “Eternal families and temples should be your highest priority.” (This was M. Russell Ballard in the 4:00 session.)
In an earlier talk, a speaker reminded us that eternal things have no beginning and no end. This means that if I really believe in an eternal marriage—one that lasts beyond this life—I also believe that it doesn’t really begin the moment I say I do. It can and should be a part of my life right now.
In the excitement of taking on new responsibilities at work, moving into my first apartment without roommates, and seeing my writing career take off (stay tuned for an exciting announcement about this), I’ve let other things take first priority, instead of the temple and my marriage and future family.
But I’ll admit that it’s hard as a single person to put family first. I feel like I’m doing okay in terms of my relationships with the family I already have. What I haven’t been doing is focusing on the family I might have someday.
So my question is, what more could I do right now to become a better wife, mother, grandmother, or daughter-in-law? These are roles I have yet to take on. And it’s entirely possible I never will in this life. If that’s the Lord’s plan, I’m okay with that. But in the meantime, I want to be ready in case the opportunity arises.
More than that, I want to do all I can to help the opportunity to arise. This is where I get frustrated. I’m not saying guys have it easier. I know dating is hard no matter what. But I wish sometimes that I could take more action, maybe even more initiative in pursuing someone I was interested in without becoming Helena from a Midsummer Night’s Dream, who basically falls in love with a guy and then follows him around, begging him to like her for the rest of the play. Even when he flat-out tells her he’s not interested. Why is it okay for a guy to demonstrate persistence in pursuing a girl but when a girl does the same thing it’s pathetic? Whatever. That’s not really the point I want to make.
What frustrates me is that no one will tell me what to do in order to make marriage happen for me.
To all who are about to post things like, “Don’t worry about it. You’re amazing the way you are. It’ll happen when it’s meant to be.” Thank you, in advance. That’s really very sweet. But ultimately, unhelpful.
I don’t want platitudes; I want a plan of action. I may not be able to make a goal to get married by X date. That’s not really up to me. I can’t actually force someone to marry me just because I set a deadline. But I’m a goal-setter. I want actual suggestions for things I can do to put my marriage, my family, my potential eternity first in my life right now.
It seems like the guys get all the scoldings when it comes to dating. No one ever tells us girls what to do. It’s like we’re all afraid we’ll hurt womankind’s self-esteem if we even hint at the fact that we’re not already perfect. But once a group of women has passed the fragile teenage years, I feel like it’s okay to say, “Ladies, shape up.” Maybe even literally.
Which brings me to the elephant in the room. Weight loss. Yes, it’s entirely possible that the reason I didn’t date much when I was younger and still don’t go out as often as I could is that I’m overweight. Not that you have to be skinny to get married, but from what I’ve observed, it doesn’t hurt your chances. So that’s something I’m working on—with a moderate degree of success at the moment, actually.
But aside from that, what else can I do? I remember one specific time when a church leader called the men to action and told them x, y, and z things they could be doing to get married. Then he said to the girls, “You’re amazing. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Oh, and make sure you’re wearing make up and that you make yourselves look attractive.”
Sigh. The weird part is, I was actually grateful to be given something concrete for once.
But that can’t really be the answer. Plenty of overweight, non-make-up-wearing people get married and have perfectly good relationships.
Maybe it would help if I came up with a list of things that I already know will encourage me to pursue marriage or to make my future marriage a higher priority.
1. Go to the temple more often.
2. Lose weight. Wear make up. Improve my physical appearance.
3. Become a more attractive person intellectually by setting goals, learning new things, and sharing my talents.
4. Establish gospel habits now that I will continue with my family someday: prayer, scripture study, church attendance, tithing, keeping the Sabbath day holy, etc.
5. Save money. Learn how to budget better.
6. Be happier. Guys are more attracted to girls who are happy and confident. I feel like I’m doing okay in this area. (In fact, I might be a little too confident sometimes.) But I’m putting it on the list because there’s always room to improve.
7. Build a time machine and go back to age 21 or 22. My mom got married when she was 22. Lots of my friends did too. Did I miss something? Was there a point at which I should’ve found someone but I wasn’t paying enough attention or I was too focused on other things?
8. Make an effort to meet more people and to keep an open mind about them.
What am I missing here? What could I add to this list?
I want there to be some magic ingredient I’ve been leaving out all my life. I want someone to say, “Just do this one thing and bam! Instant husband.”
I know that’s unlikely. There’s probably no magic ingredient. Probably the answer really is: Just keep doing what you’re doing and it’ll happen when it’s meant to be.
But hey, a girl can dream, right?
Besides, my marriage and future family really are important to me. And if there’s anything else I could be doing to make them a reality, that’s what I want to do. So please, comment with your suggestions. Don’t worry about my self-esteem. Just tell me what else to do because I’m running out of ideas, I’m not getting any younger, and even though I do have a lot of confidence in myself, I don’t actually think I’ll be able to build that time machine.