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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Introduction: Soulmates Marriage

The purpose of this blog is to identify what a Soulmates Marriage is and the journey to obtaining it as far as I have learned it to be through my studies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, prayer, personal revelation, and experience.  I believe it is possible for two people who marry each other to sustain and improve both their friendship and romantic attraction throughout their lives together and into eternity.

"What an exciting life is available for each one of us today! We may not be a John Cabot, sailing off into the blue with the king’s patent to discover new lands, nor a Captain James Cook, whose voyages of discovery carried him to the known ends of the earth. Captain Cook declared: “I had ambition not only to go farther than any man had ever been before, but as far as it was possible for a man to go.” But we can be explorers in spirit, with a mandate to make this world better by discovering improved ways of living and of doing things." ~President Thomas S. Monson, "In Quest for the Abundant Life," March 1988 Ensign 

When we have a Soulmates Marriage, trials and adversity have much less impact on us.  It's like we have a Forcefield around us that buffers us from the irritating, bad, dangerous, hurtful, Survival of the Fittest behaviors of others with whom we must interact on a daily basis at school, work, in our community, on the road, and even at church as well as the natural disasters and other tragedies we are required to endure.  Children being raised by parents who have a Soulmates Marriage are also encompassed by this Forcefield so that they too have a buffer zone around them.  I'm not saying this Forcefield is around all marriages.  We don't automatically have it just because we're married.  I'm saying I believe it's around Soulmates Marriages.  And it doesn't make it so nothing bothers us or hurts us.  It gives us greater strength to deal with the things that do.

Having a Soulmates Marriage is like having a "pocket full of sunshine."
"I got a pocket, got a pocketful of sunshine
I got a love, and I know that it's all mine, oh
Do what you want, but you're never gonna break me
Sticks and stones are never gonna shake me, no"
 ~Natasha Bedingfield

Listen:  Pocketful of Sunshine by Natasha Bedingfield

Another metaphor of the power of a Soulmates Marriage is in the Disney movie, Frozen, where Idina Menzel sings, "I don't care what they're going to say, let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway" (Let It Go).  With a Soulmates Marriage (or being apart of a family with parents who have a Soulmates Marriage), we can say this.  Without it we can't.  This kind of relationship doesn't exclude everyone else.  It enables us to love everyone else instead of hate even in the face of temptation and adversity (Matthew 5:13, Isaiah 54:2, Moses 7:18).  Thankfully there is a Heavenly Soulmates Marriage so that all of us who choose to commit to belonging to that family can access its protection through the atonement of Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost (see Mother in Heaven).

Listen:  "Love at Home" sung by the Osmonds

This blog is organized like a book with an introduction and chapters.

I  have desired to find the answers to all of my questions in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as written in the scriptures, as spoken by modern prophets, and through personal revelation instead of from other sources that might conflict with these.  I have sought the guidance of God to the best of my ability and have not wanted to be guided by other people unless they were guided by the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 28:31). 

1 Nephi 19:23 & 2 Nephi 32:3
I'm sharing what I have learned through my studies and experiences in hopes that it might help others.
I went through a divorce in 2012, which was very hard for me.  I've been worried that writing about how much I value marriage would seem hypocritical or not worth much since it appears by my choices that I don't value it.  It is very true that I don't value marriages of convenience or pretense.  I don't value the marriage that is placed as a lower priority than getting rich, owning a big house, impressing the neighbors, or getting promoted to the highest levels possible in one's career.  I especially don't value the marriage where one or both individuals are more interested in what church calling they have and how members of their church perceive their value because of it.  Because I noticed those things were valued in society, including my church society, I have also valued them.  But doing so made me miserable.  I've been working with God for a long time to extricate myself from having these kinds of desires so I could obtain a Soulmates Marriage.  I realize that not everyone cares if their marriage is a  Soulmates Marriage.  I think a big part of that is because they don't believe it's possible.  But I do.  I know I'm not chasing rainbows or tilting windmills in this belief because I consistently feel the Spirit of God beckoning me onward and reassuring me that it is possible.  I know that "with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:39) as long as I'm willing to sacrifice all that is required of me to obtain it (D&C 130:20-21).  That is my faith and my hope.

Here are two excerpts from my January 2009 Journal (before my divorce) that describe this desire:
“How can love last forever in a relationship?  Both physically and spiritually?  How can attraction stay?  How can we stop ourselves from both turning to selfishness and suspecting the other of turning to selfishness? What part of a relationship is selfish and what part is okay?”
“I want closeness in a relationship.  I want a relationship where we can both respect each other.  I want a relationship where we both admire each other.  I want a relationship where we both desire more than anything to be together yet we often fight against that desire in order to get our work done so that we can then be together again (see Getting A Life).  I want nothing else.  But I will do whatever work Heavenly Father needs me to do for my mission.  I don’t want to be important in the world’s eyes.  I don’t want any inappropriate relationships.  I don’t want any superficial meaningless relationships.  I only want this one.” 
"In marriage—as in all relationships—happiness abounds when there is respect for each other. One must have a capacity to work out problems, a willingness to give and take, and a genuine unselfishness." ~President Thomas S. Monson, "In Quest for the Abundant Life," March 1988 Ensign

I'm addressing this conflict between my divorce and this desire for a Soulmates Marriage because I've been very aware of the appearance of contradiction. But contradictions can sometimes turn out to be paradoxes.  A paradox is "a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true" (Apple Dictionary).  I hope to explain throughout this blog that it's possible to desire a Soulmates Marriage but recognize that may never happen with a specific person because of the all important variable of AGENCY. 

Listen:  "Know This, That Every Soul Is Free"

Sherm and I were married in the Oakland Temple in December of 1990.  We were very much in love in the beginning but something happened over the years to change that.  Through those years I experienced a lot of confusion and sorrow.  That's when the questions about marriage starting flitting through my mind.  What was God's intentions for marriage?  Why did the prophets say this was the greatest gift or most valuable relationship we could ever have?  What was the value of a temple marriage?  How was it different than a normal marriage?  I didn't want to take this gift for granted or let it slide into the mundane.  But slide it did.  I am responsible for some of that and so is my ex-husband.  Neither of us has any desire to get back together but I have found throughout the last 10 years that I personally can't live outside of a Soulmates Marriage. 

There was a turning point in my marriage when I committed to trusting the Lord for guidance more than I had before.  He taught me how to treat my husband (Sherm) with kindness and respect.  And when it was apparent the relationship had to end, I was instructed how to do that with love, instead of the traditional hatred that accompanies divorce.  In return, Sherm has treated me the same way.  I'm tempted to feel pride when things aren't going so well for him or envious when they are, which is par for the course for divorced people, but I don't want to be that kind of person so I fight against those kinds of thoughts.  I view him as a friend and a family member.  He has been very generous with me financially and very kind.  We've been working together to raise our kids, choosing to love and forgive, in order to stay right with God and be examples to our kids.  Over the last four years since the divorce, we have spent the major holidays together and have even gone on some family vacations together.  We still like to give each other gifts for birthdays and holidays just as we would a sibling or a good friend.  We chose to do it this way so we don't ruin ourselves or our kids with hatred.  None of it would be possible without our Savior Jesus Christ.  For my part, I acknowledge that the Lord enables me to do this through his atonement and I am so thankful for him. 

I am not a fan of divorce in general.  That's why this whole thing has been so hard for me.  I do not advocate that pathway for anyone if they can help it.  Divorce is a terrible chasm to walk through.  I faced so much fear when I went through it.  There is no way for a woman, who has made a temple marriage covenant to God, to divorce her husband and remain close to God unless she knows that she's doing God's will in her specific situation.  I know divorce is not God's rule.  His rule is for couples to stay married and develop Soulmates Marriages.  But in some instances it is his will, after all we can do, to divorce and remarry someone with whom we can develop a Soulmates Marriage.  So that's why I took so much time making sure I did all I could do first.

"...for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." ~2 Nephi 25:23

The only way I knew that it was God's will to divorce my spouse was that I was able to feel the Holy Ghost consistently and love my spouse (before, through, and after the divorce) as a person.  Because of the Lord and Holy Ghost I was able to forgive my ex-husband, repent of my own errors, clear my Chakras (#Repent, #Motes&Beams), and actively and honestly pray that God would bless him to find happiness in life.  The very act of the divorce had to be an act of forgiveness--separation to the degree that would preserve a loving relationship between me and my ex-husband.  I stopped expecting him to meet my needs.  I saw the divorce as me getting out of his way so he could have a second chance at obtaining a Soulmates Marriage with someone else.  This wasn't easy and wasn't an easy way out.  Out of what?  I knew the most intense sustainable happiness is found within marriage, not outside of it.  But I also wondered, if both partners are working together using the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to obtain that, then why would we want out even after doing that for years?  I believed there had to be at least some progress that indicated all our efforts were not in vain.  

I discovered that it was a very terrible battle against self throughout the entire divorce process because there were many in my community (church and society) who evidently did not believe God's grace worked this way.  They often wanted me to prove how bad my spouse had been to me in order to justify the divorce.  I'm ashamed to say that sometimes I fell for that.  I wanted to justify myself more than anything but I always felt terrible afterwards.  My job was to be quiet and to not worry about what others thought of me.  I only needed to be concerned about what God thought of me.  There were many times when I succeeded in doing this and other times when I failed.  I learned that I should not expose my spouse's privacy in order to justify myself to them.  And I saw that in some cases they naturally assumed I must have been the sinner (and still am).  Lots of pain for me there.  I have this inherent need to be a good girl.  I don't want to set a bad example.  I've been a bad example in the past but the closer I develop my relationship with God, the more motivated I am to keep his name sacred and pure.  Because I confess that he is my mentor, my trainer, my exemplar, my provider, my evaluator, I need to walk the talk.  That's why it has hurt so badly to be categorized as someone who takes her marriage covenants lightly.

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." ~Matthew 5:44

So this is what I've been up against.  I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn't going to make it unless I relied on God's judgment of me and on the atonement of Jesus Christ, while allowing those people to persecute me without turning and "reviling again" (3 Nephi 6:13).  I've wanted to stop associating with the whole lot of these people because the judgment just keeps on coming mostly because they don't understand or know how to deal with me.  Some of them unconsciously or consciously consider me among the sinners (John 7:20).  I've been treated that way even by people that I've loved and respected.  Can I take that kind of heat and remain an active Christian--an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?  I have only been able to do it because I am sure God directed me to divorce and I've fought to stomp out my own self-righteousness and self-doubt.  I have been required to develop my communication relationship with God to the point where I am able to follow his will in the face of all this adversity.  If that weren't true I wouldn't have been able to go through with the divorce without the approval of my society (the cold would have seriously bothered me!).  God sustained me in the face of the disapproval of my society.  If he didn't approve then he wouldn't have sustained me and I would have had to rely on their approval.  And after experiencing the terrible fear that attends walking through a divorce, I know that no other person's approval, except God's, would have been enough to sustain me.  So the only way to walk through my divorce and remain true to God was to submit myself completely to his will in regards to his specific plan for me--persecution and all.  

I'm dwelling on this point because it is still a conflict for me.  When I start doubting and believing "my accusers" I start to sink in the water, like Peter did that night on the Sea of Galilee.  When he saw the winds and the waves all around him and took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to fear (Matthew 14:25-31).  I obviously need to learn more about enduring in my faith until the end.  It's just that I'm required to endure for such a long time.

I didn't completely understand the exceptions to the rule and didn't at all desire to be one until I had to walk through my divorce.  Here's an excerpt from my April 2009 prayer journal:
"But thou didst direct me to marry him.  I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Dost thou work this way?  How can I believe this was done on purpose? I thought everything was supposed to be perfectly wrapped with a bow exactly right on top.  I thought young women were supposed to marry their true love and grow together with him for time and all eternity."
"In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.  Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation." ~The Family: A Proclamation to the World

It's 2015, I've been legally divorced for over 4 years now.  But I've known for almost 7 years that my marriage with Sherm was never going to get any better.  I know it appears that I don't have plans to remarry.  But that isn't true.  I have submitted myself to a rigorous journey to prepare myself to become the Soulmate wife of the man I want to be married to for time and all eternity.  I am governed by God in this effort.  I can not do as I will from day to day if that conflicts with His will.  When I start spending my time on less important tasks, I feel a very bad feeling in my heart.  I strive to stay on this narrow pathway.  My goal is to give all of myself to Him.  I have no desire to take it back.  This is not easy but I find that I need the challenge of this kind of sacrifice.  I know that when I do God's will the very best of ends will be mine, my children's, and my ex-husband's.  

"O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name." ~2 Nephi 9:41

"So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." ~Luke 14:33

"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." ~1 Corinthians 2:9

This blog contains my personal field-notes from my journey--what I've learned about marriage and divorce.  I've wondered why I feel the need to write a blog about this if I'm not supposed to care about what others think of me.  In reflecting on the answer to that question I see that I do need to care about what humble, good people think about me. These are people who just want to understand what happened because they love me, my ex-husband, and our kids.  And maybe there are some who hope to learn something from it.  But I've come to understand that the purpose isn't so much to teach others about a Soulmates Marriage as it is to report my findings and give a summarized history of the events.  I know I sound like I'm teaching when I write because that's just what I do, but I'm really just learning, solidifying, and concluding.

Another reason for writing this blog-book is that it is no secret that I have chosen Christ as my Cause.  Everyone who knows me knows how much I love him.  All of my blogs have him at the center.  I don't want to say I follow him and appear like I'm not.  If I'm going to be of any use to him at all as an example of the believers, I've got to have a chance to explain his Mercy and how it has been personally applied to me.  I have found that I am unable to explain this in short conversations.  That's because there's a long story behind it.  And there's usually not enough time to tell it all.  But again, I get the feeling that it's really me who needs to understand, believe, and hold steadfast to this story so that I really won't care if others believe it or not.

Chapter 1: Soulmates Marriage

I've noticed that the term Soulmate is pretty controversial.  People get extremely heated on both sides of the issue.  I think that's because marriage is such a vital relationship to develop in order to obtain Sustainable Joy

" are, that they might have joy." ~2 Nephi 2:25

Some people think their spouse is either a Soulmate or he is not.  And if not, then there's no hope.  Nothing can be done to mend the relationship once problems start and attraction wanes.  They believe attraction is either there or it's not; we can do nothing to maintain it over time.  What we do does not have any impact on attraction to our spouse.  This mentality is like buying a car and when it starts having problems, selling it and getting a new one without even trying to fix it first.  If we have this mentality, we'll walk through life looking for a magical person with whom the honeymoon will never end, regardless of what we do.  They don't know there exist advanced strategies to the Soulmates Marriage game.  This is like believing in all grace and no works.

"But strong marriage and family relationships do not happen just because we are members of the Church. They require constant, intentional work. The doctrine of eternal families must inspire us to dedicate our best efforts to saving and enriching our marriages and families" ~In Praise of Those Who Save by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Other people think there's no such thing as a Soulmate.  Marriage is work.  It will work with any person, despite their agency, if you put in the work.  Attraction doesn't stick around for long in any marriage.  It dies in time regardless of the work, which leaves us with the duty to put up with our spouse for the rest of our life.  We're essentially shackled to him.  We think this is the way it always goes and everyone has to deal with it.  If serious problems continuously arise despite continuous efforts to fix them, we just bear them.  So even when attraction fades away, we plug our nose in order to get the "food" down, grinning and bearing it.  Even though we've continually gone to the highest level "expert" that we know to teach us about the incrementally advanced strategies we need to engage in to retain the beautiful relationship we started with, and our spouse repeatedly uses his agency to communicate his disinterest in (or inability to implement) such strategies, we just keep on forcing ourselves to stay married for the sake of justice.  This mentality is like buying a car and when it continuously breaks down for years to the point that it is more an unreliable money pit than a tool to assist us in getting where we need to go safely, reliably, and efficiently, we refuse to let it go and purchase another one.  Even though it continuously fails to act as the maker originally designed it to act, we continuously try to force ourselves and the vehicle to work.  This is like believing in all works and no grace.

Is it possible to obtain a Soulmates Marriage or is this just a pipe dream?  Is the idea of a Soulmate just a cop out of marriage?  Is there just one person who would fit this description for us or are there many people who could fit?  Is it possible to develop a Soulmates Marriage or is it all about being lucky in love?  Is there a certain type of person with certain qualities, background, and religious beliefs with whom we would have a better chance of developing this kind of relationship?  Is it possible we could start with a Soulmates Marriage but, because of the agency of both partners, deviate from it over time?  Most of us agree friendship can last forever but what about romance?  Can it be sustained or at least regularly revived ("I get the joy of rediscovering you..." Faithfully by Journey)?  

"Prophets have said: 'The most important of the Lord’s work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home. Home Teaching, bishopric’s work, and other Church duties are all important, but the most important work is within the walls of your home.'” ~Eternal Families by President Henry B. Eyring
So everyone probably has some definition in their heads about what a Soulmate is.  That's why I need take the time to define what I'm referring to when I use the term so that we're all on the same page. 

What Is A Soulmates Marriage? 
When I speak of a Soulmates Marriage, I'm referring to a covenant relationship between a man, a woman, and God.  It's a temple marriage where both individuals play by the rules continuously and repent ASAP when they mess up.  It's not a couple who get married in the temple and think that's all that needs to be done. It is a journey that both spouses take together with the help of their Marriage Counselor Team.  

The head of a Soulmates Marriage Counselor Team is God.  We choose the other members of the team.  These are men and women who we believe to best understand who God is and what his directions are to obtain a Soulmates Marriage.  These are those who have already obtained a Soulmates Marriage for themselves, like the one we desire to obtain OR people who know the general rules that need to be followed to obtain sustainable relationships that can be applied to marriage.

The goal of a Soulmates Marriage is to progress towards a mutually desired level of Values.  A Value is what is valuable to us AND the way we we believe is right to go about obtaining it.  For example, everyone values Joy and wants to obtain it but the way I go about obtaining it may be very different from someone else's way.  God’s Values are different than the World’s Values.  They are sustainable while the World's Values are not.  The journey to obtaining a sustainable relationship with our spouse then, becomes an incremental quest to voluntarily sacrifice what the World values for what God values.  

We each have a different capacity to discern God's Values.  We use this discernment to decide which Marriage Counselors are teaching Values that are most in alignment with God's Values and which are not.  

The intensity and sustainability of the presence of the Holy Ghost, who is part of the Godhead, and thus the Soulmates Marriage Counselor Team, enables us to most accurately make these choices.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ allows us to make these choices for ourselves instead being forced to know and live by the highest Values of God.

The more we desire our Values to become like God’s, the higher and longer the climb.  That is the sacrifice.  The level at which husband and wife choose to voluntarily sacrifice returns a correlated intensity of Sustainable Attraction.  That is, the higher husband and wife climb together, the more intense the level of Sustainable Attraction they have for one another.  

Sustainable Attraction is the continuous dynamically balanced combination of friendship and romance between husband and wife fueled by the unity of their own voluntary efforts and the Holy Spirit of Promise.  This bond of Attraction acts as a spiritual Forcefield around their marriage and family, providing a shield against overwhelming Adversity and Temptation.  

Because of this Forcefield, Adversity and Temptation are reduced to the beneficial resistance against which our Values can grow.  This creates a self-sustaining vehicle in which we travel to our final destination--immortality and eternal life. That is, our present level of Values creates the Forcefield and the Forcefield enables us to develop higher Values until we have reached a mutually desired intensity of Sustainable Attraction.

So I've wondered what prevents a marriage from achieving that self-sustaining state?  That’s a golden question.  When I was first engaged to my spouse, we were very much attracted to each other but for some reason we deviated from that place over time.  The level of Attraction faded instead of intensifying.  It was not sustainable.  Why?  I'm going to attempt to answer these questions in the next few chapters.

Chapter 2: Deal Breakers

One of the biggest detractors from obtaining and then maintaining a Soulmates Marriage is having two or more women or men towards whom we're nourishing our attraction.  We may have a passing attraction to many people because we see that they indeed are attractive human beings.  I've learned through my own experience there's no getting around that.  But overly dwelling on these thoughts or engaging in what I call Reciprocity Attraction thoughts, words, and/or actions with someone other than our spouse is when conflict in marriage arises.  These kinds of relationships are what I call Deal Breakers.
Reciprocity Attraction is the practice of exchanging thoughts, words, or actions with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one person to another. 

If we want a Soulmates Marriage, we have to choose one person to develop that with and ignore all the other attractive potentials.  If we want Reciprocity Attraction relationships with multiple people, we cannot have a Soulmates Marriage.

Deal Breakers Scripture:  Matthew 19:9
"And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."

Fornication seems like a dirty word.  But I try to look at it objectively so I don't say, "NOT ME!"  I say instead, "At what level am I doing this in my life and how can I change it?"  We may not be having an all out affair with another person but we may be in need of controlling our thoughts.  I understand the word fornication to mean what I referred to as Deal Breakers in the previous paragraph:  engaging in Reciprocity Attraction thoughts, words, and/or actions with someone other than our spouse.  It is the opposite of Chastity, which would be:  actively engaging in Reciprocity Attraction thoughts, words, and/or actions with our spouse.  Even if a spouse doesn't officially go out and marry someone else as the scripture says, engaging in Deal Breakers openly or covertly changes the way husband and wife think and feel about each other as evidenced by the following scriptures which can apply to both men and women: 

"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."  Matthew 5:27-28 

"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders...All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." Mark 7:21, 23 

And these Deal Breaker thoughts are what begin to kill-off attraction between husband and wife.  

Personal Example
A couple of years after I was married I was often bored and lonely.  I was home with our first infant son without a second vehicle and did not know what to do with myself or with him as a young, new, relatively clueless mother.  I started to sense my attraction to other men with whom I associated at church.  They had qualities and strengths that I admired, some similar to my husband's, some different.  But I was surprised at this attraction because I had thought that once I was married I wouldn't be attracted to any other man.  That had been the case up until that point anyway.  So I talked to my husband about it.  He thought it was funny and basically said he trusted I would never act on such thoughts.  That was true and I didn't actually want to be married to any of them instead of my husband--never had that thought cross my mind. Neither did I have any sexual thoughts about them.  But there was more truth I needed to understand, which didn't dawn upon my conscience until years later.  Until then I just gave place in my heart for these little waves of fancy to carry me whither they would.  

And they carried me towards Reciprocity Attraction thoughts:  I wondered if these other men also found #1, ME, MYSELF, AND I attractive.  What does so and so think about me?  What would so and so think about what I just said or what I'm wearing today?  I think it's good to admire and appreciate the beauty in others (Article of Faith 13). The issue is when we go on to thinking about what all of these beautiful people think about us.  I know this doesn't ruin a marriage right then and there.  But if we consider that what makes being in love so utterly and completely amazing is the Reciprocity Attraction thoughts and feelings we're constantly entertaining about each other (#Chastity--this is seriously where it is!), we can see how this is the first step to violating our Soulmates relationship with our spouse.

It was probably about 2003 when I found myself thinking a lot about an old boyfriend--a relationship in which I never really had satisfactory closure.  I think I was remembering the Attraction I had towards him more than anything else and wishing that could last in marriage.  I would have dreams every once in a while of him being attracted enough to me that I actually won his heart.  I don't know about other women, but I imagine most of us have these kinds of dreams (if we have them at all) as opposed to the sexual kind.  I would wake up from these dreams and feel pretty intense about this kind of relationship in which both people we're very much attracted to each other.  Then I would entertain thoughts about my old boyfriend throughout the day.  I didn't realize it was affecting my marriage at all.  My spouse didn't know I was thinking about these things.  I thought it was all in my private world that didn't affect anyone...but me.  And that's the problem, isn't it?

By 2005 I started asking questions in my mind and subconsciously of God about Sustainable Attraction in marriage, although I didn't have a name for it at the time.  One day, I had an epiphany.  In hindsight I would call it personal revelation.  The instructions were:  "If you ever want to develop this kind of relationship with your husband--the man you're with right now--you need to delete these thoughts about your old boyfriend and any other man."  Heavenly Father didn't say Sustainable Attraction in Marriage was impossible so I could just forget about that.  He was giving me instructions about how I could obtain that within the boundaries he sets.  So I deleted the thoughts.  And that meant whenever they drifted in my mind, as soon as I realized what I was doing, I banished them.  Hard at first and then I got good at it like the development of any habit. And I'm telling you, after I did that my entire life changed to become a major adventure!
Deal Breakers
Engaging in Reciprocity-Attraction thoughts, words, and/or actions with someone other than our spouse

This is why pornography would also be a Deal Breaker (see Pornography).  Some people think it is harmless.  But it's not.  Men may think it is all in their private world that doesn't affect anyone...but themselves.  And that's the problem, isn't it?  

"...whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."  ~Matthew 19:9

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves and into pointing figures, let's remember that there are reasons men and women turn to Deal Breakers in the first place and that one spouse doing it seems to fuel the other as Jesus said.

Chapter 3: Marriage Counselor

A Soulmates Marriage is a journey.  Because that is so, we evidently need a guide, someone who is ahead of us on that journey who is willing to assist us.  I will refer to such a person as a Marriage Counselor.  This person can be male or female but for simplicity’s sake I’ll use male pronouns when referring to him. 

Conflicting Counselors
Having two or more counselors giving us opposing sets of directions creates conflict in a marriage.  If the wife listens to one set of directions and the husband to another, they will head in divergent directions.  And even if both husband and wife are listening to the same set of conflicting counselors it will only cause them to go around in circles, which basically ends in stagnation. 

"No man can serve two Masters" ~Matthew 6:24 

"The Listener" by James Christensen
All of us have taken plenty of advice from people about marriage both consciously and unconsciously even if we have never gone to formal counseling sessions.  Parents, religion, community, church leaders, friends, coworkers, family members, fellow church members, TV, movies, books, the media, the government, and many others all have something to say about how to play the marriage game.  From childhood up, both spouses formed their own ideas of what the marriage relationship should look like based on all of these influences, especially their relationship with their own parents, their religion, and their community.  Some ideas may coincide with the rules of a Soulmates Marriage and some may not.  Determining this for ourselves is left to our agency but it's important for a husband and wife to make these decisions together otherwise they may end up on opposing teams.

"But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth." ~Luke 11:17

This doesn’t mean there cannot be multiple people on the Soulmates Marriage Counselor team.  I believe there can be and are supposed to be.  But they need to be united in their counsel.    

"And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them." ~Moses 7:18

Personal Example 
When Sherm and I first started having more serious issues (around the years 2002-2005), we chose to read and follow the programs of a few different self-help books and audio CD's on marriage.  They got us talking about it and making a greater commitment to spend more time together but for whatever reason the conflict between us continued and even seemed to increase.

In 2006 I began to develop my communication relationship with God to the point where I chose him to be my Marriage Counselor (see Paradoxical Parenting and It's My Party).  All the questions about my marriage and all the conflicts we were having in it, I took to him in prayer.  

"We can rebuild her.  We have the technology"
The answers to these questions is what led to my own repentance process--cleaning up my act, clearing my Chakras and getting the #Motes&Beams out of my eyes.  The growth, the release from bondage, the joy that came into my life little by little has been the most amazing experience of my life.  I changed.  Through the atonement of Jesus Christ I was rebuilt.  

Sherm eventually came on board with this Marriage Counselor but he could never really trust the counsel coming from God to me (personal revelation) and then to him.  So he set out to improve his own communication relationship with him.  Eventually he wanted to go see an actual marriage counselor.  I didn't want to because I had chosen mine already.  I only wanted to hear his counsel and it seemed going to someone I didn't know and who didn't know me or the situation as well as God did would just be in conflict with him.  

But eventually I decided to go.  I figured maybe Sherm and I needed more help than we could both access together directly from God.  After all, I was the person Sherm was in conflict with, so being the one receiving the personal revelation for our marriage basically put me in the role of Marriage Counselor for him.  Very awkward situation for both of us.  I also wondered if I was being prideful by not accepting help from others who were trained in this area.  But I think this was more fear than pride because I had been to a few other counselors for my own personal issues in the past who either had not been able to help or who had just made my conflicts worse (see blog post Anxiety and Depression).  I wanted to fix it with God's help just like he was helping me fix all my other problems (see Before & After).  But I decided that maybe God could help us more if we added another member to the Marriage Counselor Team.  So we went for several months.

The whole experience was incredibly enlightening for me.  The marriage counselor was kind, patient, non-judgmental, empathetic, and in tune with the Spirit, generally speaking.  And this was someone Sherm could trust more than he could trust me.  But what ended up happening was that everything the marriage counselor said or gave us to take home and read, the Lord basically took over.  He spoke to me during the counseling sessions.  He whispered things in my ear about what was being said.  When I read the material the counselor gave me, he picked it apart--organized it--showing me what was balanced with his ideas and what was not.  

"Wondrous Sov'reign of the sea, Jesus, Savior, pilot me!" (see hymn:  Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me)

I question everything.  I do it to the point of being a Doubting Thomas.  It's one of my strengths but often times becomes my greatest weakness.  So back in 2009 when we were going to marriage counseling I was constantly challenging everything I heard.  I wondered how I could know this wasn't just me.  I found three reasons:

1.  I wasn't that smart.  I didn't know before what he told me.  And the things he was telling me were brilliant!  (Isaiah 48:6-8

2.  The Holy Ghost confirmed them.  He wasn't trying to make me feel prideful or envious towards Sherm or the counselor.  That's not how he wanted me to use the knowledge he was giving me.  He was trying to teach me and show me what I needed to know in order to resolve the present conflict I was in and obtain Sustainable Attraction in marriage.  When you spend a lot of time talking to God, writing to him, reading the scriptures, and paying attention to the Spirit you feel in your daily life, you know how to distinguish true thoughts from false ones.  The Holy Ghost is very distinctive and cannot be mimicked.  It's the same kind of Spirit I feel when I read the scriptures, take the sacrament, when I'm in the temple, or listening to his prophets speak.  It testifies of truth, regardless of who is saying it.  And because I became proficient in feeling his confirmation of general truths, I was able to know when he was giving me specific truth.  That same Spirit was in attendance.  So cool!

" My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" ~John 10:27

3.  What he told me did not conflict with the scriptures or what the prophets have said.  It only was validated by them.  I always challenged what I was hearing by asking, "Well, what about this scripture?"  Or "What about what this prophet said?"  I do this because I'm more interested in being guided by the Lord than in manipulating my thoughts and ideas to do things my own way.  What if my way is wrong?  Then I won't obtain a Soulmates Marriage.  And what good is my life if I don't have that?  I'm pretty sure this is the measure of my creation.  That can't change so I yield to this Heavenly Counselor (D&C 88:18-19).  That is my choice.  And I like Martin Luther I say, "This is where I stand."

After I developed the ability to receive personal revelation at a faster rate, I would not stop listening to and implementing the counsel.  I wouldn't stop even after Sherm and I started going to counseling together.  Because of that, a pretty good rift in our relationship was created over time.  I was flying at an intense rate of change and growth, taking advantage of every blessing the atonement of Jesus Christ offered.  I went to the temple all the time alone.  I studied my scriptures and prayed for hours alone.  I did not wait up for my husband.  I just kept assuming all the problems were mine, repenting for everything, and asking Sherm himself for priesthood blessings all the time to help me do it.  I believed this was the resolution process.  It did resolve the conflict in me and even improved my relationship with Sherm, meaning I started treating him much better than I ever had before.  But unfortunately it created a different kind of conflict between us.  We just got farther apart as husband and wife.  The fighting stopped but for whatever reason the marriage wouldn't develop and the Romantic Attraction wouldn't return.  It's so important for husband and wife to listen to the same Marriage Counselor and apply his counsel together.

The issue was that I seriously couldn't breathe without this developing relationship with the Lord.  I couldn't, wouldn't come away from the amazing beauty.  The more I saw, the more I needed to see.  I needed to understand it all.  And the doors were wide open to me.  I only heard, "Come."

"And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus." ~Matthew 14:29

Chapter 4: The Soulmates Journey

A Soulmates Marriage is both a journey and a destination.  If we were journeying to a specific destination we would most likely MapQuest it.  We would then follow the guidance of our GPS and get there without a problem, generally speaking.  Similarly, there are directions to obtaining a Soulmates Marriage.  There are rules to this game.  

"One person of wisdom observed, 'Laws are the rules by which the game of life is played.' In reality, they are much more; for obedience to law is an essential requirement if we are to be successful in our quest for the abundant life." ~President Thomas S. Monson, "In Quest for the Abundant Life," March 1988 Ensign

In the first two chapters I have identified a few of the rules of the Soulmates Journey:

The first is determining if I really believe it’s possible to obtain a Soulmates Marriage as described in Chapter 1.  If so, how badly do I want it?  Am I willing to sacrifice all that it takes to obtain it?

The second rule is deciding with whom I want to obtain that relationship.  Even if I'm struggling with my marriage, I need to assume it's my present spouse to start (#Chasity).

The third rule is for husband and wife to both decide on the same Marriage Counselor.  There can be a number of people on our Marriage Counselor team but there needs to be someone at the head of that team.  I choose God to be that head because I’m unsure if any other Counselor has the capacity to play that role.  That means I believe that obtaining a Soulmates Marriage can only be guaranteed if we choose God to be the head of our Marriage Counselor team. 

The fourth rule is to learn from him and his team members what the rest of the rules of the Soulmates Marriage game are.  We receive these step by step, line upon line because we wouldn’t be able to handle the more advanced rules that require more intense sacrifice in the beginning of our journey.  Incremental revelation of the mysteries of God has always been one of the rules of the general game to obtain immortality and eternal life (Alma 12:10).  "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Mark 4:23).  In fact I've been taught that we can’t hear higher level laws or understand them until we are obeying lower level laws, seeking for more knowledge and understanding, and being ready to implement it.

Chapter 5: Desire to Believe

My Rule #1 Desire to believe that a Soulmates Marriage is possible and determine if the sacrifice is worth it to me
For me it started with the inherent desire for such a relationship.  I wanted the Attraction I felt towards my spouse in the beginning of our relationship to return and be ever-present.  There was a yearning deep inside of me, which no one ever positively told me it was possible to satisfy, yet I had hope that it somehow was within the bounds the Lord set.  I hoped that God designed marriage to be that way.  Making that hope more than just a dream started with researching, visualizing, and understanding what a Soulmates Marriage was.  Here's a summary of my definition:

“A Soulmates Marriage is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman and God in which the spouses progressively journey together in balance to obtain the degree of Sustainable Attraction with which both are satisfied.  Sustainable Attraction is the continuous dynamically balanced combination of friendship and romance between husband and wife.”

So that left some room for study, explaining, and expounding upon.  Some questions I asked were:

What is a covenant relationship?  How is it different from just any old relationship? How is making that covenant with my spouse and God different than making it just with my spouse?

What is attraction?  What is magnetic attraction?  How can I liken the physics principles that apply to magnetism to the rules of attraction between a man and a woman?

What is a friendship?  How do I define it?  How does my spouse define it?  How does my Marriage Counselor Team define it?  What friendships have been the most valuable to me in my life?  Do I have that kind of relationship with my spouse?

What is romance?  Some people group all inappropriate sexual behaviors with appropriate sexual behaviors under this same word.  So what is good romance?  What is the romance God intended for marriage?  When has this been sustainable with my spouse?  What were we doing to sustain it?

In searching out the answers to these questions I started with dictionary definitions, then studied the scriptures and prophetic teachings as well as my own journal (a record of my past experiences), while listening to the Holy Ghost for that personalized instruction.

As I researched about what a Soulmates Marriage was with a pure and honest heart, really wanting to know, my faith in its existence grew, which indicated to me that it indeed existed (Alma 32:26-27).  My  very motivation to spend a lot of my time researching the subject described the intensity of my desire to obtain this relationship.  That’s how I determined that I wanted it more than anything else.  Spending my valuable time on researching it was the beginning of my sacrifice process to obtain it.

When I first decided that I was going to believe that through Christ it was somehow possible to develop Sustainable Attraction in marriage, I basically was forming a hypothesis.  It needed to be proven true through study and experimentation.  The first steps I took to "experiment upon it" were to think about what exactly I desired--Sustainable Attraction.  From what I could see, it seemed like the only people who enjoyed Attraction were those who jumped around from one relationship to another.  I knew about the natural Attraction people had for one another in the beginning of a relationship.  So if we chose to relationship-hop we could experience Attraction relatively consistently.  But in that case the only way to get it was to harvest that Natural Attraction in the beginning of the relationship, watch it die, and start again with someone else.  Sounded kind of vampire-like to me.  I knew that was against God's laws.  Yet I also knew he wanted us to be married for time and all eternity.  So was Attraction of God?  If it was then it could be sustained and that was his whole purpose for eternal marriage.  I have come to understand that God is not about sustainable pretense, bondage, and sorrow.  We may have to move forward in faith in the beginning, and trudge through hard sacrifices that bring us sorrow.  But that's not supposed to endure forever.  His end goal is sustainable happiness, joy, love (2 Nephi 2:25).  All those things are what create Attraction between two human beings.  I believe God designed eternal temple marriages so that a man and a woman could be in love forever.  And I had heard his prophets speaking about the marriage relationship as the crowning reward of all God's blessings (I'll find some quotes on that and put them in here soon.).  So I wondered what I was missing.  There must be an inherent process that God knew that would return Sustainable Attraction between two people (D&C 130:20-21).  And I wanted him to tell me it (Luke 11:9).  I believed he would.  Even if that process was a sacrifice, I was willing to do it.  I was willing because I knew that with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." ~1 Nephi 3:7