Sherilyn Clarke Stinson, the Church’s first female Commissioner of Family Services, often shares something with her clients about marriage.
“In the premortal world, we were single. And we got really, really good at single,” she said. “Marriage and doing everything that we learn with a partner is a new experience for us. And so if it feels awkward and difficult, there’s a reason for that. But we need to remember that it’s part of our internship, if you will—both marriage and parenting. We’re interns in this process, and it is going to be a lot of work and we’re going to make a lot of mistakes. And I think it’s important to remember that,” she said on a recent episode of the Latter-day Saint Women podcast.
While speaking to co-hosts Karlie Guymon and Shalyn Back, Stinson referred to an article by Dr. Bill Doherty which explains a challenge the world faces today in marriage called the “consumer” mentality. This means that people may have the attitude of seeing how a marriage will go rather than committing to it. But marriage is eternal, Stinson said, so there is a long time to work things out—and we will not be celestial at the end of this life.
Stinson also talked about realizing that there are different developmental stages of marriage from just starting out as a couple to a possible mid-life crisis to aging with one another. And while a couple is navigating their journey together, there are going to be bumps along the way. There’s also the reality that each spouse is going through an individual journey.
“I think sometimes we focus too much on ‘If I’m worthy and I marry a worthy person or someone that I’m in love with, that we have reached the destination,’ instead of recognizing that, okay, now you’re ready to engage in this course. You know, you’ve just simply chosen someone to go through the course with. And this is when the work begins,” she said.
When she and her husband were engaged, Stinson said they had a rocky experience learning how to work together—but that didn’t mean their engagement was a mistake. Working through those challenges enabled them to have a wonderful first year of marriage, and now after 46 years, she said they are just starting to figure things out.
Stinson also recommended having a strategy in marriage, from budgeting resources to being intentional in parenting. Identifying guiding principles can also help you be consistent in your marriage and family.
“One of the things that I have observed that is probably one of the most significant things is that couples often fail to approach marriage and family with a strategic plan. It’s interesting to me that any other corporation or start-up business or any other enterprise is going to have a strategic plan, and yet I have come across very few couples who approach their marriage and their family with a plan,” she said. “I think oftentimes that is a very, very important thing because then your strategic plan is guiding you through major decisions instead of ‘My wants, your wants.’”
During the episode, Stinson acknowledged that not all people will have the opportunity to be married or have children in this life and that she hopes they don’t feel marginalized as marriage is an eternal principle. Additionally, she shared her personal experience with infertility and adoption and talked about her journey from a full-time mom to entering the workforce. She also spoke about finding the tools and resources necessary for a successful marriage.
Listen to the full episode on the Latter-day Saint Women podcast.