Today a confluence of dissimilar events brought me to this post. A decade ago, today, I asked my sweet wife to marry me. I must have tricked her well, because she consented. We’ll be celebrating tonight, and I think of all the hard work it’s taken on both our parts to come to this place. As we’ve worked through it all, we’ve marveled together at the movies or TV shows that depict married couples not long into marriage, and the first time something tough comes up someone asks, “Do you think he wants out?” The answer often follows, “Probably. It’d be best, right?” Marley & Me was a notable exception. The question was asked but answered with something akin to, “No. Marriage takes work.”

And today I discovered that my Church started a YouTube channel: Mormon Messages. Moments ago they posted something appropriate for Valentine’s day week, and for the decision and ensuing hard work, sacrifice, and love that my wife and I commemorate today. Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle today like Paul of old, takes a moment to talk about love.

How true it is. Love takes work. Stephen R. Covey (also a Mormon) recounts in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, about the time he was approached by a man saying he had fallen out of love with his wife and wondered what to do about it. Covey replied, “Love her.” After a few rounds of this, Covey explained that love is a verb.

Marriage is harder than any programming or design work I’ve ever undertaken, harder than any HR problem I’ve confronted as a manager. And when, after great effort, the children we dearly love came to us, the time we had to be together shrank dramatically: marriage took the same effort but was packed into 10% of the space it had before. That was harder.

Nothing is sweeter than the rewards of hard work to build a good marriage and a good family. That work is often never seen, nor spoken about in public. It doesn’t win professional prestige or solve business profitability. It often doesn’t do much that’s visible to your peers, but nothing is sweeter than seeing a marriage relationship that’s been strengthened through work. Nothing more satisfying than developing together the skills to work through disagreements or resolve a number of small misunderstandings that suddenly get noticed together. Nothing more fun than having a whole series of inside jokes built both on the wonderful times and on your shared reflection on experience as a young and naive couple. Nothing more sweet than sharing a look of profound, shared feeling of delight as you gaze at a sleeping child after months of wrangling together with how to get them to go to bed while maintaining your cool, much less on time. Nothing like the feeling her hand touch yours and know the softness and caring in the act because you’ve experienced it throughout all kinds of weather and held to it.

Nothing is so hard. In nothing have I felt so truly inadequate, or grown so much. Nothing has brought so much joy.

And to my sweet Jennifer: thank you for agreeing 10 years ago to go on this lifelong journey with me. May it truly last forever. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…