Nineteen years ago, on the 19th of December, “Peeps” and I got married. Our ceremony was performed by Patriarch Arthur Strong in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. It was a beautiful day. Unseasonably warm for December. Although the sky was partly overcast, most of the snow had melted. In the background of several of our photos there is actually green grass and pansies blooming, suggesting Spring.
I was studying music, and Peeps was studying accounting at a local University. We were thrilled to have nabbed a one room campus housing unit for our “first home”. We were starting our life together as poor as church mice, but blissfully encircled by that marvelous “halo of love” which makes everyone feel like royalty. Of course we had no idea what lay in store for us. No newlyweds do. That’s probably one of the big reasons there are so many weddings! The act of marriage is simple. It is the actual practice which poses difficulty.
However, no warning in the world could have deterred us. We joyfully plunged into marriage hand in hand, and confident that come what may, (if there were in fact something coming), we would quickly resolve it and live happily ever after.
Newlyweds are annoyingly optimistic that way.
Ultimately, those two young, slim, giggling college students were proved right. They have weathered the storms together that came along. And there was plenty of “inclement marital weather” over nineteen years! … sprinkles, showers, gales, blizzards, sleet, hail, snow and three or four full-out “tsunamis”. Of course, there have been many beautiful sunny days, too!
So, what is the secret to a successful marriage? Is there some sort of a magic formula, or is it just ‘dumb luck’? Well, I don’t know if I qualify as an expert yet. My grandparents will celebrate their 66th year wedding anniversary this spring. Now THERE are two experts for you! Definitely a product of years of hard work, not luck – Other than the good fortune of living long enough to throw a big party!
I asked Grandma their marital longevity “secret” once, and her answer went like this:
“Well, I guess you just keep at it, and keep at it, and then eventually you pretty much can’t imagine living without each other… But, I don’t know how we could have gone through all of it without the gospel. That’s for sure. I really don’t know how anyone does it without that”. – Grandma June
Grandma summed things up well. Commitment, Friendship and Shared Spirituality.
The number one ingredient of marital success is commitment. Both husband and wife must be completely and equally committed to making it work. No matter what. And then stay committed even when it isn’t fun or convenient. A Strong Shared Spirituality is what best motivates deep commitment. Another major ingredient, the part that brings great happiness, is being Best Friends.
Peeps and I have been blessed to have these three major ingredients present in our 19 years. We have had several serious challenges in our marriage so far, any of which may have ‘justified’ a separation and/or divorce. People divorce for much less these days. I am a firm believer that every marriage will be broadsided with at least one serious “tsunami” (usually several) that test the couple to their utmost limits. This is something Disney and all other story tellers leave out of their fairy tale romances (ever wonder why the story always conveniently ENDS on the wedding day?!)
Therefore, way too many starry-eyed newlyweds end up hopelessly crushed when their first unique marital trauma appears, and the true nature of “happily ever after” is exposed (i.e.: it isn’t a destination, it’s a journey)!
So, to all of you considering marriage, or preparing for marriage, or have been married for a few uneventful minutes… Please Brace Yourselves. Something is going to come along which will shake you to your core. It will seem much easier to cut free, add up your losses and “move on” then to stay in the trenches mucking through it together. When this happens, I want you to know that you are not a “failure” and your marriage does not have to be a “failure” just because you are facing a serious challenge. You are not alone. You have just joined the “marriage club”.
All Happily married couples are survivors. They have weathered storms but often do not choose to divulge the details. A married couple’s ‘endurance experiences’ are a confidential matter between two trusted partners. Surviving something shattering together as husband and wife is very intimate. This changes the problem from a “secret” struggle, to a sacred bond. Thus, these things rightly deserve to remain a private matter, and if shared it would be only with both spouse’s knowledge and approval.
Therefore, when you see those happy, loving, “perfect” married couples whom you admire so much, it is safe to assume they have been to hell and back. In fact, I suggest that is exactly WHY they are so happy and loving! They made it “back”, Together!
Peeps and I could be classified as one of those couples. Like I said, we have had plenty of reasons to call it quits. But we didn’t. And every time we didn’t, we got stronger and closer and our hearts were “knit together as one”.
Some people try to stay together for the kids. Some avoid divorce because dividing the spoils would be “too messy” or “too costly”. Some feel they are “trapped” by their financial or emotional circumstances. However, taking one look around at the world today, none of those reasons are strong enough to make a marriage last in the end. And certainly none are strong enough reasons to make them last happily.
Everyone has their own unique situation. Everyone has their own personal reasons for ending a marriage. There is a lot of heartache involved in this subject. People don’t usually get married planning to get divorced. For this reason, many times a marriage can be saved with the correct intervention and guidance. But sometimes, there is no other choice.
I believe Peeps and I have preserved our marriage this far because of our close friendship, our commitment to each other, and our partnership with God. Back in December of ’89 we made very sacred promises to each other and to God, in His Holy House. Both of us believe strongly that ours is an eternal marriage. It is sealed on earth and in heaven, and what God binds on earth and in heaven, no man or woman should take lightly, nor destroy. We believe death does not part our union. Just as we are sealed to each other, our children are sealed to us, and we can literally become a Forever Family.
Like all blessings from God, there are requirements and responsibilities attached. In order to have the treasure of an eternal marriage and an eternal family, it is necessary to have the marriage performed in the proper place and by the proper authority. The blessings are also conditional upon our faithfulness to God’s commandments individually and our fidelity to each other as a couple. Thus, every time Peeps and I face a challenge and save our marriage, we are very literally making an eternal investment. We are working to preserve not only our eternal happiness, but the eternal happiness of our children and all of our posterity for generations to come. Creating an Eternal Family is the true meaning of marriage. That’s why marriage is so important! And that’s what makes it worth fighting for, sacrificing for, protecting and preserving at all costs!
When marriage is illuminated in an eternal light, it helps us put our mortal problems into perspective. It also helps us set our priorities straight. What really matters and what doesn’t? What is helping us get closer to our heavenly goals, and what should be eliminated? We have the opportunity as a unified couple in a partnership with God to assess each experience and decide how we are going to cope with it. Together. What things are we doing that are building our marriage and family? and What is tearing it down? Then we can make adjustments accordingly.
Looking back, the “best of times” have been when both of us are keeping close to God, and including Him in our daily lives. Our marriage is stronger when we are praying together, paying our tithes, attending our church meetings, giving service, holding weekly Family Home Evening, taking time to talk to each other, sharing our faith and positive encouragement with each other, and setting goals together for our future. Living and working as a team. Each person pulling 100% in the same direction. Each person committed to the same goal. As soon as one or the other, or both, lose sight of the commitment, the direction and the goal, that’s when there are big problems!
So, here we are. 19 years later. Our oldest child turns 18 “official adult” next week, and our second child is just around the corner. We are entering a whole new married world as we embark on our next 19 years. I anticipate we will be supporting our children successfully through college, and university, and then seeing them begin their own “happily ever after” endurance experiences. I look forward to welcoming grandchildren into our hearts. Of course, there are certainly potential storms ahead! And, this time, we are not too naive to think we will escape them.
However, just like on our wedding day, we also have confidence. We have confidence in God our Heavenly Father, and in our Savior Jesus Christ. We know They are with us. They want us to succeed. They want our marriage to succeed. They want our family to succeed.
We have confidence in each other as a married couple. We know what we have gone through in the past, and we know how strong we are when we accomplish things together. If we put our trust in each other, and in our Savior, things will work out. Things may not work out the way we hope or dream or imagine. But they always work out in the end, as we work on creating our own “happily ever after” story.