I have been asked a lot of the years what the secret to being in a happy marriage is. I have to say I always chuckle just a little bit when asked because I in no way proclaim to be an expert in the field. But given that today we are celebrating 10 years of pure wedded bliss ;) I figured why not put my thoughts into words. Jerry and I have been together 15 years today and have been married for 10. It seems crazy to even type this. And while most of it has been fabulous, some of it has been really hard. Especially those early years. I know, I know, believe it or not I'm not always the easiest most lovable person in the world and Jerry is well...Jerry. We love each other like crazy and honestly we do rarely fight but when we do....well we do. I personally think it's healthy.
So what have I learned in 15 years? Well the one thing I have definitely learned after being together 15 years is that men do not read minds well. Let's face it, they don't read minds at all. So if you want them to know something, you'd better just tell them. It's a whole lot easier than hoping they'll figure it out on their own and takes a whole lot less emotional energy.
The other thing I've learned is that if I'm unhappy with the way things are going I need to work on myself. Even if I think the problem is Jerry or it's easier to say the problem is Jerry (which of course it usually is) I need to work on myself. It's been a hard pill to swallow but no one can truly make us happy but ourselves. When we are happy with ourselves it's easier to be happy with the ones we are with. These things being said, neither is in any way the secret. The secret, at least for us, has been our faith in God and our perspective on eternity. Jerry and I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints together almost 9 years ago. As Mormons we believe that we can be sealed to our families forever. When I first learned this I was terrified of the prospect of being with Jerry forever but loved the fact that I could be with my children (or at that time child) forever. Over the years that fear has flip flopped. Now I can't image being without Jerry and shiver at the fact that I will be with my kids forever. ;) All kidding aside it is by far for me the biggest blessing. Our marriage isn't until death do us part but will live on for eternity. So I figure I can stick with Jerry and hope and pray with God's help he can molded into the perfect eternal companion or I can give up now and we can go to eternity with all our current baggage and problems. Yes problems. All marriages have them. The secret is never ignoring them and knowing that no marriage is perfect. Even the ones that look perfect. I will tell you this and while this shouldn't be a secret, too many of us don't know this. People only put their BEST stuff out there for the world to see. Most people only post to Facebook and their blogs the perfect pictures, from the perfect outings, in their perfect outfits. As women and sometimes men, we look at these things and immediately look at our own lives. The messy house, the loud kids in mismatched clothes, the lack of family time we've had that week, whatever. We look at the worst in our own lives and compare it to other people's best. It's totally unfair and not real. So let me be real. Stop doing it! We are all struggling. Some of us our willing to share that fact and some are not. But you do not have the market cornered on cRaZy. Most weeks I do! If you don't believe me, ask Jerry.
Back to that eternity thing. About 6 years ago, just after Jerry and I were sealed in the temple, I was asked to give a talk on eternal marriage. In preparing for that talk I came across something that has been engraved in my soul and for me has totally changed the way I look at all relationships, not just marriage. It was a talk given by F. Burton Howard. In it he recounts what he learned from his companion, exemplified by a set of silverware. The story went something like this. We started out as two poor law students with little money to spare. On occasion though, my wife would work as a part time election judge or someone would giver her a few dollars for her birthday, and instead of spending it, she would quietly set it aside. When she had enough she would go into town to buy a piece of silverware. Of course it took several years to accumulate enough pieces to use them, but when we finally had service for four, we began to invite some of our friends for dinner. Before they came we would always discuss which utensil to use, the battered and mismatched stainless or the special silverware? In those early days I would often vote for the stainless. It was easier. You could just throw it in the dishwasher after a meal, and it took care of itself. The silver on the other hand, was a lot of work. My wife insisted that I buy a tarnish free cloth to wrap it in, each piece in a separate pocket. When the silver was used, it had to be hand washed and dried so that it would not spot, and put back in the pockets so it would not tarnish. If any tarnish was discovered, I was sent to buy silver polish and together we carefully rubbed the stains away. Over the years we added to the set and I watched with amazement at how she cared for it. For years I thought she was just a little bit eccentric, and then one day I realized that she had known for a long time something I was just beginning to understand. If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don't expose it to the elements. You don't make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you loving polish it until it gleams like new. It become special because you have made it so and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by. Marriage, like the silverware is a lot of hard work, but if you want it to last forever it needs to be treated like the priceless gift that it is.