Cristi and I were married in the Manti Temple on August 15, 1979. Today is our 30th wedding anniversary, and we are enjoying a little adventure together in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Over the last few months, I've been thinking about this day and about the glue that has held our marriage and us together through all of our trials and triumphs. Here are some of the most important things that have helped us stick together over the last three decades.
One important lesson for me was learning that it's okay if I'm not right all the time. When we were first married, I thought I was right about all kinds of things that I was not right about. But I was in my twenties and I did not know the difference between confidence and arrogance, so I forgive myself. I learned to not be so "certain" when I am only precariously certain. I have lots of opinions, but my Heavenly Father doesn't have any opinions: He knows the truth about everything. I would serve Him well to only be certain about the things worth being certain about, and leave the rest for time (and eternity) to bear out. As I have said before, I am happiest when I am right with my wife, not when I "prove" myself right. Sometimes being right is lonely business. I'd rather be happily married.
Another lesson I've learned is that my wife is worthy of my complete respect, no matter what. Even if I think she is wrong or headed in the wrong direction, she deserves my unswerving respect. She is free and independent, sovereign over her own life. She may make choices I don't like (though, honestly, she rarely does), but that does not give me the right to mock or belittle her in any way, or to coerce or even cajole her. Think about it: Has your Father in Heaven ever belittled you, even when you have made mistakes, sometimes big ones? Never. He encourages us, lovingly, and even when He commands us, He says, in a way, as He did to Adam, "Nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee" (Moses 3:17). If God has complete respect for you and me, should we not show the same respect to those closest and dearest to us?
Next, communication. I cannot emphasize too strongly how important communication has been to our marriage. The absence of it, mostly on my part (because it does not come as naturally to me as it does to my wife), has caused many misfires and frustrations over the years. The more I communicate with my wife—my intents and goals, my meetings and commitments, my concerns, fears and sorrows—the better our life together goes. But it has to go both ways; it's two-way communication that works, not one-way. It creates understanding, oneness and unity in relationships like nothing else. Humor has been a big part of how we communicate. My wife also knows how to laugh, and that has made life easier and much more fun.
Finally, and ultimately, faith has carried the day. When I first met Cristi, when she was a girl of 15, I knew she was a young woman of great faith and commitment. She inspired me with her desire to always do the right things, and she always inspired me to want to do better and to be better, just because of who she was and still is. There was never any force or embarrassment. It was simply a desire planted in me because of the goodness of her heart.
Don't think any of this has come easily. It has not. I have learned a lot since our wedding day. I am still learning, and I have much more to learn. What could be more important, more in need of our urgent attention, than getting our marriage right? Through my wife's patience, I am a much different man than I was 10 or 15 years ago.
Our trials in life seem to be in one or more of these three areas: health, money or relationships. Right now, my trials have to do more with money and health, but not in my relationships. Money and health, they come and go, but after this life, they won't have much bearing. Our relationships can go on forever. That's where most of us want to succeed. That's what gets most of my attention.
I am so grateful to have a loving wife who is also my best friend and most trusted confidant. Other than my faith, she is the reason I keep going, keep trying, and never quit, though I am at times tempted to give up. She is the ember that keeps glowing when my fire is all but gone out.