Three couples shared their advice with young adult leaders Friday at the World Congress of Families, discussing how to combine faith and traditional family life in seeking happiness for themselves and their children.
Stan and Michelle Swim, Richard and Linda Eyre, and Jon and Pam Strain have been married for different amounts of time, they come from different backgrounds, and they practice different religions, but all have experienced “fulfillment in marriage.” The couples shared how at the World Congress of Families IX in Salt Lake City on Friday.
The session, part of a young adult program for Emerging Leaders within the Congress, began with all six members of the panel describing themselves and their marriage, and explaining how God got them through it.
Stan and Michelle’s story was about ups and downs, and Stan talked about the benefits of the hard times. He is the chairman of this year’s World Congress, and interim president of the Salt Lake City-based Sutherland Institute.
“I wasn’t trying to make the circumstances ideal; we made each other ideal,” Stan said. “You can’t wait for everything to be ideal because going through trials make you, as a couple, stronger.”
Michelle reiterated the certainty of challenges and explained how dealing with those challenges was possible because of their faith.
“When there is so much pressure, you either bend or break,” Michelle said. “At those times, I have bent to my knees and the Lord has carried us through.”
The Eyres were the oldest couple on the panel and shared how they have made several decades of marriage work. They have authored several books together on marriage and family life.
“We are both very strong-willed people, so we probably have fought more than anyone you know,” Linda said. “But you have to be committed and finding out how you are compatible with your spouse is a lifelong journey and so much fun.”
Richard echoed Linda’s words by saying, “Everything hinges on commitment.” He also encouraged young adults to create families by taking each step toward that goal in the right order.
“Date, get married and have children; don’t do it backwards,” Richard said. “Remember, it all starts with dating. Forget this hanging out stuff and go on dates.”
“Let’s hear it for dating!” Richard exclaimed, with applause from the crowd.
The Strains come from a Baptist faith background, in contrast to the two other couples, who are affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite the difference in religion, Jon and Pam echoed similar themes of faith in Christ and reliance on prayer in order to a successful marriage. The Strains work in Christian ministry together.
“We are designed to have a relationship with God and with other people,” Pam said.
She shared three tips for a successful relationship, which included recognizing there is a strength for every corresponding weakness, learning to laugh and praying.
Jon described how he is a “spiritual billionaire,” and shared how his trust in God led him to his wife.
“I asked God to make me the right man so that I could find the right woman,” Jon said. “After that, I just trusted God and waited for him to put her in my life.”
The session ended with a Q&A. The panel members answered questions on compatibility, the enrichment children bring to a marriage and forgiveness of flaws.
“Love should mean, ‘I will pursue God together with you,’ “ Stan said. “Once you love someone like that, you can get through anything.”