Emmett and I were married on March 6, 2004 in the Mount Timpanogos Utah temple. It was a perfect day. Everything was just as we had planned it. The temple ceremony was beautiful. The man who sealed us gave us amazing counsel. The lighting was perfect for pictures. It was a little cold and overcast, but there wasn’t a shadow to be seen. I couldn’t have been happier. It was surreal standing outside the temple holding hands . . . as husband and wife.
Afterwards, we had a luncheon at my mother’s house for our family and close friends. We had a blast running around the house with all the kids. We were too excited to eat. I remember going into my bedroom one last time and thinking . . . “This is the beginning of my new life.” I stared at all the pictures on the walls. I glanced down at my wedding ring. I thought of all the days I had spent in this room . . . dreaming about this day. I had planned it all out in my mind . . . and here I was, living it. I had found the man who loved me enough to want to share his life with me. It was everything I had pictured. Everyone was downstairs. All of my family. All of his. All of the people who believed in us as a couple and were excited to share this day with us.
Later, we held a reception at the old church featured in the movie Footloose. It had been transformed into a reception center, and it was amazing. I loved everything about it. The reception room was exactly as I had always pictured it. We got there early to take photos. Of course . . . I had mapped out every picture, and had a schedule drawn up for everyone who was to be in each photo. Making my list into a reality was no small task! Emmett was very patient with my craziness. For hours, he smiled through every pose I put him through.
Soon, the guests began to arrive. We had planned on dancing, toasting, and then cutting the cake, but the guests just kept coming. The reception was supposed to over at around eight o’clock, but the line just kept streaming in. For four hours, a steady stream of people came to show their love and support. We felt like a truly beloved couple. I think between the two of us, each having two sets of parents, and then having moved so many times in our lives, we felt like we and our parents must have known half the world! I loved every minute of it. It was like a little piece of Heaven seeing old faces, meeting new ones . . . and sharing this special event with the ones who had always been a part of our lives.
It was a perfect night. We finally left the reception center. We hadn’t eaten, and we had been on our feet all day. We didn’t care. We were like giddy little kids as we laughed in the car all the way to the hotel. After we had checked in, we got into the elevator and were joined by another couple. They told us they had just been married that day, as well. They teased me for still being in my wedding dress . . . well pretty much every person we passed on the way into the hotel teased me about that. I don’t know what I was thinking! I guess I wasn’t. All I cared about was the man holding my hand as I got out of the car.
That day, Emmett and I had made many commitments. We had made covenants with each other and with our Heavenly Father to stand true to those commitments. We spent hours that next week on our honeymoon along the Oregon Coast reflecting on the promises we had made. We talked about our fears . . . and shared our deepest secrets. We cherished every moment we had together. We planned out our future and all that we wanted for our family. We both wanted a lot of kids . . . we knew that for sure. I came from a huge family and loved everything about it. Emmett was an only child . . . and he didn’t want that same thing for our family. We were on the same wavelength when it came to all of our hopes and dreams. It was easy to love him. I loved being his wife. I couldn’t wait to be the mother of his children.
I remember always glancing at his wedding ring and thinking . . . “Wow . . . this guy loves me enough . . . to wear a ring everywhere he goes just to make sure everyone knows he is taken.” I loved the feeling that we were only for each other. I loved the safety I saw in that ring on his hand. It was more than just a wedding ring to me, it was a symbol of all the commitments and promises we had made to each other that day . . . and he wore it proudly.
The night he died . . . long after the detectives were gone, I remember sitting and staring at that same ring. It sat up on its pedestal on top of our dresser. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It had lost its luster. It didn’t shine like it had that day I first put it on his finger. It looked dull. It felt empty . . . it felt as if I was staring into the face of darkness. I hated that ring for being at my house that night. That ring, which had once symbolized such beauty and love . . . now just stood there shouting at me . . . “Guess you weren’t enough! Guess all those fears you always had about yourself are all true. Guess you weren’t worth it, Ashlee. If you had been, I wouldn’t be here right now . . . I would be on his left ring finger!” But if it had been on his finger, it would have been in a dark body bag.
Emmett taking off his wedding ring was not the first step that got us to where we were. In the beginning, it was just little things. I don’t know where it all began for sure, but I really think it started out innocently enough. Then that innocence turned into comfort . . . and comfort turned into justification. Then there was texting. The texting led to lunch dates . . . which led to late nights . . . and eventually, that ring was no longer a reminder of the love he had for me and the promises we had made to each other. For Emmett, it became I reminder of all that he should have been cherishing. He didn’t take off his ring because he wanted to start an affair . . . he took off that ring because he was too far into the garbage consuming him . . . that he was ashamed to carry a constant reminder of it on his finger. And for me, I hadn’t just wanted him to wear his wedding ring day and night, I had wanted him to come home to me every night . . . I had wanted him to be there for me every day.
Infidelity starts somewhere . . . flirty little smiles. Personal text messages. Quick hellos via e-mail. It can happen in a matter of seconds. You let your guard down or show a moment’s weakness . . . and Satan excitedly jumps in to coax you into feeling comfortable with doing just a little bit more. He delights as you walk the line and then stumble and decide it wouldn’t hurt to do it just this once. He nudges you a little more . . . and a little more.
You cannot allow it to begin. Find the strength to say no. Challenge yourself to put on your armor every day as you kiss your loved one goodbye. It is easy to be weak . . . but it will not bring you joy. Somewhere down the road, the easy road will end, and the joy you once hoped for . . . will just be a distant memory. Every secret has the power to destroy . . . even if it is just a “little” secret.
Around every corner lies deception. It is real. It is looking for you. Darkness is just a click away . . . a send button, an inappropriate conversation. It waits for you to question your commitments . . . question your decisions.
You can be stronger than the world. Satan wants you to believe that everyone is doing it. Just this once won’t hurt. Enjoy it. It feels good. Those lies may feel true for that split second . . . but before that second has the power to destroy you, think about all the moments you will be leaving behind. The moment you knelt at an altar, hand-in-hand, and made promises to each other. The moment you held your newborn baby in your arms next to the person you loved the most in the entire world. Moments when you look across a messy room full of dirty diapers and an overflowing sink . . . across the kids’ toys and the bills that pile up around you . . . over to that person you loved enough to commit to . . . and you realize that you are exactly where you always wanted to be. Those are the moments you risk losing. When you see that person you love, you know without a doubt—even though your spouse drives you insane at times—that he or she is the person for whom you will put on your armor every single day as you leave your home. That is the smile you are going to come home to every night, and you will keep shining that ring . . .even when the world tells you to just take it off. You are going to put that person first . . . because you promised God that you would.
You have the power . . . you have the control. The promises you make to your spouse are not just words. They are covenants with your Heavenly Father. You promise Him that you will cherish and protect His child. There will be temptations everywhere you walk. There will be beautiful things everywhere you look. Find a way to look away . . . and look to the ones who love you back. True love isn’t found in fleeting lustful desires. True love is enduring. It is a dream that each one deserves to come true. When we came to this earth, we knew we would be tested. That moment when you made a commitment to another individual, you never believed your devotion would be tested. But it will. There will always be tests. There will always be trials . . . in all aspects of our life, and our faithfulness to each other is no exception.
Choose the higher road. Choose the road that leads you back to the promises you have made. In all relationships in our lives, there will be times when we question why we are there. There will be days when we just want to run away . . . and maybe even take off the symbols that bind us together. Don’t take the easy way out! Remember the times when all you could think about was being together. Remember the little things that caused you to fall in love, and fall in love with those things again . . . and stop focusing on the things that drive you away. Challenge yourself a little more. Be a little more loyal in all you do and say. If something is important to your spouse . . . do it. If something you do is hurting him or her . . . stop it. Put your spouse first. Think a little less about yourself. Hold true to the armor that protects you from everything the world will throw at you. Put your family first. If the luster on that ring has become dull . . . ask Heaven’s Angels to bring the polish you need to make it shine again. You have the power to choose . . . choose to be true.