The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 24 - 2/8/01
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What does it take to make a marriage last?
George Bernard Shaw once wrote: "When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part."
If we could take his words seriously, it's no wonder that statistics show that half of the marriages performed these days end in divorce. But what about the people who are celebrating 50 or even 60 and more years together? What did it take to make their marriages last?
What They Said
There were several consistent answers when I asked couples about their long marriages. They agreed that showing love and respect, vital to a successful marriage, grows through shared time and experiences but those qualities must come from the heart.
Disagreements are bound to occur in any marriage but it is how each one handles the problem that determines whether or not it becomes a major issue. George Barp, who has been married to Edythe for over 50 years, says to bite your tongue when you're tempted to make a cutting remark. Mean and spiteful words, once said, can never be un-said.
Zoe Kalber remembered the time when she'd been married a month or so and some remark Dick made set her off and she threw herself on the bed to pout. When he asked why she was mad, she said she didn't know but she'd think of something. They've thought of that often and laughed about it in their 40 years together. Several of the other folks I talked to share Zoe's view that it's important to keep a sense of humor.
George Barp made another point. He says that marriage is a give and take proposition and when one takes but isn't willing to give, a marriage suffers. Others, like Anna Lee Woffinden who shared 45 years with Shrimp before he passed away, emphasized the need to talk things out. Joe Murdock says it is nip and tuck sometimes but he and Jeane say that it took both of them to take care of the kids and cows they were trying to raise so they did what had to be done. Since November 11th of last year marked the 60th year of their marriage, they've persevered in their commitment to each other. When I asked Jeane if she ever got mad she said, "Damn mad. But you have to get over it." She added that they were anchored down with kids and cows!
Homer and Mary Pringle look at each other with smiling eyes. I sensed that they are very good friends. When she told me she has a wonderful husband I knew she meant it. They feel blessed in living 61 years in a happy marriage. Their children and grandchildren bring them joy. But all this came about because they worked together.
I talked to Dr. Close and his wife Bettine separately and they both told me the same thing in different words. They said each one needs to have outside interests, a personal aim in life. And, each one should allow the other the space and support to pursue a dream. Bettine pointed out that their ability to talk things out so they were in agreement about children and other important issues has strengthened their marriage. Showing respect, being polite, and having a strong feeling of loyalty contributes to the harmony they seek together. When there is need for it, Bettine says to forgive - from the heart. She also says a wife should pay attention to her cooking. Doc adds, oh yes, don't forget "bed, buttons, and breakfast"! Whatever they've done to be happy together, it's worked well for 58 years, as of February 6th.
Through his ministry, Reverend Dick Kalber observes that solid marriages usually are built on spirituality and belief in God. With that abiding faith, we are better able to accept people as they are - including one's spouse. In a long-term marriage a husband and wife recognize their differences but do not want the spouse to feel unworthy because of them.
When they lost their youngest daughter, the Kalbers didn't realize that a high percentage of couples who lose a child eventually divorce. For them, it was a time to comfort each other and go on together. As with other trials, such as illness or financial struggles, that occur in a marriage, a death should bring a couple closer to each other.
Zoe and Dick Kalber have found their life together to be a big adventure. He encouraged her to finish college after they were married; she has allowed him to be himself and try many different careers and experiences. Although she hated flying, she would go along after he took flying lessons and bought a plane.
Several of the people I talked to agreed that attitude is a major factor in going into and sustaining a good marriage. If the attitude is, as Bob and I believed, that marriage is "until death do you part", there are no options attached. But if the attitude is "if I don't like this, I'll get a divorce", the inevitable problems which committed couples would work through -or endure - can become an easy way out.
While I joke when I say, "The reason Bob and I get along so well is because he does everything I tell him to do", we both know it was because of our commitment to each other and our marriage that we have been married nearly 46 years. Bob calls it an "invisible bond".
Early in our marriage, we became friends with five other couples. It's been nearly 40 years since this group formed and there are several factors that have sustained this special friendship. First, we have met with each other nearly every summer to spend some time together. We keep in close touch during the year. Maybe the main reason these twelve people were drawn together was that we shared the same values. All had families and everyone has strong faith in God, practicing religion in their own way. Now, there's something else we have in common. All six marriages have lasted over forty five years so far, four couples passed the 50 year mark and two couples were married over 60 years.
Esther Blincow is one of the three in our group who has lost a spouse in the last few years. Esther told me the same thing these other long married people have said - that they loved each other and liked to be together. If Esther and Lyle or any of the other five couples ever got angry, it was never apparent to us. But like any couple, they didn't agree on everything. Another member of our special gang, Marge Colby, says being tolerant of each other's idiosyncrasies is necessary in a good marriage. She added that when children are in the home, couples have to concentrate on raising them; when they leave home the couple needs to devote themselves to each other. Marge and Donald Colby will soon celebrate 61 years of a good marriage.
What They Didn't Say
The people I talked to have been married for decades. It says a lot for those people that none of them talked about money problems, disappointments, worries about their children, unfaithful spouses, or any other of the problems that arise in a marriage. Maybe they stay married because they kept the fruit and threw out the pits in their bowl of cherries. Maybe it's like Jeane Murdock says, "No matter how aggravating it is, it's worth it. "Reverend Kalber summed up his thoughts on what makes a marriage last. He said, "There has to be something in each one's spirit that hooks the souls together."
And then, with his mischievous grin, he added, "Go fishing a lot, too." <
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