Of Tips for Lasting Marriages

Portrait by Venture Photography, Greenwich, CT

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, a young person asked me recently what made my marriage to Jack Moffly work for fifty-nine years. I answered her flippantly with two words: “Two cars.” And before I could explain, she said: “You should write a column with tips for lasting marriages.”

Hmm. I’d need a lot of help with that. So, I sampled some of my friends.

Elaine Leegstra (fifty-six years with Ruurd) said: “Two bathrooms.” Seat up or seat down?! “I’d never lived with a boy before,” she adds.

My mother said, “Two beds”, even if they were twins pushed together with one giant headboard. “The man wants to feel like the pursuer,” she explained. Her theory must have worked, or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this column.

Oh, and my two cars? I have the “first in, first out” approach to large parties and all the obligatory benefits. Jack was 100 percent “first in, last out.” When I felt it was time to go home, he told me it was rude to leave so soon. Two cars definitely preserved our marriage.

Says Ann DuBois (fifty-one years with Jan): “Crazy busy with two jobs, three kids, four dogs? Share an activity—sing in the church choir; sail in winter frostbiting; pursue a passion for opera. Just do it! Together!”

And, she adds, “Try holding hands when you are walking together—just for a while. Yesterday, walking six miles in the city, a polite man told us how nice it was to see an older couple holding hands on the sidewalk. The chat which ensued made all three of us feel good.”

Jane Condon (forty-five years with Ken) says: “You need one person who can cook and one who can make reservations. He can cook, and I can say ‘delicious.’ And ‘Whoo, Honey, you’re the man!’

“My husband and I are very different. He is logical, I am impulsive. He is Republican; I am Democrat. (I like to say, “Someone’s gotta sleep with ’em.”) He’s sober and serious. I am … a comedian. But we share the same values. And one other thing nobody ever sees: When he walks by me in the kitchen, he taps me on the shoulder. To me, that says, ‘I see you, we are connected, I love you.’ ” (Author’s note: It might mean, glad to see you in the kitchen for a change!)

Suzanne and Jack Prunier (fifty years) had a weekly dinner date. “With his all-consuming practice of medicine,” she says, “it gave us airtime for reconnection and to really listen to each other.” They also wrote Our Words of Wisdom for a Happy Marriage, which was read at the weddings of their four children.

Among their suggestions was “Allow each other space” to which I’d add: “Support each other’s interests.” These went hand-in-glove in the Moffly house. Example: If my Jack wanted to sit in a duck blind freezing his buns with the boys, it was fine by me. But I learned how to pluck a goose at the kitchen table (and broke my new Electrolux vacuuming up the feathers). Another example: If I wanted to spend hours singing with the Grace Notes, it was fine by him. But he became a real groupie, following us as far as Washington and Detroit for Spring Sings.

Also, in the Pruniers’ Words of Wisdom they repeated (on purpose), “Laugh at every opportunity.” I agree. But if you find nothing to laugh about during a marital altercation, write it down. Years later you’ll find some of these little notes to yourself and can have a real laugh.

Oh, one last thing: If you marry a sailor, as I did, learn to sail, don’t forget the Bonine and “Carry On!”

 

 

 

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