The following is an interview i conducted with a couple that has been happily married for more than 6 decades. I asked them about how they met, how they lived, what works, and what does not work in a marriage. I masked their identity completely for anonymity, but left everything that a reader may find educational or informative. These are the experts in marriage, if you want your marriage to be happy and long, learn from them. For a marriage counselor Cincinnati, visit my website.
How they met?
The wife ( M ) has a very detailed and fond memory of how they met. So much so that she delighted in the opportunity to “tell the story”, and in as much detail as she could muster.
That was quite detailed!!
The husband (J) maintained a nonchalant – but visibly positive - attitude towards the story. It was clear in my mind that he remembers the story rather differently than his wife’s “version” but was both amused by how she remembers it, and happy that she sees it the way she does.
He rarely interjected his wife’s narrative (veteran move from an experienced husband I can only assume) , but did offer a few words of commentary here and there when I “ poked” him for a comment or his own account of the story.
According to M, she was at a skating ring with one of her friends. The friend knew the young man who would be her future husband. She very fondly describes how he walked across the skating ring to “say hello” to his friend, and this is when they got introduced for the first time.
She goes on to describe how he offered to walk her home, how she shared the story with her older sisters who suggested that he should be introduced to their father.
J seems to have caught an early lucky break, with M’s traditional and old fashioned Italian father having already known J and liking him socially ( they fished in the same spot ), and quickly gained a “ carte blanche” into the family home. M describes how J would come to the house every day and have dinner with the whole family ( 6 girls and 5 boys of whom M was the youngest ) with the blessing of the father.
A very animated M explains how J loved her homemade bread. I jokingly asked if she still makes it , to which she gives an emphatic affirmation. I turned to J and jokingly asked if he still likes it, everyone bursts into laughter. J doesn’t answer however!
In M’s words “and that was it, one and a half years later, we were married”
What stand out during the courtship period and early marriage? What was fun?
J instantly responds that M liked to dance. Before he can elaborate, M interjects by saying that J loved music, that he played the sax and had a band. She went to his gigs for a few times and suggests she stopped going when a “horrifying “episode happened. All he musicians would take their wives and girlfriends to the gigs and dance while they performed. She says she had enough sense not to dance with other men and she would just watch. One gentleman asked her to dance a few times, and she politely refused, but after taking a glance at her husband’s furious looks at the adamant gentleman, she decided not to go any more.
She goes on to describe that they liked going to the race tracks a lot, bbq, vacations to NY and long island and a road trip to Memphis. “We were always on the go” M said. I tried to rephrase by saying “ so you did a lot together and went out a lot”, which received an emphatic “ yes we did” from J.
M describes the trip to Memphis as “horrible” which receives a very big laugh from J. She goes on to explain It was the heat that made it so terrible, J smiles and doesn’t comment.
How did you make the decision to get married?
I asked this question with great curiosity about the answer. I added “ was that what was expected because of how your families were, or how did it go”?
M says “ My dad liked J, only thing he told me was it was going to be a little difficult at the beginning because your tongues are different”. Before I could ask what she meant she offered an explanation.
“ I was raised the old Italian way, but J was Slavic”. She goes on to add “but all through our marriage, I stayed at my pace. I raised my kids the way I was raised”.
I asked J about his decision process and he replied almost nostalgically by saying “Well I loved her, and I figured I should get her before someone else does”. We all giggled. M giggled shyly, I giggled in amusement at the man’s whit, and he giggled because he really did love his wife It seemed to me.
I asked “Was it a hard decision”
A very strong and firm “no” from both of them ensued almost instantly and simultaneously.
Tell me about the wedding and the honeymoon?
M takes lead again “It was a small church wedding, just family “ and goes on to explain about the honeymoon. “ them says people didn’t have a lot of money”, We went to J’s aunts place in long island for 2 weeks. She goes on to describe how she loved her husband’s aunt, then expands her statement “his people are wonderful”
M goes on to describe some of her memories about the honey moon, citing yet another “ horrible experience” when J took her on a raw boat and she doesn’t know how to swim. She explains an episode with an oil tanker in great detail, and how she never again would go on a row boat, and even as she describes the episode as horrible, there is an air of lightness to how she tells the story, J interrupts and teases her about how he said he d throw her into one of the bogeys.
“He wanted to go fishing and he wanted to take me with him, he should have never done that” she jokingly says.
Tell me about your first year of marriage. What do you remember about that?
M starts us off as usual “it wasn’t hard at all for me. Na ha”. She adamantly tries to make the point that it was not hard at all. I turn to J and ask what he thinks, when M jumps in again and says that it wasn’t at all hard. I jokingly say “is he going to get in trouble if he said it was hard?” Everyone bursts into laughter.
I may have aroused M’s curiosity, that she paused the question to her husband herself.
J says “ naaaah, I d say it was as it is now”. I’m not quite sure what he meant by that !!
M picks up the thread again and affectionately reminds J of how he liked to sleep back then. She reminds him how the bus would throw pueblos at their window to wake them up ( I assume it was J’s work bus).
J describes how he worked for a lumber company back then, and jokingly says how he didn’t want to wake up in the morning.
M quickly interjects again and explains how she is not sorry, and that she has had a wonderful 62 years of marriage with J.
J answers playfully “M, it is too late to be sorry “… instant classic for my books!!
Half serious, M says “it’s not too late” and ventures to tell both of us the story of the Italian family she knows where the parents got divorced after 55 years of marriage. She adds “J, don’t say its too late”
About parenthood, can you tell me what you remember about that period in your life when you had your first baby?
“It was 4 years into our marriage when we had our first baby, it was a big change in my life” She goes on to explain that she had to adjust to J coming back home (because he had spent 2 years in the service in Korea), and then the baby.
“At first I couldn’t function” she explained. Then her eldest sister came to visit, M cried as she explained to her sister that she couldn’t handle things and how she didn’t have time to “wash her face in the morning”
Her sister wrote her a schedule and put it on the fridge, and according to M, after following the schedule; it was a piece of cake!
Utterly curious, I asked if she remembered what was on the schedule.
She remembered one bit of it “ if your baby was sleeping, then you take care of yourself, when the baby wakes up, you take care of him, that worked for me, like it worked for my mother”.
I directed my questioning to J, about how he felt. “Did you feel neglected?”
He ventured to answer “no, I had my mind on her and the baby…”
Before he could finish his sentence, M was back on “He was working and studying, he was very busy as it is”.
“So would you ask him to help with the baby or anything like that?” I asked.
“No “she said firmly. I was home all day…
She then added “even when I did work on Sundays, I taught him how to make sauce, he would do that and then come pick me up, and I would cook dinner”. Almost as an after though she adds “So yes, he did help me”
After I cracked a quick joke on whether J’s sauce was any good, M gets back to being serious “Whenever I corrected our children, he d stick by me, and whenever he corrected them, I stood by him”
Intrigued I asked “How is that even possible when as you described you both grew up in very different houses?”
Equally intriguing answer from M “Well you see, he was young when he got married, so he came my way”!!!
She then proceeds to explain by using a proverb that I took to mean that a house hold always leans towards the mother’s way of doing things. Not a peep from J.
Not particularly sure why she mentions that but she proceeds to say “My dad always told me that his sons are his sons until they take a wife, but you are my daughter forever”
I inquired “So you felt supported by your father and family?” M answers affirmatively then adds, My dad was great with J, and his dad was great too.
I inquire again “So your dad was good to your husband and his dad was good to you? Say you had a problem between you two, who would you go to? His dad?”
M surprises me