Category Archives: Make Marriage Last

Secrets to Marriage: Part 2 Synergy

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            There have been a lot of times since dad’s recent passing that little things reminded me of him and our time together. Whenever I see wild geese or ducks I think about our drives together. He always enjoyed watching them with me. When I walk through the beautiful forested areas around our home, I remember walking with him. He always appreciated my knowledge and interest in nature. The other day I gave the last of his special Vienna salamis to Liz. She recalled eating breakfast with him and Mimi in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Salami and aged Swiss cheese on toasted rye bread was his favorite breakfast.

            I remember mom (Mimi) when I cook something she might have made, or tell a corny joke, at which I know she would have laughed. Crystal and Liz insist that from time to time, they can smell Jim’s (Crystal’s dad) pipe smoke. Crystal works on her crafts every day just like her mom.

I’m certain that, as time goes by, a variety of daily events and occurrences will trigger memories of our parents. Somehow, those memories always take me back to an earlier time. A predominant amount of my childhood memories are good. But my parents were like fire and ice. Some issues were triggers. My discipline was one. Dad was always ready to take off his belt for a swat or two. Mom knew the truth. I was a perfect child who only needed love.

            Other issues, to me, were almost comical. For years I watched, what I call, the thermostat dance. Every time mom walked past it, she would turn up the temperature. Dad would follow shortly after to turn it back down. Sometimes they would almost pass each other in the process. One time dad tried to teach mom how to drive in a forest preserve parking area. I left the car immediately upon arrival, and started walking. I made it about a half mile into the woods and could still hear the screaming/lesson. The next day dad got a private instructor for mom.

            On some levels, growing up, I never understood their relationship. Mom was a fiery and emotional extrovert, while dad was a left brain, logical introvert. What I often missed was how they completed each other. Today’s phycologists might call it codependence. I call it marriage. As we interviewed Crystal’s and my parents, for our memoir, I realized something they had in common. Even when friction was involved, spouses made each other better. I believe they made better decisions because of their differences.

            In science that type of relationship is called synergy. It’s like bees getting their nectar and at the same time pollinating flowers; or sea anemones on the backs of hermit crabs fending off the attacks of predators while having a greater opportunity to feed and grow. Species are helping themselves while at the same time helping others.

            Men and women can be similar. While technically members of the same species, we can be different enough to provide synergy in a relationship. The Bible says the two shall become one in marriage. I believe that must be the focus in a good marriage. Selfishness needs to become less. Two people need to focus on what makes the unit/marriage stronger. Focus should be on mutual benefit. What will make the marriage stronger? A marriage base on quid pro quo alone can’t last. Keeping score doesn’t work. Figure out your common goals and work together using the best abilities of each spouse to achieve them.

            I know it sounds nice and easy, but it is anything, but easy. But if you believe your marriage is worth it, give it every chance. Figure out which of you is the sea anemone and which is the crab (no pun intended). Learn to use each of your strengths to help your partner and put your marriage first.

Crystal’s Corner

            I agree with Ron that learning to work together in marriage makes the marriage better.  It took us awhile to figure out how to do this.  Ron and I are very different.  I am very art oriented and verbal.  Ron is very logical and scientific.  We look at life and problems differently.  What we realized was that my detail oriented way of solving problems could work well with his conceptual way.  He is also very mechanical and talented with taking things apart and putting them back together.  I am better at reading the instructions first and making sure all the parts are there.

            Ron mentioned that his parents did a kind of dance with changing the thermostat.  I believe that couples can learn to dance together well after they understand each other.  This comes with experience and also good communication.  When we were first married, we went to counseling and the counselor explained to me that we weren’t communicating very well.  I was expressing emotion through my words and he didn’t understand what I was talking about.  For example, I would tell Ron I wanted to do an activity and mostly he would either not remember that I said anything or ignore it.  The counselor told me you have to tell him how much you want something or to do something on a scale of 1 to 10.  So after that I could tell him I wanted to go to a quilt show and it was a 9 and he would get it.  This actually stopped a lot of confusion and eliminated arguments.  I also found that just telling him things, especially after he had worked all day, was not always effective, so I learned to write things down in lists or sometimes in a letter.  He can’t always read my handwriting, but my messages got through to him.

            Ron also learned that I sometimes just wanted him to listen when I had a problem.  I didn’t want him to try to solve it or even give me advice.  I believe that women need to talk sometimes just to figure things out.  Once we verbalize the problem, we can move on to the solutions.  When I do want his help, I tell him that.  We both learned that we can share problems and solve them together, by using our varied talents.

            I did learn a lot from being with my parents.  My father was very appreciative of everything that my mom did.  My mom was completely supportive of my father.  They liked each other as well as loved each other.  Ron and I have the same type of relationship.

            Even though we have been together now for more than 41 years, we still show appreciation to each other, in the form of words, and cards and gifts.  When I watch some of the reality shows about dating, I realize that I am very lucky in having a great husband, who is also my best friend.

Today mom and dad are in heaven where I’m sure it’s always the perfect temperature
(Lisa’s H.S. Graduation 2009)
Category: Make Marriage Last

Secrets to Marriage: Part 1 Dating

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            As I have said, on numerous occasions, I am no expert on marriage. I have no special degrees, although my BS is as good as the next guy’s. However, our memoir is based on three long-lived marriages totaling over 150 years. Over the years, I have noticed some similarities or patterns. If you are reading our blog on a consistent basis, you are probably at least a hopeful romantic. I mean, despite the increasingly low marriage success rates, you believe that, under the right circumstances, long term marriage success is possible. I thought it might be helpful to share some of my observations.

            Unless you have an arranged marriage, dating was part of the original process. Just a side note: arranged marriages have a fairly high success rate. I believe this is because of ‘common shared beliefs’. Spoiler alert: This is a topic for another blog.

            Dating is all about putting your best foot forward. You like someone and you want to impress them. Typically, you breathe a little harder/more frequently when they are close. You choose your words carefully, trying to make an impression. You may even perform archaic acts like opening car doors and pulling out chairs. Woman paint themselves and try to imitate odoriferous floral arrangements. There are also a lot of hormones involved.

            I watch a lot of nature specials. Generally, the male bird will dance, strut, puff out his plumage, or even build a nest. The female will watch or maybe participate in a dance. If successful, mating will occur. If not, they both go on to the next partner. However, as is our goal, many birds have a single partner for life. Dad and I drive by the Scioto River on most of my visits. We have both noticed that you rarely see a single or un-partnered Canadian goose.

Truly we are not that much different. Perpetuation of the species is the ultimate goal. However, that is low on the list of why we stay together. Humans are a fairly intelligent species (with some exceptions: reference Washington DC news), and as such have higher level needs. According to Maslow, above our basic needs we have needs such as intimacy, self-esteem or self-realization, and even self-actualization or reaching our full potential. Ideally, a good marriage will help each partner reach these.

I believe that if you don’t grow together, you grow apart. A marriage takes a lot of time and commitment. It is hard work and effort. However, if that is all there is in your marriage, you are in for a rough and probably short ride. You need to make time for yourselves. Have some fun and reconnect. Remind yourselves of why you committed to each other in the first place.

Never stop dating, preferably your spouse (kidding – only your spouse). My parents became world travelers after dad retired. They went around the country, including eleven trips to Hawaii. They also visited Europe half a dozen times. And they had a membership to the Chicago Metropolitan Opera. Crystal’s parents enjoyed dining and dancing at the Moose lodge, not unlike the USO dance where they met. They also enjoyed entertaining and socializing with their many friends. Crystal and I have always made time to be together. We enjoy movies, dinners, walks in nature and B&Bs. We recently spent a night at an alpaca farm B&B near Zanesville, Ohio. It was a great experience.

So let’s be honest. Married dating isn’t like single dating. It’s not a mating ritual. It’s about building a better bond. It’s about improving communications. It’s about getting away. It’s about having fun and relieving stress. If a little mating takes place occasionally, so be it (and Yeah!). At any rate, it’s time to stop reading and time to plan your next date.

Crystal at the Alpaca Farm/B&B Spring 2019

Category: Make Marriage Last

Marriage Isn’t Learned It’s Experienced

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I love it that my daughters, and even son-in-laws on occasions, seek our council. It’s understandable. After all, we’ve been married since the dawn of time and must know it all…..NOT!!!! Even if we did, there are no short cuts. For the most part marriage is an acquired taste, and something requiring work and adaptation.

I get a kick out of hearing stories of how our daughters’ young, once perfect babies are going through new stages, and creating new parental opportunities. Or how young couples, as busy parents, don’t have time to communicate and wind up at the wrong place or at the wrong time. However, I won’t call out my kids today. I remember what it was like.

My loving wife had to be the most prepared person in the history of the world for marriage. She read a number of books, magazines and even took a class about marriage and the family. Somehow no matter what you know or think you know or have learned, until you’re there, you’re not there. The first time your spouse rolls over pulling most of the blanket off of you (not covered in marriage class), a pattern starts to develop.

Crystal is proud of her high school debating experience. However, it took a lot of experience and pain for her to realize that prolonged marital debating is counterproductive. Winning the debate must be second to supporting your marriage. At times there is no right or wrong there is just agreeing to disagree. This was a concept, which for us, required counseling and a lot of practice.

Often it is something simple. You stand in front of the refrigerator with your bowl of cereal in hand when you realize your spouse must have finished the milk. Oh! That’s what that word on the shopping list must have been. As a side note, evaporated milk just isn’t the same.

How about the argument you get into when your partner failed to change the kitty litter, and you step into the cat’s friendly reminder in your bare feet. The ensuing argument over whose turn it was could go on for days.

Of course children can bring things to a whole other level. The first time your daughter asks the second parent when she got the wrong answer from the first you realize it’s no longer just me against you. It’s us against them.

Yes marriages, even good ones like Crystal and mine, require practice and hard work (times Two). As I’ve stated before, in life, married or not, stuff happens. You and your spouse have different strengths and weaknesses. Neither is perfect or has all of the answers. Progress begins when you each admit your own imperfections. Communicate and learn to use both of your strengths; and work as a team toward common goals. God might add, remember the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). Your marriage is an excellent opportunity to develop those.

A recent visit to our Kentucky kids (Cincinnati in background)

Blog Alert: Our new cat Ella has decided to start contributing her own posts starting soon. Crystal will interpret for her. I am still learning new things about Crystal. I never knew she spoke cat.

Liz with Ella (as in Cinderella)

 

Category: Make Marriage Last

Empty Nest, or is It?

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Nobody is perfect, not even me…… (Pause as readers get over shock)…..Often it is easier to find flaws in your spouse before admitting your own (ouch, right). That could explain the high divorce rate. I will therefore tread lightly as I discuss one of Crystal’s, let’s call it, a philosophical aberration.

I am somewhat of a minimalist. Give me a TV, a recliner, and maybe a couple of folding chairs for company and I’m one happy clam. Crystal, on the other hand, tends in a different direction. She likes her stuff. Getting rid of things is psychologically stressful for her. Letting me help declutter is apparently unacceptable. She is however, and to her credit, working on it.

While she has been “working on it” for some time, with only slight tangible results, the results of the last week or so has amazed me. The difference was Keylan’s (oldest grandchild) high school graduation. The plan, of which I had no part, was for Michelle (our middle child) her husband Alex, and our youngest daughter Lisa to spend several nights with us. Of course that meant including our lovely one year old granddaughter Ayla.

I can’t remember Crystal ever being so focused. There was baby proofing to be done, toys to be brought out, and room to be cleared. To my great surprise one of the, what I call junk rooms, suddenly had enough open space for a bed. Keylan and I played musical beds, moving one bed into the newly formed space and another in from the garage. The transformation was nothing short of miraculous.

The weekend was a flurry of activity. Having people and a baby in the house again brought back a lot of memories. I was most surprised at how well Ayla adjusted. She seemed very much at home and even slept through the night. Everyone reportedly slept well. There was once again laughter, playful banter, and a “discussion” over what to watch on TV.

Friday evening we went to the graduation ceremony. It was a little warm on the football stadium bleachers (around 90o F), but tolerable in the shade. Keylan looked sharp and was recognized for his perfect GPA. Liz and Brad (parents) were obviously quite proud. As for Keylan, he didn’t see high school graduation as a significant landmark. His eyes are toward the future. Ohio State University awaits in the fall.

Saturday was the party at Liz’s house. I had prepared the side dishes for which Crystal had volunteered me and was supposed to “help” with the grilling. Crystal and Lisa took a while to get ready and I thought I might get out of the “helping” to grill. I am sure it was just a coincidence that the first burgers hit the grill at exactly the time of our arrival. We ate about an hour later. I smelled like sweat and charcoal. No one told me that the two bags of marinating chicken were different, so they wound up on the same plate. Brad was an excellent assistant. I know he was only doing what he was told by his evil wife, my “loving” daughter, Liz.

The party was a big hit. Everyone loved the food. There were an abundance of children and babies running around and parents visiting. Keylan spent much of the time on the porch with his friends.

After another good night, and a final walk to the park, Michelle, Alex and Ayla left for their Kentucky home. Lisa decided to stay an extra day and steal one of our cars to get home. She stayed to watch the Memorial Day parade, which passed a couple of blocks from our house.

Now, the house is once again an empty nest. I’m not complaining. Crystal and I get along quite well. I’m also certain that this wasn’t the last time our house will serve our extended family.

Furthermore, I’m contemplating inviting the cast of the play “Little Women” to spend a night in our home. Think of all the rooms that will need to be cleared for that!

Crystal’s Corner

Last weekend was a milestone for us in many ways.  Keylan is our first grandchild to graduate from high school.  He has been attending college classes all this past year at the OSU in Newark, Ohio.  Also, I have been working really hard at decluttering, reorganizing and some redecorating.  I actually have been seeing a counselor to help me with my Dad’s passing and also decluttering and empty nest.  I am an artist, writer, crafts person, crafts teacher, lecturer and quilter and if you are any of those things you know you have books, craft paper, paints, yarn, fabric, etc.  I also collect and make dolls.

I have gone through a lot of paperwork, most of which is being recycled.  I have found some valuables such as Elizabeth’s footprint when she was born in Illinois, the girls’ art work, letters from relatives and friends, old photos, etc.  I am getting much better at letting go of items that I won’t use and organizing items I want to keep.  The girls are amazed and very encouraging about the progress I have made even before this weekend.  The counselor has helped me to focus on one area at a time, and to deal emotionally with letting go of the girls and the stuff.  If you have a situation like this, there is hope.

And a good time was had by all.

 

Category: Make Marriage Last

Remember When

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Like most married couples, Crystal and I have been through a lot in our marriage. Over forty years we have loved and laughed, fought and cried, raised kids, and done for family. Now that our nest is empty it’s just the two of us again.

Last week we went on a short but quite pleasant get away to Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. The old south came alive for us. Between the old world architecture, civil war statues, forts, and cemeteries with trees dripping with Spanish moss and ferns, it made me think of “Gone with the Wind”. The pace was also so pleasantly slow. And don’t get me started on the food. I’m afraid I’ll drool on my keyboard thinking about it. OK, just for one example, I had a blackened fish sandwich that was so mild and juicy it was difficult to eat. It was the catch of the day. Outside the restaurant was a small pier where the boat delivers the freshly caught fish and the table where they were cleaned. As we ate, we even caught a glimpse of some dolphins playing nearby.

We haven’t gone on many vacations lately so this was a special time for us. I couldn’t help but remember times early in our marriage. Our honeymoon in Arizona was Crystal’s first plane flight. On the other hand, I had flown numerous times, including three trips to Europe. It is common that people who only start using air transportation later in life suffer from fear of flying or Aerophobia. Crystal, on the other hand, had and has always had the far less common phobia for airports. O’Hare in Chicago, at the time the busiest airport in the world, was probably a bad first choice; with people everywhere darting to and fro in a multi-cultural mass of humanity. To make matters worse, at times I had to leave her. I placed her in a chair while I got tickets, checked luggage, got seating assignments, etc. She did as she was told though she resembled a deer in headlights. Once through the, at the time, far less stringent security, I got her a nice fruity drink. She finally calmed down for the flight. Of course, eventually we landed in Tucson. The drink had long since worn off and the terror returned. Again, I had to leave to get our rental car. I left her surrounded/ buried with our luggage. She looked like a nervous prairie dog looking out of her hole expecting to see a hawk. When I finally returned, I grabbed her hand and took her to the window. We had left an ice storm in Chicago. It was now eighty degrees and sunny. The cactuses were in bloom. She finally relaxed.

The point is that, regardless of her deep seeded fears, Crystal’s trust in me has always exceeded it. This trip, some forty years after that first one, we were in three airports each way with transfers in Atlanta. While the fear is still not totally gone, I can tell that if anything Crystal’s trust in me has grown. Even when temporarily lost, while looking for our hotel (another of Crystal’s fears) she was perfectly calm and confident. When I told her it would be alright, she believed me.

We both really relaxed and were at peace for a few days. Crystal was healthy and walking everywhere. Somehow I believe that this was God’s way of reminding us why we were together in the first place. Once all of life’s responsibilities and distractions are removed, and it’s just the two of us, everything makes sense.

From a marriage point of view the lesson, of course, is never stop taking time out to be just a couple. Whether it’s a nice vacation, a weekly date or a walk to the park, if you are not making an effort, you are missing out. I firmly believe that, if you are not growing together, you will grow apart.

Ahhh Savannah.

Category: Make Marriage Last

Words of Wisdom

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I just got back from Kentucky. It was an overnight to take care of some business dealing with Crystal’s dad’s estate. We stayed with Michelle, Alex, and our new grandbaby, Ayla. As a rule, I always try to be helpful. They mentioned their fight with sleep deprivation and Ayla’s lack of consideration for their needs. I told them they would have to adapt to her. It would take time, but to take heart, for ‘this too shall pass’. I also mentioned that, now that she is a mother, Michelle’s days of being right are over. Someone would always be around to tell her that she is doing it wrong. I told her it wouldn’t be easy, but I had faith in her. She and Alex would make good decisions. I told Alex to always agree with his wife. It will make his life soooo much easier. If she needs your help, she will ask.

On the way home, I thought to myself, how did I get so smart? When did I switch from total uncertainty to the font of all knowledge? I think the difference is distance and time. Once the last child moves out, (Crystal will cry when she reads this) you have something you haven’t had for years….time to reflect and process. I suppose that is why the generals aren’t actually on the front lines. They are more effective away from the action, where they can process and plan.

OK, now that I think about it, if I had to give one key point, it would be to decide on what you and your spouse believe, and parent accordingly. The largest hurdle for Crystal and me was deciding rules we both agreed on, and consequences (both positive and negative) for those rules. We knew we needed to agree and be consistent or the kids would pick us apart. We spent time almost every day reviewing our progress and if necessary, adjusting our strategy.

However, advice is cheap, and worth what you pay for it. I don’t think our kids know that though. They still think we have a few answers. Maybe we do. However, what they need to realize is that outside of never ending love and support, our job is done. The goal of parenting isn’t raising kids, it’s preparing responsible adults. What I failed to mention to Michelle is that her child is now totally dependent on her. But that will soon change. As years go by, it will be her job, along with her husband to decide when and how to release control, and promote independence. You need to be there to congratulate them when they succeed, and reassure them when they fail. When you are done, they will let you know. After that, and for the rest of your life,  they will still be your kids, but they will be grownups. You need to treat them as such.

Sounds like we really knew what we were doing, right? We were perfect parents. Now I get why I have all of this wisdom to share…..Except….it didn’t always work. Our kids still had problems, got into trouble, and we weren’t always consistent. Occasionally, Crystal and I wouldn’t agree and would argue about how to handle things.

Reality has set in. I am really not the font of anything except maybe ego. Parenting is a struggle. The good news is that my advice (worth every penny) was good. For a new mother, like Michelle, I know it was reassuring to know that in a little while her baby will adapt and sleep through the night. As the child grows, there will be new challenges, but she will adapt. She was raised to be able to adapt and overcome. I have no doubt that she will always put her child’s needs ahead of her own. I think that is the simple definition of a good parent. I will continue to give my two cents. Some habits are impossible to break. But I know, and I think she knows, she is ready, and with God’s help, she and Alex will be wonderful parents.

Left to right, daughter Liz holding Addelyn, My dad, daughter Michelle holding Ayla

This was at a Greek restaurant in Columbus Ohio for Easter celebration.

Category: Make Marriage Last

Procreation, God’s Creation

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I was surprised when Sunday’s sermon was dedicated to the sanctity of human life. I was surprised since I had just finished writing the following much related post. I was going to wait a couple of days to post it, in case Crystal had something to add. She has just given me the all clear to post it as is.

Our daughters take the sanctity of human life very seriously and are doing their part. Sometime, over the next couple of months both Liz and Michelle are expecting to bring a couple of new baby girls into the world.

I find the decision to be a grandpa again, was an easy one. We love our four grand children very much, like spending time with them, playing with them and handing them back to their mom and dad. The decision to be a parent is infinitely more difficult. Not everyone should become a parent. There is nothing sadder than seeing parents who should have never been parents. I won’t elaborate. I don’t think I need to. Go out in the world or watch Dr. Phil.

The decision to raise children will impact every aspect of your life: your relationship with your spouse (significant other), where you live, how you spend your money, how you spend your free time (I use the term loosely), etc. I know my girls are and will be great parents. They have both put in the ground work. They have good value systems, will put the needs of their children ahead of their own, and have adequately trained their husbands.

That last one is in no way a slight on their husbands. Brad and Alex are wonderful, but we (guys) all need some training. You see, most women have a head start on us. They think about being moms from the time they are toddlers. Most young boys aren’t very much into baby dolls or doll houses. Also, even if it’s only in those stupid gym class lectures, girls are taught about their greater level of commitment. Guys don’t get pregnant, or have to give birth. The joke that, if guys had to have babies the human race would have died out a long time ago, might not be that farfetched. Also, during the pregnancy or after the birth, guys may come and go. But a mom is a mom, is a mom. As I have said on several occasions, finding a spouse and having a child are two decisions which, while they may affect each other, should be made independently.

From my own experience, Crystal and I both agreed before we got engaged that we wanted to raise a family. However, it was Crystal who read the books and magazines, had the baby shower, organized the nursery, and set up the child birth and Lamaze classes. I went along with everything. Once she was pregnant, I did my best to be supportive and empathetic, but I had my work and my life. I admit, in a lot of ways, I was ignorant. Things for me became a different level of reality, only after the nurse handed me my daughter(s). The first time they looked up and saw daddy, they knew they had me. They were right.

I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but that first day with Elizabeth I will never forget. I carried her proudly with my best one handed football carry. I knew she was safe. I never dropped a football. Of course footballs don’t giggle and wiggle. After I picked her up…..Kidding…..we arrived at the car. I think it took about the next five minutes to fight the car seat into submission. Somewhere in that time I had my Prissy moment. I don’t know noting bout raisen no babys. That moment only lasted for about the next twenty years. I’m OK now. The point is the miracle of birth is followed by years and years of work and commitment. However, it is so worth it. Besides, to do any less is like telling God to take back his miracle.

To say birth is a miracle is an understatement. To me, a baby is the ultimate proof of a God. As a scientist, I look at the world from a critical point of view. I drove my anatomy teacher crazy pointing out the inconsistencies and errors in our book. I read my Bible (excuse the pun) religiously. While I often struggle with details and have a list of questions for God, I never doubt His existence.

While many scientists struggle to find the proposed missing link, my question is much more basic. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? There is a correct answer…..They had to arrive simultaneously. Think about it. So the next time you look across the table at your spouse, you can thank God for that one magnificent chromosome, which made all of that difference. Procreation is God’s creation.

To my beloved daughters, their husbands and all who have decided to perpetuate the human race regardless of the costs, congratulations, mozel tof, and shalom.

New Years KY 017

I finally have something in common with my daughters.

Category: Make Marriage Last

A Case for Marriage (Part Two)

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Today we celebrate the 100th post to this web site. Hurrah!!! In all honesty, Crystal and I never thought we would find so much to talk about. The truth is, when you talk about marriage and family issues, the material never seems to run dry. Today, we will continue to discuss why on earth anyone, in this 21st century, would choose to get married. We live in a disposable society. Planned obsolescence is a way of life. That brand new I-phone that finally made it to Best Buys will be yesterday’s news by the time you get it home. I am driving my dad’s old car these days. One day, the windshield washer stopped working. I located the cheap plastic part that broke, and headed to the parts store. It was about the size of a dime and looked like it came out of a box of Cracker Jacks. “That will be $26,” said the man behind the counter. “$26?” I repeated, again looking in disbelief at the object of my affliction. Of course, the part was designed to have a limited life. A metal part would last the life of the car. But what would the fun be in that? Today, however it’s just the way we live. Don’t get used to anything. It won’t last.

Marriage is the same. I won’t be a hypocrite and say marriage is the right way, or the only way. I realize that today, this radical view would be met with substantial ridicule. I will also admit to not having all of the answers. I know a lot of really good people, including friends and family members, who have suffered through divorce. Marriage is a tough and risky commitment. Regardless of all of the rules and direction offered on this web site, there is no perfect formula to assure marital success. However, more information is always better. That is why I don’t intend to debate, but to inform. In this information age, people should make informed decisions; and believe it or not, there is a case to be made for marriage.

So why do people choose to get married? The rabbit died is no longer just cause; although, I doubt if any rabbits actually die as part of today’s pregnancy tests. Babies no longer require marriage. Single parents are everywhere. Many couples will attempt to stay together for the ‘sake of the child’. But that doesn’t make them a compatible couple. It’s can also become a little more awkward as the child grows. Some people in the world may judge you. There could also be legal or financial complexities. But the one problem I wouldn’t want to handle is, explaining to my child that, I would always be committed to him or her, but not to my partner.

Of course, we live in the freedom of choice age. That baby maybe never gets born in the first place…..That just makes me sad. I know that my parents tried for years to have me. My mother often referred to the day of my birth as one of the happiest of her life. It’s ironic that today, on the one hand, there are many couples who desperately want children. On the other hand, there are those who consider them another disposable commodity. You would think, if those couples got together, we could solve a lot of problems. But I digress.

We are focusing on marriage. But, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water (joke)….Sorry…..We may be on to something with freedom of choice. In this country, we do have so many freedoms that we often take them for granted. However, is freedom of choice always a good thing? I read just yesterday an article written by a woman who was proud of the fact that she had lived with the same man for eighteen years. She went on to say that they would choose each day to be with each other. She said it, like it was a good thing.

Maybe for her it was. I guess I’m a little different. To me making the same decision over and over just sounds stressful or even exhausting. I guess I’m just wired differently. I like to do my research, make an informed decision, and stick with it. Crystal is the same way. I guess that’s why we work.

I know some will question the above statement about the stress of cohabitation. While I can’t guarantee that stress is the reason, there is actually medical evidence to support the health benefits of marriage. There is actually a lot on the internet. Look it up for yourself. Web MD is a source I trust. They said “Dec. 15, 2004 — Marriage and health often go hand in hand, research shows. Except for weight problems, married people are healthier than those who are divorced, widowed, never-married, or live with a partner, says the CDC.”

Other articles have confirmed that even people who remarry after being widowed or divorced show improved mental and physical health than their counterparts who remain single. While there may be some health benefits to cohabitation they don’t appear nearly as strong (or well documented) as in marital relationships. Of course the quality of the marriage is also a factor. While I couldn’t find any information comparing the health of couples in “good” marriages to those in “bad” marriages, I don’t think the results would be a surprise. Prolonged emotional stress will eventually manifest itself physically. This once again proves the old adage ‘Happy wife, happy (and long) life’.

Lately, we have been spending a lot of time helping different family members. That leads me to one more point. You will have to decide whether or not it is a positive point for marriage. When you get married you forever bind families. For us, it was a positive. I couldn’t have hoped for better more supportive in-laws or extended family. I like being part of something larger than myself. Sometimes it takes time and energy, but it is usually fulfilling.

While I have strong Biblically based beliefs about marriage, they are personal and won’t be used in this blog. However, if it makes a difference to you, I can say with a great deal of assurance that God prefers marriage over cohabitation.

So that’s my case for marriage. I don’t expect it to change anyone’s mind. I just have one final thought and warning. If you are considering marriage, be absolutely certain about your readiness and your potential spouse. This blog has some good posts on choosing a spouse and preparing for marriage. The downside of marriage is the implied paradox. To have a successful marriage, two people have to agree to a lifelong commitment. If either of you don’t think of it that way, your marriage is doomed before it starts. This is nothing like other daily decisions. Marriage isn’t like your phone. You can’t just decide to switch when the next I-phone comes out; not even if it has the easily removable hot pink leather cover or all of those new aps. you’ve always wanted. In marriage, if a part breaks, you’re stuck with it, and better fix it, fast. Marriage is the institution where narcissism and self will go to die. To many, this concept just doesn’t make sense for today….or does it?

The other day, totally unprovoked, Crystal told me that I am always her hero. I’m not bragging (well maybe a little). It just helps with my final point. After 38 years of marriage, I haven’t seen my white horse for a while. I don’t do anything heroic on a daily basis. But I’m there for her. I’m still committed to her, care for and love her. The point is, a good marriage is worth the effort. I do a lot for Crystal and she does a lot for me. No one is keeping score. No one needs to. We are just better together than either one of us is apart. In the Bible it says, the two shall become one. Losing Crystal would be like losing a leg. We are one unit. I just don’t think a similar level of commitment can be made any other way. Is it worth it? We think so.

2007_090807July0078

In a good marriage you can have your cake and eat it too!

Category: Make Marriage Last

A Case for Marriage

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The other day I was at a restaurant with dad and I talked to the waiter. Crystal or my daughters will tell you that I always talk to the waiters (well people in general). I can’t help it; I’m just interested in people. Somehow the topic turned around to the people in his life. He mentioned the woman he had been living with for the last three years. He sounded very pleased with her. ‘She sounds wonderful’, is what I believe I responded. I know better than to ask about marriage plans. I mentioned my wonderful wife of thirty-eight years. Dad was with me. I don’t think he could hear much of our conversation. I introduced them and the waiter took our order.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t frown on freedom of choice or other lifestyles. I just think the pendulum has swung a little too far. If you have a TV or live in the world, you know what I’m saying. These days a common response to ‘I’m getting married’ is ‘why?’  I would be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I said I didn’t understand the advantages of the trial run. Rent versus buy is one of the first things I learned to compare in my economics classes in college. Members of my family have lived with ‘significant others’. It is just the way of today.  Truthfully, I might have lived with Crystal before marriage, if she was a modern woman of the s1970s. Of course, if she had been that modern, I might not have wanted to make the commitment to spend my life with her. Commitment is a good word. We will get back to it.

The point is simple. Marriage has been on the decline for years. Success rate is only about 50%. Many of my best friends have been divorced. Divorce is painful, ugly and costly. Why take that chance. If you live with someone, in theory, you can simple wave goodbye and it’s over.

I’m sorry, maybe I am old fashion. I just don’t buy it. Our book is all about three couples who defied the odds and had successful marriages. I believe that even in the 21st century there must be some positives to marrying the one you love. So, over the next couple of blogs we will do our best to oppose popular social morays and build a case for marriage.

Today we will talk a little about marriage’s popular alternative. Why do people choose to live together monogamously? I believe, for some, it represents a step toward marriage. Others believe it is a way to test the relationship; while still others may use it to postpone a commitment (there’s that word) they are not certain, they are willing to make.

One problem with cohabitation, as I see it, comes in when you and your significant other have different goals or levels of commitment (again). To one, the arrangement may represent a temporary end game. To the other, it may represent a never ending audition for marriage. In many cases, neither is being totally honest about their true feelings. Of course, they may not know themselves.

Next, if you go into a relationship wanting to make sure there is an easy out, it will most likely end in one. If marriage is the goal, note that statistically, the chances of the trial run leading to a successful marriage are lower than marriage without the trial run. A relationship founded on convenience and” maybe we do, maybe we don’t”, is not a basis for lasting love.

OK, that’s enough of my soap box for today. It’s time for a story. Crystal and I met in 1975 at a fifties party (that’s 1950s) at Bradley University. When the party was over, she went back to her dorm room and complained about me to her roommate. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight for either of us.

Our relationship wasn’t much different. It took a while for us to get serious. We were both dating other people. However, when we finally realized how well we worked together, we became inseparable. We studied together, went on walks, and even ate most of our meals together. It soon became obvious to us and all of our friends, we had something special.

We talked about someday getting married. When I say we talked, I mean we talked. We talked location, apartment vs. home, engagement period, and even number of kids. I said one. After all, I was an only child, and practically perfect in every way (yeah, I know, don’t call me Mary). She wanted four. I almost had a heart attack. Eventually, she won that debate. We had three. We probably would have had four if her baby making equipment hadn’t broken down.

Once in my mind, I was certain we were committed (again) to spending our lives together, I took the next step. My roommate at the time was George. He was a brilliant fellow Chemistry student. While I struggled with all of the concepts, he hung around with professors, and acted as if college was a mere formality of life. George was a true renaissance man. He not only knew chemistry, he knew a lot about many diverse subjects. He, however, had a bit of social awkwardness until he knew you well (picture Sheldon Cooper, but much friendlier and nicer). Naturally, George was the first one I went to when I started looking for a ring. He immediately started talking cut, facets, clarity. Do you know the origin of the term carat? He did and so did I at one point.

We went to the Hertzberg Jeweler at the new Peoria Mall. I looked at the rings trying to decide what Crystal would like, and I could afford. George talked to the Jeweler like he worked there.  We finally came across this beautiful white gold ring set with multiple small chips and a small but certified perfect main stone. Perfect, I thought, just like our love. Did I mention I was sappy back then? Anyway, I knew that was the one.

I plopped down what was easily three months wage at the government lab where I worked part time. Once we left, I started planning my strategy. Everything had to be perfect. I wanted Crystal to remember the moment for the rest of her life, and then some. When I first met her, I told her I was an optimist and a romantic. She was skeptical at the time. This was the time to put up or shut up.

Finally, it came to me. I had all of the questions answered. It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. Classes were over. I suggested a nice walk in Laura Bradley Park. This beautiful forested hilly park was a block from campus. We walked there often so she would suspect nothing. We walked past the playground, past my favorite climbing tree, down the hill and past the tennis courts. We crossed the little foot bridge over the creek. We talked as we walked. A good part of the conversation was cleverly steered toward our future married lives together. I had to make sure Crystal was in. I was certain that rejection would prove terminal. Everything was go for Mission Proposal. We reached the predetermined spot. In the middle of a small grove with flowers (well pretty weeds) and trees next to the creek there was a large rock. I signaled Crystal over and gently hoisted her to sit on the rock. Back then I could do stuff like that (gentle hoisting). I assumed the position (one knee) and presented the ring. The reaction wasn’t quite what I expected. Crystal was definitely surprised. Actually shocked would be a better description. She did say yes. She smiled pleasantly as I put the ring on her finger. I took her back to her room, but was a little disappointed. I knew her pretty well by then. I thought to myself, she would have reacted with more enthusiasm if I had a chocolate in the case. Oh well, at least we were engaged. Cross that off my list.

The next day Crystal gave the ring back. Apparently, while she had every intention of marrying me, she couldn’t be engaged while we were at school. She couldn’t split her focus. I told her that the engagement didn’t change anything; but she didn’t see it that way. This should have been a clue to me. Crystal and I were vastly different people.

Around six months later (after graduation) I tried again. This time it was in a restaurant and slightly less romantic. I pushed the box across the table and told her this was her last chance. This time she gratefully accepted the ring. She was in.

There were a lot of things, a lot of differences, we learned about during our early years of marriage. Looking back I see where, at least in our case, many have become strengths. As far as handing the ring back, I now think I understand it a little better. Crystal realized something I didn’t. I saw marriage as our happily ever after. I now realize that only works in fairy tales. Crystal saw it for what it was. This would be the biggest single commitment in her life. It’s a far bigger commitment than buying a car or even a house. I told you I would get back to commitment. She went into it thinking, once done it cannot be undone. Marriage requires two people who are totally committed to making it work, for the rest of their lives. She was not willing to take that step until she could devote 100% of her focus to it. I think if more couples thought that way, there would be fewer divorces, and greater satisfaction in marriages.

Our next blog will be the 100th on this web site since its inception. It’s party time!!!! Know that you are not alone. Some days over thirty people read our site. I think rather than sit here and pat ourselves on our backs.  Crystal and I see this as a statement of interest in the topic covered. The goal of our blog is to talk positively about marriage and family issues. If we can, at the same time, occasionally entertain with real life stories, so much the better. Thanks so much for your patronage.

Crystal’s Corner

I am glad that Ron has written this blog. I think that many couples are confused about living together and marriage and the differences between them.  I will give you a little history lesson now.  In the 1970s, following the crazy free love 1960s, more couples were living together.  We were not seeing happiness in their relationships.  We were seeing more of them crash and burn.  Even though women were becoming more career minded, educated and independent, when it came to men, they were wishy washy and insecure.

Many of my friends and coworkers were living with boyfriends who I thought would never marry them.  I was engaged right after college and working downtown Chicago.  I was one of the happiest people there, definitely “walking on sunshine”.  Ron was sweet, romantic and thoughtful.  We were very busy planning our wedding.  I knew he would marry me anywhere and anytime.  He wanted to be my husband and the father of my children.  I had that happiness growing in my heart which was bursting a lot of the time.  I would quote things that he said until my sister told me to stop it.  She didn’t think he was a great philosopher, but she knew that our love was strong and growing. I was also raised to value myself and to value the relationship I had with God and my family.  My parents had a strong loving fulfilling marriage.  We show this in our memoir.  My father was also very loving and supportive of his children. I was living at home and he was driving me to the train every day.  He thought I could wait awhile to marry Ron. He liked Ron, but I had been away for two years at school and he liked having me home again.  Also, my brother was going through a divorce.  My brother, however, liked Ron and could see how happy I was with him.

I had been asked before I met Ron by a boyfriend to come and live with him in another state.  I had turned him down.  He said, “So you are waiting for Mr. Right and a happily ever after.”  I told him that I was, but really I knew that God had a plan for my life.  When I met Ron at that 1950s party at school, God told me “This is your husband.”  It shocked me quite a bit, but can God be wrong?

When Ron proposed at the rock, I had no idea that it was going to happen.  We had had some problems during the summer and actually had broken up.  A big part of the problem was that we were apart and I was having a terrible summer and ended up in the hospital.  Now we had gotten back together and were on the right track.  I also was having the most difficult semester of my whole college career and I was running out of money.  I also had health problems.  I was putting everything I had into school and trying to graduate Summa Cum Laude.  He was having an easy semester and didn’t have financial problems.  I should have been honest with him about what was going on with me.  It is something we learned later.  He didn’t understand that when girls get engaged, everyone starts asking them questions.  I couldn’t plan a wedding and a future life and get through my hardest semester.

Even though I didn’t wear his ring, I still wanted very much to marry him.  This completely confused him and he was very upset for awhile.  I think he realized he had some things to learn about women.  But we stayed together and after he graduated in Jan. we became engaged.  I went back to school to fight my way through to graduation and he went home to find a job.  It was a difficult time for us to be apart, but our commitment and future plans kept us together.  I worked in the campus library, and my fellow workers knew, by my smile and by my step, when Ron was coming to visit.  They would console me on the weekends that I was alone.

Our memoir talks about our first date, our courtship, our wedding and more.  I am very glad that we wrote it all down for our girls and future generations to read.  I would have loved to read a memoir or diary or journal written by my great grandmother or my grandmothers.  They believed in marriage and sadly were widowed.  My grandmother Johnson, who was Irish, would say to my mom, “Isn’t love grand?” For Ron and me it is, in our marriage and our commitment to each other and to God.

Crystal's fall 2015 013

Swans are a symbol of fidelity and everlasting love. Like us though, in real life, they are not always faithful.

Category: Make Marriage Last

Happy Anniversary Pooh Bear!

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38 years is a long time. It is approximately 13,880 days (depending on leap years). 38 years is the approximate life span of a horse. It took 38 years for an underwater salvage team to find Gus Grissom’s Mercury capsule off of Cape Canaveral, Florida (doesn’t help my point, I just love Google). At 38 years old, while my game had declined a little, I still had a decent jump shot (meaning I could still jump without annoying crackling noises).

38 Years ago gas was 63 cents a gallon, Jimmy Carter was president, and Annie Hall won the Academy Award for best picture (I know, Annie Hall????). It was also 38 years ago April first that Crystal and I were married. That’s right, we were just a couple of April Fools. Around 150 friends, family, and even some of our fraternity brothers and sisters were in attendance. It was a simple ceremony in the Methodist Church followed by a really nice bash at a local restaurant. A good time was had by all.

Crystal was beautiful. She wore a floor length white dress made by her mother. On it were over a thousand individually hand sewn beads. That’s love. If asked, and I wasn’t, I would have found a way to use a staple gun.

So here comes that beautiful girl down the aisle holding her dad’s hand. I stood at the front of the church in my off white tux staring at my oncoming future. The music played that all too familiar tune. This is what we had been waiting for roughly two years. I froze. Later her sister Jeanette said, I looked like the proverbial Deer in headlights. I can’t for the life in me tell you what I was thinking at the time. Maybe I wasn’t! My mind might have gone blank. It wasn’t until Crystal stood next to me and looked into my eyes that I returned from my little sojourn. She smiled and then so did I.

However, I think I was still in a small state of trance though the entire ceremony. Oh I knew exactly what was happening. After all, we had rehearsed everything the day before. I just don’t think I realized what all of those fancy words meant: for better or WORSE, for richer or POORER, in SICKNESS or health, until DEATH!

Over the next thirty-eight years we got to it all. The worse came in many forms, from arguments, to stressful job situations, to raising children (blessing or not there is stress). The poorer came in the form of layoffs. At times I worked construction and even delivered pizzas for a while. The girls actually got tired of me bringing home pizzas for dinner. Sickness has been a substantial part as well. Crystal and I are both cancer survivors. I still remember during a particularly grueling nine hour surgery playing the part of the calm one as I sat with Crystal’s parents in the waiting room. I believe at that time, my mom was ninety miles away watching our three girls. It was then that I first contemplated the death part.

Don’t get me wrong; I know we had just as many or more good, and even great things occur over those thirty-eight years. I just think I am glad that even in our premarital counseling, I remained ignorant about what might come. If I had any clairvoyant thoughts, I might have called the whole thing off. Maybe that’s why God tells us not to worry about tomorrow (Math. 6:34). One day at a time is all we can handle.

On the other hand, if we had never gotten married, good and BAD things still would have happened to us. They just wouldn’t have happened to us together. I guess that’s where I’m glad. Through all of the rough times there is no one I’d rather commiserate with or celebrate with during good times. There is no one else I can count on to always tell me the truth, whether I like it or not. There is no one else who has forced me to grow so much: as a person, a husband, a father or even as a son. There is something reassuring in the knowledge that, even when we argue, we know we are committed to resolve our differences.

No, marriage doesn’t solve anything. However, our lives will have problems no matter what. 38 years is a long time, married or not. I’m just glad I haven’t been in this by myself. 38 years later, and ready for more challenges and more adventure, as God leads us. Until death, will have to wait.

Happy Anniversary Pooh Bear

PS    In case you are wondering, Winnie the Pooh was one of Crystal’s favorite books growing up: i.e. Pooh Bear. Besides I could definitely picture Crystal getting her head stuck in a jar of honey. Hey….if she is Pooh that would have to make me Tigger. I do love a good bounce.

Crystal and me Wedding Car 001

A long time ago but not forgotten.

Category: Make Marriage Last