What makes a good marriage?What does it take to have a successful marriage? According to these seven couples, it takes love, communication, shared interests, appreciation for each other’s differences, prayer and even a miracle or two.
By: Tara Bitzan, Life Editor and Jo Colvin, Staff Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press, Worthington Daily Globe
What does it take to have a successful marriage? According to these seven couples, it takes love, communication, shared interests, appreciation for each other’s differences, prayer and even a miracle or two.
Each of these couples has been married for 58 years or more, and all live at Arabella Manor in Alexandria.
The senior living facility is also home to another marriage expert – Georgia Gerth, who has been married for 59 years to Godferd, who currently lives in a specialized care facility.
And more expertise is on the way. Another couple, married 57 years, just moved to Arabella at the end of March, and Arnold and Lois Auel, married 61 years, will be moving in in April.
Here’s what these couples have to say about the ins and outs of marriage.
Ken and Lucille Bjerke
When asked where they first met, the Bjerkes aren’t sure, but they do agree it had to have been on a dance floor.
“We spent a lot of time on dance floors through the years,” Ken explained.
Lucille admits it wasn’t love at first sight, but there was time for it to grow on her. After meeting, Ken spent 42 months overseas during World War II.
After his return, they dated and eventually fell in love. Both were 27 years old when they married, and according to Lucille, that was a good thing.
“Don’t be in a hurry to get married,” she advised. “Waiting gave us a few years to work and save some money.”
Another piece of advice: “Never go to bed unless you’ve settled your disputes,” Lucille said.
“All you can do is forgive each other for whatever they did and move on,” Ken agreed.
The two had three children and four grandchildren, and have celebrated 62 years of marriage.
They married on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1946.
“I always said we either started the New Year right or wrong. I guess it must have been right!” Lucille concluded.
Roger and Adeline Hink
It didn’t take long for Roger and Adeline Hink to fall in love. Six months after they met at a church confirmation, they tied the knot.
“I wasn’t going to dawdle around,” Roger said. “I said, ‘That’s the one.’ ”
“Yep, I thought this must be it,” Adeline agreed.
Sixty-one years, four children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren later, they both still feel the same way.
Their secret to such wedded bliss?
“I always did what she said,” Roger said, as he and his bride laughed.
“That went both ways,” she countered.
Despite their bantering, the couple agrees about the advice they would give to anyone considering marriage – think about it.
“Be sure that you’ve thought everything through,” Adeline said. “That you know each other well. You’re going to spend the rest of your life with this person.”
With one more grin at his bride, Roger said, “I was going to say that!”
Don and Phyllis Keith
He treats her like a queen and she treats him like a king. That’s one secret to Don and Phyllis Keith’s happy 66-year marriage.
It all started at the roller skating rink when they were still in high school.
“I was the only girl he ever went with, and he was the only boy I ever went with,” Phyllis said. “It was either true love or we didn’t know any better.”
It turns out it was true love – the couple married a year later. After spending just one week together, 18-year-old Don, who had joined the Navy, went off to war. They didn’t see each other again for almost three years.
They made it through the separation, had two children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The Keiths credit communication, respect, making decisions together and doing everything together to their wedded bliss.
“I think the most important thing is to love one another very dearly,” Don added. “I’m just a satisfied husband and I have a wonderful wife.”
And the feeling is mutual for Phyllis, as she concluded, “To this day, there is nothing he wouldn’t do for me.”
Jim and Dolores Larson
That’s what Jim Larson says has kept his marriage working for 58 years.
While Jim likes to joke and knows laughter is good medicine, both he and his wife know what it takes to stay happy.
“You have to like each other,” Dolores said.
“Loving is fine, but liking is important,” Jim agreed.
The couple has also shared the same interests and spent a lot of time together doing things they both enjoyed. They’ve traveled to all but two of the 50 states and most of Canada, and made church a priority.
“Church has always been the center of our lives wherever we’ve been,” Dolores said.
Communication has also been key.
“We’ve always talked things through before making decisions,” Jim said.
The Larsons, who have raised two children, admit that they are similar in a lot of ways.
“We’re very much alike,” Dolores said.
“We’re both pretty even tempered,” Jim agreed. “We haven’t had any big quarrels or spats, but we don’t agree on everything.”
“Oh my, no! Not by a long shot,” Dolores agreed.
Alden and Eleanor
Alden Mattocks claims his wife, Eleanor, married him for his money.
“I had $25 in my pocket,” he said. “That’s what she wanted.”
They’ve now been married 65 years, and have shared a lot – including the same heart doctor.
“I had a triple bypass last November, and she had a valve put in by the same doctor 19 years ago,” Alden explained. “He did all right by her, so I thought I’d trust him.”
They’ve also shared two children, two grandchildren, and a lot of love.
“It’s the love,” Eleanor said, of what keeps a marriage successful. “And it’s got to be a 50/50 proposition.”
“It’s also important to choose the right person,” Alden said. “Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time and pick the right partner. And once you make that vow, it’s ‘til death do us part. You stick with it.
The couple is happy to be living “close to home.” They used to own the land that Arabella Manor now sits on, living there for 60 years. About 30 years ago they dug the pond, which still allows them to enjoy the ducks and geese that gather there.
“We’re still home,” Alden said.
Willard and Artie Ommen
In the beginning, love was blind for Willard and Artie Ommen. It started as a blind date, which led to other dates. But love didn’t actually show itself for some time.
“It took awhile,” Artie said, “but he kept coming back.”
Willard’s persistence paid off. They fell in love and got married. Now, 65 years later, they have two children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Through the years they’ve lived various places and worked various jobs. They’ve also enjoyed hobbies, but not the same ones.
“You have your own things you like and don’t like,” Artie explained. “He was more of a goer, I was always pretty happy at home.”
Willard enjoyed fishing and hunting – interests his wife never shared.
“I never begrudged him that,” she said of his outings. “That was my vacation!”
While the two don’t share the same hobbies, they do agree that marriage is a “give and take” deal.
“You have to give in once in awhile and just know that his way of thinking isn’t the same as yours,” Artie said.
“I know I’m not always right,” Willard added. “I definitely found that out through the years! But she always treated me good.”
Loren and Thelma
When Loren Spaulding’s roommate told him about a girl he thought he should meet, Loren listened closely. When he was later shown a picture, he was even more interested.
“She was pretty!” Loren said with a gleam in his eye.
Was it love at first sight?
“Well, it came pretty quick!” he noted with a grin.
“Yes, it did for me too,” agreed Thelma.
Now, 62 years of marriage and three sons, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild later, the couple is still thankful for the friend who set up the blind date.
When asked what makes a marriage successful, both agree that the key is love and prayer.
“There has to be love,” Thelma said. “True love, not this wishy-washy stuff.”
“And you have to have a common faith basis,” added Loren, a former pastor and Knute Nelson chaplain. “Our joint Christian background has taken us through many trials.”
Having officiated many marriage ceremonies during his lifetime, Loren knows first-hand that “if you can pray together, it will help you stay together.”