A Love that Lasts

John & Eileen Markey

Each February love fills the air, not to mention the stores, in the form of candy, roses and plush teddy bears. On Valentine’s Day, new couples, old couples, rocky couples and happy couples show their love for each other by buying things. New romances may be solidified with a single rose. But love is much more than a thing and much more than one grand gesture. It’s an ongoing choice to love someone and continually work at the relationship.

In the spirit of February, the month of love, I met up with several married couples to get their advice on what makes a happy, satisfying marriage. Surprisingly, all couples, although in completely different stages of their marriage, had common points that helped strengthen their relationships.

Eileen and John Markey have been married since 1961. John even laughed saying what “caught his eye” was her ankles. Humor aside, their love has stayed strong and true for nearly 55 years! One tip that especially stood out from the rest was the wisdom of the need to take turns listening to one another, allowing consideration of different viewpoints. Often, one member of a couple may discount the other’s thoughts, but it is vitally important to hear your partner out and be open to discussion. An open line of communication is essential.

Chase & Tara WoodleyCindi and Mike Shelby just celebrated their 41st anniversary. They were married young, after only four months of knowing each other. This is a great example of not fully knowing someone, but making a commitment to love one another through it all, no matter what. Mike explains that you need to always respect your counterpart as a unique person. “Don’t let marriage give one permission to treat the other as less than the person you once tried mightily to woo.” 

Kacyn and Brett Haney grew up in the same small town and have been in each other’s lives for as long as they can remember. Although they weren’t always labeled as “boyfriend/girlfriend,” they always remained connected and curious about the other. “Finally, as a junior in college I decided that I didn’t want to do life without him and we married at 21 years old,” said Kacyn. “As much as my young adult self tried to deny it, I really had loved him since we were 14.” Today, they have two children and have been married for six years.

Tara and Chase Woodley have been married nearly two years and have learned—and continue to learn—the many ways to have a happy marriage. “The number one tip I would give is a tip my father gave to me, that is to never do anything during the first few months of marriage that you don’t want to do for the rest of your life,” laughed Chase. “An example of this is if you don’t want to be the ‘laundry man,’ then don’t always volunteer to do the laundry.”

Cindi & Mike ShelbySome couples only love for a short while before they decide to part ways, while other couples stay together forever. So what do those couples have in common?  What does a happy marriage look like?

From having beautiful eyes to having a curious spirit, the reasons each married couple gave about how they knew they had met “the one” varied greatly. However, some notions remained constant, and that was how quickly they connected with each other and how at ease they felt in the other’s presence. 

Common themes addressed by the couples were the need to have interests and hobbies that you do together, while it is equally important to be happy individually with your own interests. “Some of my favorite connections with my husband come from those times when we plug into the community together,” said Kacyn. ”But still pursue your own interests. You will be a more complete couple when you are individually happy in your lives!”

Speaking with the two younger couples, spending time together alone and away from their extended families in their first years seemed to be a poignant experience in establishing their new marriage. New couples need that time to realize that they are now their own family and need rely fully on each other.  “My wife and I spent the first year of marriage several states away from our family and friends and I believe this experience helped us to learn to depend on each other,” said Chase.

Kacyn & Brett HaneyA recurring mantra in the longer married couples is the need to remember why you got married in the first place. It is good to look back and appreciate the qualities you loved in the other, causing you to pledge your love forever. Especially important for those times there is a growing pile of laundry, neither making it to the hamper or washing machine.

John and Eileen explained how important it is to make time for family. The world can pull you in a million different directions, but your family is your anchor.  Their entire family goes on a vacation each summer where they have the opportunity to learn more about one another, enjoy the company, making memories, to look back on in the more difficult times.

Whether your romance is new, a mature love, or searching for love, true love is possible but takes work and dedication. Nurture your relationship, appreciate each other, laugh together and devote your best self to making your partner happy.

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