I’m so lucky to have married into such a wonderful family. My husband’s parents are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary this weekend. Fifty years together! A lot of times you don’t see marriages last that long anymore, so I couldn’t resist asking them some questions. I wanted them to share their best marriage advice from fifty years of wedded bliss.
Before we get to the advice, tell us how you met and fell in love.
She said: Bill and I lived in different parts of our hometown. We went to different Baptist churches and we also went to different junior high schools. We both went to the same high school for 10th, 11th, and 12th grades, and Bill became very good friends with a couple of boys I grew up with and who went to my church. In Bill’s junior year (I was a sophomore) he, Mickey and Thomas decided to wrap my house with toilet paper one late night.
He said: It was a dark Friday or Saturday night just before Easter of 1964. I was with some friends, Thomas and Mickey, who let me know that we were going to wrap someone’s house tonight. The house was located on the other side of town from where I lived, and I had no clue who lived there.
She said: I was watching a murder mystery on tv, and my little dog kept barking at the front door and window on the carport. I heard something outside and ran into my mom’s bedroom to tell her someone was outside. She was in bed reading and said I was hearing things. To prove I was wrong, she pulled back the blinds to show me no one was outside when Bill (he was called Billy back in high school) walked past the window holding a roll of toilet paper. Mom yelled, “Eeeks it’s a man!!!”
He said: As we were doing one of our better wrap jobs, Janice was watching a mystery show on TV with her dog, hears something on the front porch – ME. She runs to her mother’s bedroom, saying there is someone outside. Her mother wants to prove her wrong, pulls up the venetian blinds and there I am. Both scream!!!!! Thomas, Mickey and I run! That was our first meeting.
She said: The boys ran, and Mom and I went out the back door to investigate. Then we saw their proud display of our front yard being “toilet papered!” We hid and waited (with the water hose) to see if they would come back. They didn’t come back to do any more papering, but they drove by – to observe their work of art – and I recognized Thomas’ car. I knew then it was Thomas and Mickey, but I didn’t know who the third person was. They were very tight-lipped to the identity of that third person. By the end of the school year I found out who it was – looked him up in the annual – hummm he was kinda cute! The next school year (Bill was a senior and I was a junior) we happened to be in a business class together! Since the teacher sat us in alphabetical order we ended up sitting at the same table across from each other. I asked him, “Have you wrapped any houses lately?” He turned very pale and was very quiet!
He said: I was unsure of what my answer should be. She then told me that she had gotten the name of the third party involved in the wrapping and knew it was me. We saw each other during the year at monthly “Singspirations” sponsored by the local Baptist churches. Our first date was actually the night of my graduation in May 1965 at the all-night church sponsored party.
She said: Bill invited me to be his date! That night we talked a lot about everything!! And that night is when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him! I had always said I was not interested in getting married, but he changed my mind and my life!!
He said: We started sort of dating the next three weeks, before I joined the Army on the 22nd of June. She was at the bus station when I left, and we had a “letter dating romance” over the next couple of months with me in basic training. My mom and dad asked if she would like to go to Fort Polk, LA for my graduation from Basic Training, which she did with my five younger brothers (another story). During the two weeks leave after basic we saw each other everyday, becoming more aware of what we meant to each other. Back to the Army in September for more training; more letters and then being allowed to make telephone calls helped. It was between the completion of my training and me being assigned to Germany that I asked her to marry me when I came back from Germany, which would or should have been in June of 1968 – 2 ½ years later. Things were happening in the world that changed my assignment, and I was being sent to Fort Lewis, WA instead, returning home in May 1966 and reporting to Fort Lewis in June.
My dad asked Janice what she wanted for graduation and her answer was – ME!! I was there for her graduation on May 31st. We again were going to the all-night church sponsored party, but before we could leave the house, our parents confronted us about our earlier statement of getting married when I came back from Germany. We had decided that Saturday, the 4th, we would get married. We just hadn’t told our parents or anyone else our plans, just four short days away. We had Tuesday night to Saturday night for planning and having a wedding.
Our love has grown over the years, with strength and encouragement from our families and through our attendance at church. Every aspect of our family life has been a “loved based” event. We have experienced or had issues that have drawn us closer together during these 50 years. I am not really sure were the “FALL” part took place, but I know and have known that there is no one else that I would want to be with.
Do you have any advice for couples with young children to keep their marriage strong?
The job of having and raising kids is a “joint venture!” And yes, kids put a lot of stress on a marriage, but keep reminding yourself that these kids do grow up and go out on their own, and then you are back to just the two of you! Enjoy and treasure every minute you have with your kids. We made sure we were in agreement in the way we wanted to raise our kids and talk and agreed on the punishment. We did everything with our kids. We took them everywhere we went and made all car rides/road trips an adventure. Patience– you have to have LOTS AND LOTS of patience. We would remind each other if we were losing our patience. Kids will be kids, and they will try and push you to the very edge. As our parents like to remind us, we are paying for our raising. We prayed daily for God’s guidance in raising our kids and to keep our marriage strong in doing it.
How do you overcome challenges?
With a lot of prayer and support from mainly each other and from family and/or friends. We all have challenges whether it is financial, health, family, school, work, everyday chores or staying on track with a diet; we are all human – we need help. We are so grateful we both came from Christian families. Our faith has truly helped us to survive some large challenges.
When you were first married, did anything surprise you about marriage? How about now?
When we got married at 18/19 we thought we could conquer the world. We were out from under parents and on our own! Boy were we surprised!! We actually had to budget our money and pay bills!! We learned quickly that we had to budget and SAVE FOR EMERGENCIES! We also learned that if we had a disagreement, we had to talk it out. We were miles from family so we had to figure out how to resolve any issues we encountered. Nothing surprises us now about marriage. We enjoy being with each other every minute of the day. We are lost if the other one is gone somewhere. We like and enjoy each other’s companionship.
What is something has has truly made a positive change in your marriage?
As we mentioned before, we both grew up going to church. When we got married, we tried continuing going to church, but our attendance was off and on. Being in the military we moved every 2-3 years, and we always found a church to attend. Some churches we attended regularly and some not so regularly. We found that our marriage and life itself was always so much better when we did attend church regularly. Then once we got into a church and became active in other church activities and made the most awesome Christian friends our marriage became more solid.
What has been the best part about being married for fifty years?
Having a spouse who truly loves and cares for the other spouse. We are not only husband and wife, but we are life long friends, lovers and soul mates. We laugh and cry together. We love to do everything together. We share our ideas and dreams. We have been together so long we can finish each other’s sentence and know what the other is thinking. We praise God for our 50 years together and look forward to many many more years with each other.
Would you do anything differently?
We really can’t think of a lot we would have done differently. The one item that did come to both of us at the same time was our failure to save money. We learned very early in the military we had to have a savings for our moves because the government didn’t cover our expense. When we got out of the military and both of us had civilian jobs we put into our job’s 401 plan and also started putting aside from each check a saving for emergencies (especially with kids, cars, school expenses, etc.). We managed, but it was always a struggle. Before we retired we took the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Class and we learned a lot. We wish we had received this financial information and classes earlier in our marriage. We highly recommend it!
What’s your secret to a long and happy marriage?
We both took our marriage vows very seriously. We had a few rules we stuck by like “Don’t go to bed mad at each other.” Another one is “Don’t leave without a kiss and an I Love You.” You never know when that might be the last time you see your spouse. Another rule we try to do, and it is hard, is to talk to each other, tell your spouse how you feel but don’t get mad when your spouse does reveal their feelings. COMMUNICATION is something we always try to keep open between us. We have had our share of struggles with moves, finances, kids, illnesses, etc; but we worked through them with God’s help.
What have you learned from your spouse in the last fifty years?
She said: From Bill I have learned love can be true and forever. I don’t have to pretend to be someone else to be accepted and loved by him. I can trust him and share anything with him. Our love can continue to grow through the good and bad. He is always there for me. I have learned patience from his example (he had a lot more patience than I did). He is my soulmate! And he is a strong believer in keeping God in our daily lives. I look forward to the next 50 years!!!
He said: Taking into consideration the “learning curve” of marriage and the sometimes “hearing loss,” learning each other and from each other takes a dedication of love and understanding. I think that we also shared or showed our LOVE to our kids. They are the most important things that have strengthened our love. PLUS, we have grandkids and great-grandkids that I hope will see the LOVE that Janice and I have had these 50 years. I have also learned over these many years that the best answer to any question is “YES DEAR.”
Congratulations on fifty years of wedded bliss! You’re truly an inspiration and an amazing role model for all of us! Thank you so much for sharing your heartfelt advice.