Secrets to a Long and Happy Marriage
“We Rejoice” : An interview with Fred and Ruth who celebrate 60 years of marriage.
Q. Think about the first time you saw Fred/Ruth. What was your impression?
Ruth: The first time I saw Fred was at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas. He was the assisting minister. My family came home from church and my sisters remarked, “That new vicar…isn’t he cute?” I responded, “But he is short.” The next week I purchased low heeled shoes.
Fred: I first saw Ruth after a worship service and I knew immediately what my vision was regarding her…to be my wife.
Q. What did you imagine marriage would be like?
Ruth: I was fixated on “a little house with a white picket fence.” We never lived in a house with a white picket fence. I think this was simply an expression of values we both came with into our marriage – a stable relationship; the husband as the provider; the church an essential element in our life;children; and we would be happy and content.
Fred: My parent’s modeling shaped my expectations of marriage. Basically, marriage as an institution to shape family for a mutual relationship of love, respect, and rearing of family.
Q. What are some of the key elements that bond your relationship?
Ruth: The key elements that bond us together are described in Philippians 2:1-2: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ…any comfort, fellowship with the Spirit, tenderness and compassion…then make my joy complete by being like-minded having the same love being one in spirit and purpose.”
Fred: We both came from similar backgrounds, shared religious and cultural values. On the rational level I knew and observed Ruth’s assertive manner and appreciated that quality. Surely not my style being rather soft-spoken and socially reticent. Ruth’s need for social interaction became something that aided me in social relationships. I have thrived with her modeling effective social interactions – a lot of fine adventures along the way.
Q. What is the toughest thing to overcome in marriage?
Ruth: The toughest thing to overcome in our marriage was a period of time when we had four daughters at home, I was working full-time, and I was finishing my B.A. degree. There was not enough time for each other. A satisfying relationship demands two elements; time and intimacy.
Fred: Giving each other space is a necessity. Allow absolute privacy in matters not of your concern or not wished to be shared, make space and don’t get needlessly in the way, freedom of action. We each always had our private space, offices and desks. How did we work it out raising five daughters and one main bathroom? I, for one, hung out in the basement half bath.
Q. Is there a “pearl” that you can share about the success of your marriage?
Ruth: Shared values is the “pearl.” Our families came from the same county in Germany tracing back 400 years;we both have a Lutheran heritage; out fathers were teachers in the Lutheran education system; Fred and I matriculated through the Lutheran school system.
Fred: Shared religious and cultural values and shared involvement with children, spouses, and grandchildren. And always an involvement of new friendships. Be wary of staleness and negativity. To maintain propinquity we usually share a game after evening news before going to bed. I usually win scrabble and she mancala – even break with rummy.
Q. How has marriage changed as you have gotten older?
Ruth: Being married this long has changed our life experiences. We have been able to travel extensively to Europe and Central America. We have established enduring friendships; we both appreciate the arts and music opportunities; we learned to play bridge; we have become more progressive in our political and religious viewpoints.
Fred: Life has a new verve and satisfaction at our home at Becketwood Co-Op; new friends, couples and opportunities to serve. Physical activity remains important and our individual choices in that regard. Our relative good health has been a special blessing. The attraction and love that bound us remains as always assured.
Q. Anything else?
Fred: Most importantly is the meaning and purpose of our marriage in our children, their mates, and grandchildren. The pleasure I had as father of six children enriched my life. We raised them in a shared playfulness and permissiveness, in my view, in parenting without letting ethical value lose foothold as the fundamental basis. I have little use of law unless it is informed by grace as bedrock for meaning in life.
Ruth: Our children have enriched our lives enormously. the have shared with us “the other side” that has helped us grow emotionally and spiritually. They have been generous and gracious with us. We rejoice.