The Herald Bulletin

June 22, 2013

Hallmarks of marriage

Advice from the pros

By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Summer months are wedding time. And after months (and maybe years) of planning, the wedding may feel like the finish line in many ways

Actually, it is only the beginning — the beginning of a road that promises to prove rocky at times. The Herald Bulletin spoke to couples who have been married for 20, 35 and 50 years to acquire a little advice to keep a relationship on the right path long after the “I do’s” have been done.

Larry and Wendy Lipps, married 20 years

Wedding date: Aug. 8, 1992

Children: Ana Beth, 17; Micah, 15; Caleb, 13, and Jesse, 8.

How they met: Both were church camp counselors in Ohio

Keep the faith

“Our faith is very important to us and drives all our decisions,” said Larry, director of operations for Rainbow Christian Camp in Converse. “Any marriage has to be grounded in sacrifice. The minute you say I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you, you have to work hard at putting yourself second or third or fourth. It’s absolute. I don’t know how you could make it in a marriage where your demand your way all the time.”

“We believe in the commitment we made,” agreed Wendy, a music teacher at three schools and a part of the Born Learning Initiative. “When times get tough, we fall back on that commitment and stay true to our word.”

Celebrate diversity

“We celebrate and enjoy our diversity,” said Larry. “We intentionally did not blow out the two individual candles when we lit the unity candle at our wedding. That was very symbolic to us. We both knew that lighting the middle candle didn’t mean that either one of us would disappear.”

“We were very much our own people,” said Wendy. “We were in our late twenties when we got married, so we already had two of everything on the bridal registry. We had a yard sale before the wedding to get rid of stuff.”

“There are some things that will never change,” said Larry. “I am an early riser and she likes to sleep in. She is quiet and introspective and I like to spill it all over the table. It drives us crazy but we laugh about it.”

“When we start to get upset, we stop and remember our commitment,” added Wendy. “We decide whether this is something to really be upset about or not.”

Enjoy time together

“You have to have a sense of humor and enjoy spending time together,” said Wendy. “You need to really like the other person and not just have that storybook romantic feeling.”

Darrell and Cheryl Stephens, married 35 years

Wedding date: July 3,1977

Children: Two grown children and three grandsons

How they met: They were high school sweethearts at Anderson High.

Respect your spouse

“I feel like you have to have a line of respect for the other person,” said Cheryl, a hair stylist at Designs by Studio 4. “It goes back to the Golden Rule. I have friends that have divorced and remarried and all they did was trade one set of problems for another. We all have our issues.”

Develop similar interests

“When we got married, she was 19 and I was 20,” said Darrell, an engineer at Remy International. “We grew up together and grew to have the same interests. We went places together and on vacations together and just liked and disliked the same things.”

“Our work schedules made it so that if we were going to do something, we were going to do it together, and that helped,” added Wendy.

“The best part of marriage is that you have someone to do things with all of the time,” said Larry.

Be committed

“People need to remember that marriage is a covenant, not a contract,” said Larry.

“Marriage is a commitment — and a commitment that you work on every day,” said Wendy.

Don and Mary Pat Marstall, married 50 years

Wedding date: February 23, 1963

Children: Four grown children and two grandchildren

How they met: Mutual friends

Make friends that support your marriage

“We have friends that would tell us to stick it out,” said Mary Pat, who worked at St. Mary’s Pastoral Association for 18 years and traveled to lobby for the Right to Life Movement. “If we were going through a rough time, they would say: ‘We’ll pray for you and you pray for us.’ We share a strong faith and have been surrounded by a faith community that has helped keep our marriage strong.”

“When we had our first dance at our 50th Anniversary, we asked all the other couples who had been married 50 years to dance with us,” said Don, who has owned a service station, a storage business and rentals. “Six to eight couples stood up and danced. It was wonderful.”

Argue carefully

“One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was about how to argue and not come out with too many bruises,” said Mary Pat. “We made up rules for arguing, such as no bad language, not using words like ‘always’ or ‘never’ and only disagreeing on the topic at hand.”

“You need to understand your own weaknesses,” said Don. “Sometimes you know you are wrong and don’t want to admit it. You have to concede. We both do this and we have worked it out pretty well.”

“It’s important to ask for forgiveness,” added Mary. “When you say you are sorry, you only involve yourself. When you ask forgiveness, you bring the other person into it. After 50 years we are still going through things, but as we get older, our expectations are more realistic.”

“Mary’s quote has always been that we never quit at the same time,” said Don. “We had disagreements over the years, but she hung in there when I was down and I hung in there when she was down. We never let ourselves off the hook.”