“I created you from one soul, and from the soul I created its mate so that you may live in harmony and love. Quran 7:189”
Whenever I encounter couples that have mastered the ability to stay married and loving for 30, 40, 50 years I’m curious. How do they manage to create marital harmony when what’s often seen are marriages that hang by a thread of mutual dependency, fear or convention? Are there super powers assigned to couples that manage to stay wed? Whenever I hear longtime couples refer to their mate as my sweetie, my boo, my love, my honey and when their eyes telegraph across a crowded room in their personal language, I smile. Those are the couples that I consulted with to discuss harmony.
Meet Pamala and Gregory Manns. They met 55 years ago. Pam was 16 and Greg was 17. They began dating and in 1964 Greg joined the military. In 1967, before he was shipped out to serve in Vietnam they married in a simple civil ceremony. The ritual cake cutting was made special by Pam’s mother Mildred tying a satin ribbon on the cake blade.
These days weddings are grander affairs. According to a January 16, 2018 article by Anna Bahney in CNN Money, “Here’s What Americans are spending on Weddings” in 2015 Americans spent an average of $35,329. While some marriages end before the wedding bills are paid, Pam and Greg’s union of modest beginnings has remained strong for 51 years.
In preparation for this article I phoned Pam to ask her to share their marital secrets. We have been friends since we were little girls, it was an easy conversation.
She began with, “I knew we were meant to be together.” She credits their longevity with the fact that they respect their differences. She admits that the marriage hasn’t always been smooth. Like all couples they have had their share of heartaches. Not having children was one of them. The way they handled it made their bond stronger. Pam says that they continually work at their relationship.
While talking with Pam was effortless, I confess to being timid about asking Greg to share his feelings about their marriage. When I heard Pam shout, “Boobah, Susan wants to ask us about our marriage,” I took a deep breath. Seconds later he was on the phone warmly sharing his thoughts about their love story.
When I asked how they had stayed married so long he immediately replied, “compatibility.” “I knew right away that Pam was different than any of the other girls I had met.” Taking a beat, he said, “She always thinks of others before she thinks of herself.” Other comments were “She allows me to be myself,” “She is my buddy and my best friend.”
When asked about discord, he said, “We have disagreements like everyone else but when we argue we don’t degrade one another.”
His tone is one of moderation. This couple faces life’s twists and turns together, always supporting one another. They are both products of stable marriages, which speaks to the power of good examples.
In considering what keeps some marriages alive while others lay in ruins or become unions of contractual convenience I reached out to other couples, Jewel and James Williams Jr, married 36 years provided a nugget of wisdom: “Always stay friends. There will be times when things are difficult, and the romantic love will not be top of mind. But if you have determined to be friends, you will be able to tell your friend ‘Hey what you said or did really hurt me’ and work through the problem.”
And from Sonya and Garland Hennings, married 30 years, “We kiss a lot… We spend time with each other but also time apart with our friends…I don’t rely on him to always make me happy, he feels the same. We treat each other like we want to be treated.” She ended with a smile, “We share household chores.”
I’m a single lady who one day hopes to have the kind of harmonious love these couples have created. As our young people begin to look for partners with whom to share their lives, it’s important that they have the guidance and examples of couples who have mastered the art of loving, of peacefully coexisting, giving one another space, respect and of being supportive. Could the secret of repairing our people rest in part with creating strong marriages?
– Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her most recent publication is Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.