Despite ups and downs, marriage doesn’t have to be a ‘life sentence’

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEWDon and I will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary on Tuesday.
Upon mentioning this to a group of friends, a gentleman within my vicinity boasted, “I’ve been divorced 22 years!” I responded, “Well, how long were you married?” His face mirrored confusion.
“You mean, how long was I locked up?” he asked. “I got a judge to reduce my life sentence to six years.”
Twenty two years later, his remarks were like a paint primer trying to cover a stain on his heart. He’s gone the distance alright- but in the opposite direction of my desires.
Our friends, Pastor, Keith Allen and wife, Kathy of Kannapolis, North Carolina celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary June 15th.
They wed in 1985, in their late teens. Our paths crossed on a cruise 10 years ago while celebrating our third anniversary.
We had such a connection we booked a cruise together the following year. Keith being a minister, naturally began counseling Don and I about marriage as the four of us sat submerged in the hot tub on the deck of the ship. We wouldn’t learn until much later in our friendship that he and Kathy had experienced a marital setback in their third year of marriage.

Wives first
“After we had our first child, (they have two girls) we were drifting apart,” said Kathy. “He worked third shift, played on two bowling leagues and went drinking with his buddies- too often.”
Kathy said, in hindsight, she contributed to his detachment. “I was a first time mother; I made everything about the baby. We as mothers have to realize, we are wives first.”
By the time she gained that revelation, it was too late. The door had opened to her having an emotional affair.
“He was a handsome, single guy in management that I worked with. He started showing me attention and I fell for it.” Kathy said, “It didn’t take Keith long to notice I was becoming distant. He came up to my job a couple times unannounced and caught us talking. He wasn’t stupid; he put two and two together.”
Kathy said the relationship, while inappropriate, never went beyond conversation. “All I did was talk to this guy, but it took a toll on our marriage, the trust diminished. It took a year to get it back.”

Happily ever after? Not quite
Bill and Vicki Anderson of Aurora have been married since 1969. They celebrated their 46th anniversary June 21. They have two daughters also, Jennifer and Christina and one grandson, Jacob.
“I believe love is the strongest force there is,’’ Vicki said. “It’s the ultimate blessing a man and woman could have - but keeping love alive is the ultimate challenge.”
She said the beginning of a marriage is a mystery that unfolds incrementally.
“We promised we’d grow old together not having any idea what that meant, we both came from broken homes,” she said.
Bill joined the army and Vicki got a job.
“My goal was to make lots of money, save some, buy a car, a house, have lots of kids and live happily ever after,’’ she said.
Well, their happily-ever-after got interrupted right around the seven-year-itch.
“We were married seven years when infidelity happened with me.” Vicki said, “I left the door cracked for someone to come in.”
Years later, Vicki said Bill allowed someone in an open crack as well.
“Only the Lord could heal the hurt, damage and distrust that has fallen on this marriage,” she said.
Vicki said she and Bill repaired the damage over time by reaffirming their love and trust all over again.
“I’m not proud of sharing this but, if it can help save another couple from divorce it’s worth it,” she said.
I agree Vicki, using our mistakes to reroute others does make sharing worth it. I respect transparency. It’s liberating. Concealment can be toxic.
Don and I have several married friends and not all of their relationships are thriving. Yet, I’ve made a conscious choice to refrain from ever suggesting divorce. Regardless of the issue, it’s not my place to guide an individual to end their covenant.
Kathy agreed.
“If both parties are willing, seek couples therapy and give it your best effort,’’ she said. “Keep an open mind. If you work to salvage your marriage, it can be better than it was.”
“People who run a marathon finish because they want to be able to say, ‘I ran a marathon.’ How much respect does one have for the runner who doesn’t finish the race? None!” Vicki said. “There is a beginning and an end - a finish in everything. It’s the stick-to-it attentiveness that makes the marriage lasting.”
One of the attentive things that Vicki does for Bill today is place love notes in his lunch bag. She said he reciprocates by slipping love notes on her pillow, typically accompanied by a single rose from their rose bush.
 Kathy got downright mushy when speaking of her devotion to Keith.
“There’s not a man more handsome than Keith Douglas Allen. I love him more today than ever.” she said, “If anything ever happened to him, I wouldn’t remarry. He’s the only person I want to grow old with. We think alike--even crave the same food.”
Kathy said they keep their romance fresh with dates on the lake, riding their Harley, and going on cruises.

Nifty 50
Vicki and Bill like traveling also, they’re planning a trip to Ireland for their 50th anniversary.
 Speaking of the 50th…
 Vernon and Gloria Nash of Chicago recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. Don and I were privileged to be among 150 guests who helped commemorate their coveted Golden Wedding Anniversary.
“By the time I was nine, I started praying for my future wife because I wanted to marry a woman like my mother,” said Vernon. “When I was 15, I saw an attractive girl and asked my friend to introduce us.”
Vernon explained, his friend wasn’t paying attention and brought him the wrong girl.
“I took one look at Gloria and told my friend, ‘It’s alright, I can work with this.’” he said.
Fifty years, three sons and five grandchildren later, the Nash’s are still working it.
And so are me and Don.
Happy 13th Anniversary, Babe! From the lyrics of Dave Barnes’, “God Gave Me You,” “We are stitched together. And what love has tethered, I pray we never undo.”