When we choose to marry, most of us enter into it with stars in our eyes and hopes for a lifelong partnership with the object of our affection and desire. The benefits of long term marriage are many; positive self-perception, a sense of security during trying times, being able to share memories, and a decreased risk of depression and certain diseases. In a loving long-term relationship, your present and futures are so intertwined that you can trust your partner has your best interests at heart.
So how do we keep that love alive?
I asked that question to three couples married 50 years or more who live at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community. They offered up their perspectives on how they’ve kept their love vital through the joys and challenges of a lifetime.
Harold and Ruth Weinreb met on a double date close to 65 years ago. While they weren’t each other’s date that evening, Harold preferred Ruth over his own date, asking for her phone number. He was looking for someone bright and very sociable with a good sense of humor. Likewise, Ruth valued intelligence, looks, good humor, personality and a good listener. What would prove to be an enduring match was made.
Angie and Bill Daly met when Angie’s brother drove her and a group of her friends to a dance.
Bill saw Angie’s brother carrying an armload of women’s coats and said, “You’re the guy I want to talk to,” following him back to the young women. “When I saw Angie, I knew I wanted to dance with her. We’ve been dancing together now for 60 years.”
Marty and Barbara Bellin met as school psychologist and special education teacher.
“We worked together to help the kids to function well in school,” Barbara recalled. “He’d always get the best out of every kid. In September, our students suggested that we get married. Come January, we finally took their advice and went on a date. By April, we were engaged and in August we married. The kids got aisle seats at the wedding.”
The Weinrebs married after securing jobs as educators. Children further cemented their relationship.
“We agreed on what was important when bringing up our children.” There was also the matter of independence. “We enjoyed separate activities and respected our differences, of which there were many.”
Friends were also important, as was alone time together. Ruth was never afraid to go to bed angry.
“By waiting to hash it out you can reflect and cool off. Learn to say ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong.’ Don’t bicker about the smaller things. We are very lucky to both be healthy and to have had a relatively stable life without great tragedy.”
Angie and Bill Daly married in 1958, and six children came in quick succession.
“One daughter is bipolar so we’ve been through a lot together,” said Angie. “We prayed together for grace and perseverance through the ups and downs of married life. We believed that marriage was sacred and even in difficulty had to make things work out. We always invited friends and family over, even just for a beer and chips. It gave us something to look forward to. The exchange of ideas helped us navigate our challenges.”
Bill and Angie give each other a bear hug to start each day and they make it a point to try to outdo each other in kindness.
“Repay kindness with even more kindness. Make peace after a disagreement, if just with, ‘Can I make you a sandwich?’ Have a sense of humor, advised Bill, and don’t take life too seriously. We had three babies in 2.5 years—the babies came so fast that we didn’t have a lot of time to feel sorry for ourselves.”
Recently, Bill was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“We are in a good place. There are a lot of activities here and we have continued to make friends with our neighbors at Jefferson’s Ferry,” said Angie. “It enhances and simplifies our life.”
Barbara and Marty Bellin have been married 50 years and remain best friends.
“He has a marvelous sense of humor and can diffuse an upset by making me laugh,” said Barbara. “We sing and dance together, too. We started singing on our honeymoon and now sing the old songs to skilled nursing residents at Jefferson’s Ferry. We have become more sociable since we came to Jefferson’s Ferry as friends are very available.”
“We try to build each other up. Our disagreements don’t go outside the house. We think it’s sad to hear couples argue and bring others into it. Marty’s been the most supportive in encouraging me and helping bring out my talents,” added Barbara.
Marty advises talking things out.
“Early on, we decided no name calling. It’s about ‘I feel,’…not attacking the other person’s ego. That can’t be taken back. Build each other up and express your feelings without taking the other person down.”
Cathy DeAngelo is the director of sales and marketing at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket.