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Sun, Dec. 15

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Here it is! The Top Five List for Wedded Utopia

By Heidi Dahms

Managing Editor

Today on Valentines Day, I sure can't share any marriage wisdom with you from my vast wealth of marital experience, because I have none. It's a pretty sure bet I won't make MY 64TH wedding anniversary, like some of the couples I know. But newspaper types are an observant lot, and I have taken careful note of some of my favorite couples down through the years, in case I should ever happily find myself with a "Mrs." in front of my name.

My friends have all kinds of ways to keep their marriages long, happy and spicy, as do the couples who brought us their photos and stories for a special issue of one of our sister papers.

One of my friends, who would surely torture and maim me if I identified her here, gave me her short and sweet version of how to keep a marriage together.

"We fight naked and never go to bed mad," she said. While that is probably in the category of "more than I need to know," she had my ear. She told me that the fights never last long because by the time she and her husband get all their clothes off, they are laughing so hard they can't be angry any more. Her other secret? Put all the money in one pot.

"If he wants something, he gets it. If I want something, I get it," she said. Sounds like there's a good bit of trust involved there. They should know, they've been married for over 25 years.

Another couple I know has been married for over 30 years. They still look at each other with a twinkle in their eyes, and greet each other with pleasure when they've been apart. The wife says it's because they are careful to observe the niceties with each other, remembering to say "please" and "thank you" and do the little courtesies that after all, we'd do for anyone we like.

When I am around them, I also notice that they speak to each other with courtesy and respect. Makes sense. After all, doesn't it figure we should treat the person we are supposed to love above anyone else with at least as much care as we would any other human being? "You always hurt the one you love" isn't the key to the door of wedded bliss, obviously.

One friend shows her love by making her husband's lunch each day, enclosing coordinated napkins, special holiday remembrances, and even peeling his orange so he doesn't have to take the time. He leaves little love notes for her in her underwear drawer, or in her suitcase if she is going to travel without him.

Most of the couples I know that have been happily married for a long time credit God for their successful relationships, like Rose and Ernest Perry of Mayer, whose 57-year love story is on the front page of today's Big Bug News. Lesson: When life is more than you can handle, it helps to have a Resource bigger than you, your spouse, or your doubled troubles.

Many of the couples who told us their secrets of success today cite their ability to give each other some space. You'll see statements like, "we have common interests and our own interests. This allows us to be interested and interesting."

Another friend who has been married to her husband for over 30 years says her secret is, "trust, giving each other freedom to pursue our hobbies, and not getting in each other's space all the time."

That "trust" thing keeps cropping up, doesn't it?

Right near the top of the list of the happy couples I know is a sense of humor. Don't start a relationship without it. However, the humor does get a bit crazy at times! I have one friend whose husband has a toilet paper obsession. He is not comfortable unless there is a roll on every holder and a 12-pack in the bathroom cabinet. His wife occasionally hides it all, just to keep him on his toes (or on the "johnny," if you will). She also recently told me that she never lets him completely figure her out. Just when he's getting really comfortable, she says, she does something totally out of character, to throw him off. "He likes it," she says. Guess so, they've been married for 27 years.

Another friend dressed up in a pair of goggles and crawled into the house while his wife was showering. He slithered into the bathroom, lifted the shower curtain, and yelled "BLAAAAGH!" He's very fortunate to be alive.

My mother lost my stepdad Jim three years ago to cancer after a 20-some year marriage. I think I learned from Jim how powerful love can be. Jim was a divorcee Christmas tree farmer from Michigan who lived in Mexico during the times he wasn't cutting and selling trees. He swilled a bucketload of Corona daily and spent his time fishing. Then he met and fell in love with my mom. He went back to Michigan, called his son, and told him he was going to quit drinking cold turkey because he wanted to be worthy of my mother. He never took another drink for the rest of his life, and he and my mom enjoyed a happy, trust-filled marriage. She was able to return his dedication by staying strong by his side through an 8-month battle with lung cancer.

Mom is happily married again to an old friend who also lost his longtime spouse to cancer. Her advice for a happy relationship is to give each other plenty of space, which of course involves a big dose of trust, and to maintain a healthy sense of humor.

There you have it from my astute observations - the Top Five List for Wedded Utopia: faith, humor, trust, freedom, and respect.

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