5 tips for making marriage last

As Valentine’s Day nears, couples around the country look for meaningful ways to express their love to each other and often pause to remember their gratitude for their partner. Hollywood makes every relationship seem to be in Valentine’s Day mode but marriage veterans like Jim and Nancy Bond know better.

The pair has been married for 55 years and although it’s been a lifetime, they continue to find ways to serve and appreciate each other.

I had called the Bonds, who currently live at Calder Woods, a Buckner Senior Living Community in Beaumont, Texas, to get five tips for a successful marriage – simple and easy. But as I listened to them talk, sharing sentences as if coming from one stream of conscience, I realized I was about to learn so much more that I could apply to my one-year-old marriage. Fingers tapping rapidly across my keyboard, I was ready to devour everything they could offer.

The Bonds met in 1954 working for Gulf Oil in Fort Worth, Texas. They had a close-knit group of friends at work, and would often travel together or do fun things together.

“It was a lot of fun,” Nancy said. “We had such a ball, it was such a fun group. We had a lot in common in liking sports and the outdoors. Out of the group, there were five weddings. It was because we all had the same likes.”

Nancy and Jim married in 1959 and spent their honeymoon driving from Texas to Philadelphia so Jim could start medical school. Although he started late at age 27, he was an oncologist for nearly 40 years before he retired.

From the humble beginnings of medical school and Nancy’s teaching job, they’ve collected a lifetime of memories and wisdom about how to have a successful marriage. Their five tips:

  1. Have fun together and find shared activities. Jim and Nancy love the outdoors and they love sports. Their relationship grew throughout the five years of working together and going on trips together with their friends. After Jim retired, the couple traveled extensively, which has been a highlight in their marriage.

  2. Have a sense of humor. “One of the things that first attracted me to Jim was his sense of humor,” Nancy said. “Having a sense of humor is very important to make a marriage last. You love someone when you marry them and the love matures over the years. But the sense of humor is essential in the way you deal with each other and live with each other. Don’t take everything terribly seriously.”

  3. Respect is essential. “Respect the other person’s view. You may not agree with it but you respect them and your respect their views. That, to me, can make life a lot easier,” Nancy said. “Respect is right up there with having a sense of humor.”

  4. Don’t try to change your spouse. “This goes back to respect. You’ve got to respect them for what they are and what they believe. It’s the person you fell in love with and decided to spend the rest of your life with, so there’s got to be something good there.”

  5. Incorporate anniversary traditions. “Every year, pull out two or three of your favorite wedding cards you received and read them. Look at your wedding photos. Get back on track." 

Although I’ve only been married a year and still have so much longer to go, I sought solace in some of the things we’re already doing right. Much like the Bonds, my husband and I met and fell in love over our shared love of sports, namely soccer. Anyone married longer than five minutes knows that to have a sense of humor when you’re living with a member of the opposite gender is crucial to happy cohabitation. But when I’m in my 80s and a young, newly married writer comes to ask for our tips on how to have a healthy, long-lasting marriage, I hope that just like Nancy and Jim, I have no problem coming up with that list. And I hope it looks a lot like this one.

Chelsea White is the communications specialist for Buckner International. You can contact her at cwhite[at]buckner[dot]org.

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