Monday, November 28, 2011

Staying Together ~ Column From Sunday

I got a chance to interview Jake and Margaret Monte of Home-wood this week. 

They are an elderly couple that has been married almost 71 years. 

He was a "breadman" and she worked in her father’s grocery store in Ensley when they met. 

As I sat there listening to the story of their life together, it occurred to me that there are no secrets to staying married — it’s all common sense.

When I asked Margaret, who is 92, what it takes to stay married, she raised an eyebrow conspiratorially, nodded her head toward Jake, and said, “It takes a LOT of patience.” 

I had to laugh at the way she said it, but I knew exactly what she was saying. Jake, who is 98, said, “We learned to put up with each other.”

Again, I smiled, because both statements sound like something Jilda and I would say.

I got to thinking about what advice I’d give some young couple if they asked how to stay married for the long haul.

Personally, I think the early years are the most treacherous for most marriages. 

There are so many minefields — relationships, finances, dreams, not having things in common that you both enjoy, and figuring out where you’ll eat Thanksgiving dinner are just a few of the potential pitfalls.

Jilda and I navigated those obstacles, but I can tell you it was not painless. There were times I know she seriously considered slamming me in the head with a skillet, and tossing my body into a wood chipper. 

There were times I deserved that fate.

But we made the decision to stay together. Hurt feelings and bruised egos heal with time. 

Fortunately, even though we sometimes still get angry with each other, I don’t remember either of us saying things that we couldn’t take back, and I think that is the key.

There’s a parable about a young boy with a bad temper and his father had him drive nails in their wooden fence every time he became angry. 

After some time and a bunch of nails, the boy learned to control his temper.

Then his father told him for every day he went without losing his temper, he should pull one of the nails out of the fence. After a while the boy went to his father and told him the nails were all removed.

His father said “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. 

“When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”

I found this little parable profound. I’ve known people who were never hurt physically, but at some time in their past, someone close to them had said things that wounded them deeply and even after years, the scars remained.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into a lecture on how to stay married, but after talking with Jake and Margaret this week, it seemed like a fitting topic.


  1. Very glad you posted this one. So true and not an easy path. Well done and thought provoking interview.

    Hope you are feeling somewhat better today.


  2. I am always drawn to older folks and their life experiences, always look forward to your posts. Thanks

  3. It does take a lot of patience and also acceptance of the other person to make a marriage last. They are a wise couple.

  4. First, you have to stop looking. Then you have to get to that state of acceptance. when you love, you love warts and all, as my husband put it. You rise above. But mostly you have to believe in and honor the commitment. That is what gives you the time to get through the stages of marriage.

    The 3 - 4 year mark, the 7 - 10 year mark; many couples don't survive those.

  5. Very good advice for anyone. Don't you just love visiting with older folks? They have such a great outlook on things.

  6. Yikes! My own fence looks very hole-y indeed. Oh dear!!

    I am in total awe with Jake and Margaret! Amazing! Take care

  7. I loved this. So well written and excellent to read. It says so much. After 35 years of marriage I can relate to it all. And, that skillet scenario - oh, how many times that thought has entered my brain! Great parable too. So true. I'v left some holes behind that I regret.

  8. Wonderful post of good reminders. :) Yes, patience, love, and acceptance. It takes it all and it is most important that both practice them all. It doesn't work when only one person tries to do it all.

  9. Anonymous9:48 AM

    Nice post Rick - good advices indeed!
    Have a great day!

  10. Great post, and wonderful insight into how couples stay together. The story of the nails in the fence is a great parable. Last Valentines Day, I posted an essay on my blog about staying together. The post was titled, "Living Beyond Cupid's Arrow." You can read it at

  11. Every time I see a celebrity get married I always say: "Gee, I wonder how long that will last"..and usually it isn't very long. To stay together like your lovely couple takes work..and lots of love and more work. When I say work, I mean I'm usually working on improving myself and not my hubby! I sometimes wonder if I was a guy would I want to be married to me? Hmmm...well, back to more work! Great Post!

  12. I just love this Sir Rick! Now that i am starting a relationship this is what i needed. Thanks for sharing!



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