As a relationship columnist for 20 years, I've heard lots of stories from people about why their marriages or relationships didn't last. I've heard people disparage their ex's. I've heard how couples have mistreated each other. The reasons for relationship failures are a litany of woes, which never seem to end.
But in the last couple of weeks, something refreshing happened. Two widowed people, one man and one woman, independent of each other and from different parts of the country, sent me emails that were simple, and yet, contained information and tidbits about what characteristics help make marriages and relationships endure.
The first message came from Steve, an Orange County, California, resident. After 42 years of marriage, Steve's wife Linn passed away in January, 2011, after battling leukemia for 2 and ½ years. He said, "I miss her all of the time, since we felt like newlyweds every day. She was the first woman I had been with intimately."
Several months later, Steve called his 10th grade high school sweetheart, Kathleen. During the conversation, he asked, "Are you married?" Her reply, "No, and I haven't dated in 17 years." Steve changed that when he asked her out and they started dating.
Steve said, "I discovered she is sweet, kind, caring and has other qualities that Linn had. God has blessed me with another incredibly special person."
Sweet, kind and caring. Characteristics as simple as that. Toss in a person with thoughtfulness and compassion and those are the qualities important to Steve.
Last summer, Steve and Kathleen attended their 50th high school reunion together. On his birthday in December, he asked her to marry him. She accepted.
Steve said, "I've learned the secret to a long and happy marriage. If the house needs dusting and vacuuming, do it yourself. Don't berate your wife and just love her for who she is. And most importantly, remind yourself that you're not that good of a catch." Steve is also humble.
The second simple message came from Ellen, a Georgia resident, and widow of nine years, who recently met a widower of five years. She said, "We were both ready for a relationship. I think that that is the important part. It takes a while to be ready to commit to someone again.
Ellen is right. If both members of a newly dating couple aren't ready for a relationship, it won't happen. If they are ready, and they're compatible, bingo, they've got a match.
Ellen added, "I got lucky and met a really terrific man who treats me like a 'princess.' One thing we both say is that we never want to take each other for granted. We both remember saying things to our deceased spouses that maybe we should not have said. So, my partner and I are careful not to say hurtful things. We live everyday like it is our last. It truly is wonderful."
Granted, what Steve and Ellen stated in their correspondence was basic and simple. Who said that finding love after 50, 60 and 70 has to be difficult to thrive?
Champs on the go
Champs from all over the country keep finding me at Tutor and Spunky's Deli, a place where I've hung my hat for 26 years. This week, Ceil and Stuart, a relatively new couple from suburbs near Washington, D.C., were on vacation in San Diego. They took the time to drive an hour or so to Dana Point, to visit and have a sandwich.
They met on Match. com. They still maintain their own residences, but Ceil admitted that Stuart spends a lot of time and her home. They travel together often--the word travel lights up Ceil's eyes.
They even stopped at the Ocean Institute, a magnificent educational facility on the water in Dana Point, to introduce themselves to Greta, who volunteers in the gift shop there.
Our visit was terrific, a nice change for me from the daily challenges of owning a busy deli. Here we are:
Stuart, Champ Ceil and Tom
Be safe, be well,