Undivided. What can an “undivided” relationship look like in a marriage? The House asked several EHA couples/widows to share some of their personal struggles and commitments throughout the years.
Those sharing are : Noel and Georgia McRae, married 56 years with two children; Lorraine Bodin, a widow but married to Buell for 62 years, with two children; Peggy Breedlove, a widow but married to Jim for 49 years, with two children, and Jim and Denise Cram, married 36 years with two children.
The House: What things were “non-negotiable” in terms of keeping your marriage “undivided?” (Perhaps ways you weathered strong disagreements, while still learning to respect differences and resolve issues…)
Bodin: Divorce never entered our minds.
J. Cram: We work together as a team, both at home and in ministry. We keep each other informed as to our plans and decisions. No purchases over $50.00 without first discussing it with the other spouse. We take responsibility for mistakes and don't pass the blame.
The House: What kinds of disagreements were the hardest to resolve?
N. McRae: We have quite different personalities; Georgia is organized, detailed, and Noel is not. Georgia has a planned out 'best" way to go to Safeway, Noel takes a variety of ways. After 56 years, we still don't understand each other.
Bodin: Communication. His sister called him stupid, etc, so when an issue arose, he closed off. It took us awhile to work through this. Our years of marriage were entirely different than these years. His mother had two faces - one for me and one for him. One day he heard the differences and then we had to work through his hatred and still help his mother have a decent living.
Breedlove: Our main problem was Jim’s drinking. The first 16 years were sometimes pretty rough. Then he found Jesus and things became much better. The hard part for me was not to throw things back in his face when I got angry. The past belongs in the past.
D Cram: As most people are aware that opposites attract. I'm methodical and Jim is a "free spirit", go with the flow person. I'm a home body and Jim likes lots of people around. I had to learn how not to be so detail oriented, in simple words, not so picky. Jim had to learn to respect and value our home. I needed to learn how to socialize more and Jim needed to learn the value of family time. Jim's background was moving every 6 months or so after his parents divorced. I was raised in a home where at the time we met I'd lived there for about 10 years. I was used to things being constant and he was used to a lot ofvconstant change. Trying to find a happy medium took years of give and take and discussion. One thing that really helped was learning about how God had made us through classes similar to the DNA classes at East Hills. The other thing was analyzing the 5 love languages. This was a huge plus in allowing us to understand each other and how God wanted us to function.
The House: Please share some positive things you feel helped keep both of you committed to the marriage.
N. McRae: We have always surrounded ourselves with friends who are also believers - church, small groups, people we do the most with, etc. We have other friends, but believing friendships have always been the most important.
G. McRae: Even if we haven't worked out our tiff, we still would go to church. Given time and a renewal in our realization that there were more important things, the tiff usually faded pretty quickly. Putting Jesus first will eventually cause all the other "problems" or concerns to move into perspective.
Bodin: We did not live beyond our means. We trusted each other implicitly. We both had talents; we pooled them for the betterment of the household and family. Agreement in our children's rearing - he would not allow the kids to disrespect me.
Breedlove: The kids when they got older were sure they had all the right answers. It was sometimes hard, but Jim and I always presented a united front where they were concerned. If we had a difference of opinion, they never knew it.
Jim was always generous with money. If he had a dollar, he was always willing to give me 50¢ of it. But that didn’t mean we didn’t have money problems. We just didn’t let it become an issue. We were probably lucky as Jim always had a job and a steady income, however small. Once we all accepted Jesus, faith was a top priority in our home. There were still many disagreements but we had Jesus to guide and lead us though them. Jim was always very affectionate. It didn’t matter where we were or who was around, he always kissed me goodbye. He was never too macho or embarrassed or shy to show he cared.
J. Cram: (The fact) that God hates divorce. Love for each other and for God, as well as for our children. Books by Gary Smalley and Gary Chapman regarding understanding our personalities and our love languages. Our understanding of submission in marriage - it is mutual sub-mission, helping each other achieve the purpose, or mission, that God has given to each of us.
D. Cram: Our deep commitment to God. There was a time many moons ago, that if I thought the way the world thinks today, I would have thrown in the towel and given up on our marriage. I kept praying and crying out to God in my hurt and pain. Eventually, as Jim also cried out to God in his hurt and pain, God was able to help us resolve the pain slowly and rebuild our marriage.
The other high motivation for me was our girls. I was determined that they would have the wonderful childhood that I had experienced, carefree and fun. Jim & I didn't allow our struggles to be discussed or mentioned in front of the girls. We always showed a united front to them. If you asked them today they would say they had no clue anything was wrong.
The House: What kinds of routine things did you do to keep the marriage relationship alive?
N. McRae: We put our church family and get-togethers primary. We are also blessed by liking - and disliking - most of the same things. We like camping - can't imagine being married to someone who didn't like hiking, wild animals, and camping - and llamas.
G. McRae: Neither of us likes crowds, noise, big cities, etc. We like to find areas of quiet.
Bodin: Square dancing, activities in church groups, traveling together, honor and respect of each other.
Breedlove: We worked to have a strong family relationship. In our years of marriage Jim loved and respected me. He was never a dictator. We both knew who wore the pants in the family, and IT WASN’T ME! God has blessed me greatly since Jim has been gone, but I still miss him a lot. Jim was my lover, my friend and my confidante! He was the best of husbands and a great father.
J. Cram: Spend time together regularly, whether in the evening at home, coffee at Starbucks, dinner out, or a trip to the beach. Encourage and say positive things to each other. We had "love cards" I made up that we would put in places for each other to find and read (lunches, Bible, sink, luggage, etc) Show physical and verbal signs of affection (kisses, hugs, and "I love you's")
D. Cram: After we conquered our problems we were much more conscientious about spending time together. Walks, coffee together, trips to Lowes for house stuff without the kids. My love languages are quality time and acts of service. Jim's are words of affirmation and acts of service. When we begin to focus on these things for each other it set a good pattern of living.