One of my favorite past times is asking couples what makes their relationship work. Recently, I was fortunate to sit down and hear the story of Cindy and Ken Schmale who have been together for 25 years!
What’s the secret to making marriage/relationship last?
This question can be a difficult one to answer. In my case, I had just come away from a 9 year relationship with my high school sweetheart and was devastated to finally accept that it wasn’t going to work. My grandmother gave me some advice that at the time I listened to, but didn’t realize how smart she really was. She told me you must have chemistry with this person, be from similar backgrounds so you have the same values, ideas about family, and someone who can provide for you (they were married one week after the stock market crash of 1929).
How did you know he was the right one for you?
When I met my husband, I was not ready for another permanent relationship so even though he proposed the first time after 6 weeks, we dated for 5 years. It’s pretty hard for either party to keep a facade going for that long so you definitely know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I recommend dating for a long time.
I was definitely looking for certain personality traits in a husband (or as you can say I had a checklist as many women do). Not only was he tall, handsome, and intelligent (traits you definitely want for your children) but he was ambitious, hardworking, caring, thoughtful, honest, and trustworthy. He was also very protective, which can sometimes be a good thing and sometimes will drive you crazy! We came from similar backgrounds, which I think is important, similar religions, and our parents had both divorced.
When we married, we knew we wanted it to last – something our parents and siblings couldn’t manage. I was age 29 and he was 32 when we married so we knew we wanted to buy a house and start a family right away. We communicated (another very important trait) our hopes and dreams for our life, home, children, family, careers, for what we envisioned to be the first 15 to 20 years of our marriage. Unfortunately, young people don’t think to go further than that. When you’re finished raising your kids, there are many changes that you didn’t think would be part of your life, i.e., empty nest, taking care of elderly parents, and retirement decisions.
Basically, to sum it up, I didn’t just follow my heart, I used my head as my grandmother had taught me. My husband and I had great chemistry together and I found him extremely attractive. He treated me like a lady and I loved the way he made me feel. He was neat and clean (never have to pick up his socks or underwear) and I knew he could always provide for me and our family. He was a wonderful uncle so I thought he would be a great father, too! We came from similar backgrounds and I knew he wanted a marriage to last and a family as much as I did. It was love at first site on our first date. Unfortunately, we had both had bad relationship experiences so it was calculated in our minds very carefully if we were right for each other before we proceeded much further.
What makes your marriage work?
There have been many times during an argument over the last 25 years that we have considered getting divorced as now we think over the years we have evolved into different people. I don’t know why that happens, but sometimes it does. We argue and hash our problems out, each person communicating their thoughts, feelings, opinions – then followed by apologies. I don’t think we always recover well from an argument, but we are still together. And why is that? Good question.
It’s because we both love and respect each other and believe what we have together is better than what we would have if we were single. We have a history together and family together and we’ve seen what four sets of remarried parents can do to a holiday get together. We still try to communicate even though it definitely gets harder the more years you have together – as you can take for granted that the other person just knows what you want or feel. We make time for each other and go to bed together almost every night. A lot of good “pillow talk” can take place before you go to sleep. It’s also important to keep the caring and compassion alive, especially after 25 years of marriage.
What advice do you have for young couples today?
If possible, be friends first, then lovers. Because if for some reason you lose the sex, you are best friends anyway.
Date for at least two years – and take several vacations together. Know the person!
Be from similar backgrounds, similar religions, have similar hobbies you both can enjoy – opposites definitely do attract each other, and can sometimes work for the long haul, but it can be a lot of work to keep it together.
Don’t have too large of an age gap – it will make a difference eventually.
Have great chemistry – because sex will wax and wane over the years.
Communicate about everything (hopes, dreams, careers, future, children, education, and how to handle your money. If you don’t like each other’s family members, let that be known ahead of time and just how much “time” you are willing to spend with them).
Do something nice everyday for your spouse to show them you love them and how special they are to you.
Never let intimacy die! This is difficult when raising small children, but so important. Tell your partner, “I Love You” frequently.
Always show kindness, caring, and compassion – this is a tough world sometimes!
Don’t be afraid to apologize when you are wrong and even if you’re not wrong!
Give your spouse some alone time with family members and friends. It refreshes their mind and soul.
Be independent – most men/women are attracted to men/women who are independent and have things going on in their lives.
Last, but not least, pray for your partner and your marriage everyday. God can do amazing things! Also, counseling should always be considered as a good mediator for problems in a relationship.
Thank you Ken + Cindy! xo