With all of our focus on how to make your wedding special, we thought it was time to highlight some ways to make your marriage awesome, too. Introducing “Snapshot of a Marriage,” a new series from contributor Emily Westbrooks, who interviews couples on some of their secrets for a strong and successful marriage.
Benny and Nita both grew up in the Philippines and met at a conference when they were in college. Nita attended because it was an opportunity to go on her first plane ride; Benny was looking for a smart woman to marry. After a weekend of first dances, gifts of fried bananas, and both playing a little hard to get, they were hooked.
On asking Nita to marry him, Benny says, “I didn’t ask her. I told her. I said, Nita, we will get married.” His daughters recently asked him, “Why didn’t you get down on one knee and ask?!” He replies, “I didn’t want to be rejected. What if she said no?”
Nita explains that since they were old enough, their decision to marry wasn’t questioned. “Even the nuns [at the school where Nita was a teacher] believed that whatever decision we made was the best decision for us. They trusted we knew what was right.” She says she wasn’t given any advice before they were married, mostly due to Filipino customs: “Marriage was so sacred that people didn’t discuss it in public.”
At the time of the Iran hostage crisis, Benny and Nita decided to move their young family to Saudi Arabia, and the culture there taught the couple many lessons they keep with them after forty years of marriage. Nita recounts an evening when she wanted to see a movie, which would only be shown four times. Benny fell asleep and the couple missed the movie, for good. But Nita explains, “There have been many moments, like this one, when I was very angry. I would always tell him later what upset me, but it’s not worth discussing it in the heat of the moment. I don’t want to fight about petty things. I know he loves me, and it’s remembering that love, which makes finding patience easy.”
Beyond just missing movies, Benny and Nita try to work through challenges together. Benny credits Nita: “With whatever I did, Nita always just said, You can do it. When I made mistakes driving around [our new neighborhood], Nita would say, Why don’t we go back to this spot, and we would go back to some place I knew, and I’d eventually find my way around the city. It’s a good analogy for my life with her: I have the courage to discover and to try because she has always been there, behind me. Her support is everything to me.”