George and Anna can’t seem to agree whether they dated eighteen days or a full month before getting engaged. Anna maintains it was the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas of their senior year of college, and George claims it was shorter. But either way, it was short! Anna says, “It’s nothing short of amazing to me that we’ve been married for 37 years.”
George remembers the first time he met Anna: “We ended up taking a spring microeconomics class together, though it was very large and we never really spoke. I’d noticed her, she always seemed alive and vibrant and smiling, at least until the econ started. At the final, which was several hours, she arrived wearing shorts, softball cleats, and carrying a bat. She finished the exam an hour earlier than everyone and ran out the door…I was impressed, and thought, Wow, I have to meet her.” They met the following fall and became friends. They started dating around Thanksgiving, and were engaged by Christmas!
After their whirlwind courtship, Anna and George set out on a honeymoon world tour. “After George and I were engaged, and started planning the wedding and honeymoon, George realized that family leave was part of his father’s contract in Saudi Arabia which meant that we could take his allotted ticket and trade it in for two coach round-the-world tickets (life was simpler back in 1976 as far as air travel was concerned). Since our wedding was planned for April in Chicago with our jobs not starting until July in New York, we booked a trip with stops in the Caribbean, Europe, Saudi Arabia, with stops in the Far East, Hawaii and San Francisco before returning to Chicago with enough time to prepare for our move to New York.
“What we discovered after 3 months of traveling together, is that if you can live in close and sometimes really strange quarters, moving from place to place as nomads, sometimes staying in a hostel or hotel, and other times with relatives or friends, in different cultures and timezones, then you have a pretty good proxy for married life. Nothing like 8 hour flights and 5 hour delays, missed connections, trying to communicate in a foreign language, time zone changes, and navigating in uncharted territory to prepare you for married life. I’d like to think that we learned that each day is an adventure, and it’s what you make of the stops along the way that matter.”
After their epic honeymoon, Anna and George moved to New York to start their first post-college jobs. Anna says, “In retrospect, we took on a lot of change within a short period of time: relocation to a new city, married life, full-time employment, and building a new base of friends without immediate family nearby. It was a little bit of a trial by fire.”
But they took the changes in stride, and have come up with systems that draw on their strengths. For example, Anna explains, “Both George and I love cars, and it’s when we have to negotiate the purchase of a car that we outwardly work best as a team. We have often switched roles in the midst of a negotiation, with one of us as the interested buyer and the other the one who needs convincing, or in some cases, we take turns playing good cop/bad cop. In many ways, our approaches might be different but we have similar goals, and that provides a working framework for most everything we do, especially in our role as parents. The truth is that most things in life are enriched if you can share them with someone else – the heavy lifting and the celebrations are enhanced when they are experienced as a team.”
After thirty-seven years of marriage, George advises newlyweds to keep the bigger picture in mind, “All I can offer is to say have faith and stay focused on what matters. It’s not always perfect but what’s being built, or has been built, is worth everything.”
“Snapshot of a Marriage” is a series from contributor Emily Westbrooks, who interviews couples on some of their secrets for a strong and successful marriage. With all of our focus on how to make your wedding special, we thought it was important to highlight some ways to make your marriage awesome, too! Click here to see previous Snapshots.