Wednesday, 04 February 2015 17:50

Tried and True Keys to a Healthy Marriage

Written by  Jasmine York
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To follow up our January issue’s focus on weddings and newlyweds, we found four couples in the River Region who’ve all been married for more than 30 years in an effort to get their perspective on lasting marriages. In each of their stories, they’ve shed unique insight into the dynamic of their relationship, the role God has filled within their marriage, and offered success tips on what they believe has helped them preserve a healthy, long lasting union.


The McClintons: 42+ Years of Puppy Love

Jody and Donna McClinton have been married for 42 years and dated for six years prior to their marriage. They both grew up in the small town of Jackson, AL and have known each other since participating as Christmas trees in their elementary school play.


“We have a picture of us and our little faces shining together through the Christmas tree in our school play,” said Jody. “I was in third grade and she was in second grade, I believe.”


The two started dating and fell in love when Jody was 16 years old and Donna was 15. They decided to marry years later, shortly before graduating college.


“We just had very similar interests and we think that’s a very important point for couples who are getting married,” said Donna.


When asked what keys they’ve found to be the most valuable in their marriage, Jody said that besides sharing family values and having an abiding friendship, “It’s very important that when the storms of life come, you run to God together.”


Early on in their marriage, about 36 years ago, Jody and Donna suffered the loss of their only son who was prematurely born on Christmas and died 10 days later.


“That was a time in our lives which was very difficult. We made a decision right then. We knew we didn’t understand, but we were going to run to God together as a couple and we were going to get through it together. It changed us and who we are as people. It strengthened our relationship with God and strengthened our relationship with one another,” said Jody.


Since then, Jody said the Lord has been faithful to them and blessed them with four grandsons, “who all love their ‘Papa,’” added Donna.


“Starting right out of the shoot deciding, ‘we’re going to do it God’s way,’ that’s what it took for two personalities like ours to mesh together,” said Donna. “That was it.”


“We’re certainly not perfect. We’ve had arguments. We’ve irritated each other and had words just like everybody else; it’s just normal. But we’ve never stopped loving each other and never stayed mad at each other for very long,” said Jody. They purposed to never consider the “D” word (divorce), which may be the most fundamental key for any long-lasting marriage.




The Wilsons: Love at First Sight (and 35 Years Later)

In 1979, Larry Wilson was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany when he was called to come back home to Fayette, AL after the passing of his grandmother. On his way back to Alabama, he missed a series of flights, first New York to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Birmingham, which offset his journey by one day.


After arriving at Birmingham’s airport Larry says, “I just followed my intuition to catch a cab out to Birmingham Greyhound bus station. I knew it would take my brother about two hours to come pick me up.” About 30 minutes after arriving at the bus station, he saw Norma get off a bus and take a seat nearby.


“I was on my way to Tupelo, Mississippi,” said Norma. “She had a two hour delay before her next bus arrived,” added Larry.


“Two hours together just talking,” said Larry, “and it didn’t take long when the Lord let me know that she was to be my wife.”


In that moment, the two exchanged numbers and were in constant communication. Larry wrapped up his last year of service in Germany. Once he returned back to the States, he and Norma married 15 days later.


“God has blessed our marriage richly because we keep Him at the center,” said Larry. “When God is the center, when He is everything, marriage is spiritual; it’s not natural,” added Norma. “You live it by the spirit of God in you. You use the Word of God as your pattern. He sets up the order of the home. He sets the man as the head of the home. He sets the wife to be there to respect him, to honor him. He tells the husband, you are to love your wife. And I can say in 35 years, Larry has loved me. And in these 35 years, I respect him and I tell him he has earned my respect. And we wake up in the morning and we tell each other, ‘I’m glad you’re here again today to share life with me.’ And we’re still in love.”


Larry believes that they’ve made it work for so long by taking responsibility, preparing their spirits and minds for marriage, being responsible with everything including the finances (an area where they learned to become a team), honoring their vows to God, and “knowing how to forgive,” added Norma.



The Itsons: Opposites Attract and Abiding for 32 Years

Dean and Donna Itson met as students at Harding University in Searcy, AR. They dated for three months and were engaged for about a year before having a fairy tale Christmas wedding in Chattanooga, TN.

“I’ll never forget that day. It snowed the night before during our rehearsal dinner in an old Civil War mansion. I remember the snowflakes falling. It was so perfect. I knew that she was the one for me. God intended for us to be together. She was so beautiful and continues to be 32 years later,” said Dean.


Dean believes that making the adjustment from fiancé to husband and wife took patience. Early on, Donna remembers encountering differences in their personalities—she, with somewhat of a Type A personality, and he had more of a Type B.


“Often it’s the little, seemingly unimportant things that can cause big problems if you let them,” said Donna. Over time, they learned to get on the same page with their finances and become more of a team with other household chores. Donna found that “good communication was key.”


Although they had some personality differences, they shared some even bigger similarities. “We were both blessed to have been raised in Christian homes,” said Dean. “When we were dating, we made it a priority to do most of our dating by going to church... three times a week. That set the tone for how we showed respect for each other when we were alone the rest of the week.”


Other keys they’ve found to really help their marriage is to have faith in God, follow his Word, have patience, and show unconditional love for one another. Even to this day, Dean continues to tell Donna he loves her every night before bed.


During the seven years of marriage before having children, they became one another’s best friend and shared many fun memories. “We spent a lot of quality time together before the children came along. At that time we were both school teachers and spent the summers just being together, traveling often.” They recommend other couples wait a little while before having children as well.


“We truly enjoy being together, we’ve learned to communicate our feelings better, and we trust each other” said Donna.


If nothing else, Dean believes that couples can have a long lasting marriage if they “go into marriage as a commitment, knowing you will do what it takes to be married for a lifetime.”




The Dashers: Love Triangle (With God in the Center) for 41 Years

In 1970, John and Emily Dasher met as students at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) University.


“He came in the music room while I was playing piano. He likes to sing,” said Emily. They struck up conversation and started talking as friends.


Over the holiday break, Emily invited him to stay with her family, since he lived out of state and wasn’t able to go home—a gesture commonly made within her department at Alabama A&M.


“I did my research on him and knew his family had a farm. I thought he’d get along great with my dad,” said Emily “and he did. He [John] is a family man.”


Although they weren’t dating at the time, for two months they hit it off. Then, John was drafted into the Vietnam War, where he served for two years. The couple mainly corresponded through letters over the course of that time and he gave her his word that once he came back he would marry her. He kept his promise.


“When he came back, he had changed so much,” said Emily. “I don’t know what he saw or went through when he was over there. Everybody knew you couldn’t sneak up behind him. You had to announce yourself.”


John believes, during those difficult times, it was Emily and God who kept their marriage together. “It’s a blessing because she was so forgiving and compassionate when I was going through that time in my life. If it weren’t for her and God, I don’t think we would be married to this day. They were the glue. She was very patient with me,” said John.


Today they enjoy their time together at home, traveling on their mini adventures around town with nowhere to go, and their pride and joy Phillip, Leah, and Damyon.


John compared their dynamic to a triangle, saying that as long as the two of them made it a point to meet in the center and come together to God, they would be okay. The three keys they’ve found to help make their marriage a success are prayer, counseling, and patience.



Jasmine York is a freelance writer with a B.A. in English/Creative Writing.




Last modified on Friday, 13 February 2015 18:05
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