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Happily Even After…

Decade after decade these four couples are still going strong. Here's why.

"She Was Always My Anchor"

Ted Boyd wanted to make a lasting first impression on Barbara. They were going on a first date, so Ted arrived in a red and green Christmas tree jacket with white socks. Barbara wondered, Who is this crazy guy?

Ted and Barbara Boyd
Married: April 11, 1953
Hometown: Indianapolis
Children: 1 daughter, 2 sons
Grandchildren: 15

The evening set the tone for their life together. Ted makes Barbara laugh with his fun-loving personality, while Barbara helps Ted keep his feet planted on the ground. Ted's the dreamer; Barbara's the realist. And that combination has worked well through good times and bad.

When Barbara landed a job in 1969 as a TV reporter for WRTV Channel 6 in Indianapolis, she broke new ground: She was the first African-American woman on television news in Indianapolis, and later she was promoted to anchor.

"Ted told me, 'Babe, take your best shot,'" says Barbara. "He was totally supportive of my career, 25 years of it, even though it meant a role reversal for him."

Ted acknowledges he was sometimes known as Mr. Barbara Boyd. "I never let it get to me," he says. "TV was just an extension of who she was at home. She was always my anchor."

But Ted became her anchor when Barbara was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1972, 19 years into their marriage. "Ted's my rock," Barbara says. "He never made me feel any less of a woman after my mastectomy. You see, marriage isn't a 50-50 proposition. It all depends on who can carry the load at the time. Sometimes it's the husband, sometimes the wife."

Ted agrees: "When you make those vows, you've committed for life. When you say for better or worse, you better believe both will come."

Now that Barbara's retired from TV news, the Boyds stay in the public eye by performing Ted's poems and short stories together. Ted's the author of The Black Snowflake, a children's book, and Sumpin to Think About, a book of poetry. They call their act Togetherness Productions.

"We're enjoying this time in our life," Barbara says. "It's been great since the kids took off. We can run around the house naked if we want. At 77 years old, Ted's still the best lover in the world."

With a twinkle in his eye Ted adds, "Life is short. Have fun. A hundred years from now you won't know the difference."

On keeping marriage happy:
Ted: "I let Barbara manage our money. That keeps us happy. She only shops Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, she takes a day of rest."
Barbara: "We gave ourselves time to get adjusted to marriage. At first, I didn't like Ted putting his cold feet on me. A few years later I told him, 'Okay, you can put your cold feet on me as long as you give me a back massage.'"

Favorite marriage advice:

Barbara: "It's easy sometimes to take faith for granted and not remember God until there's a crisis. But it's prayer that sustains us."
Ted: "Think how long you were single before you got married. Don't try to change each other."

* * *

"Love You Like Fury"

By the time John and Priscilla Chesnut walked the aisle in the little stone church in Elizabethtown, New York, they'd already been through a trial by fire. A few weeks before their wedding, John was diagnosed with bronchiectasis caused by a bout of double pneumonia. He had half of a lung removed. John was just 20, Priscilla only 17.

John and Priscilla Chesnut
Married: June 25, 1955
Hometown: Elizabethtown, New York
Children: 1 daughter, 3 sons
Grandchildren: 13

"After such a serious operation," Priscilla says, "we never took our life together for granted. We looked at each day as the most important day of our lives."

"With my disability," John agrees, "I've been reminded every day not to lose sight of the person I fell in love with. That person's still here. There's been no one else in my life."

It's been that way since before the wedding, when John, who was in the Army, would send Priscilla letters signed, "I love you like fury."

After they were married, John and Priscilla moved out west so the dry heat could help John's condition, but his pulmonary problems continued wherever they went. During one of the most serious episodes, John underwent 13 weeks of chemotherapy to treat Valley Fever, a fungal disease of the lungs. Priscilla remembers touching his chest and feeling the heat radiating from a large cyst through his skin. Since the chemotherapy didn't seem to be working effectively, physicians scheduled surgery to remove more of John's lung. Priscilla feared John might be too weak to survive.

The night before surgery Priscilla prayed, "God, I know John can't be healed without your help. If you heal him, I'll praise your name forever. It will be as if I'm on a rooftop shouting your goodness."

John and Priscilla decided to take a risk and trust God, so the next morning, they called off the surgery. The following week John's health improved enough for him to return to work. Three months later, a panel of specialists reviewed John's case and concluded that declining surgery had been the right decision. It was a miraculous turnaround.

"As I look back on our life together," Priscilla says, "I see where God met us in prayer. Whenever we come to a time when we don't see a solution, we pray."

They had to rely on prayer again three years ago when John was hospitalized for heart surgery—a quadruple bypass. During the operation, John's healthy lung partially collapsed. The physicians tried unsuccessfully to remove the trapped air pressing on the lung, but again God was faithful—John's body absorbed the air on its own.

While John was in the recovery room, Priscilla gave him a kiss. "All the alarm bells went off on the heart monitor," Priscilla laughs.

"The electricity's still there," John says. "Our romance is alive and well—and I still love her like fury."

On keeping marriage happy:
Priscilla: "Every day, John lets me know I'm beautiful and I tell him how handsome he is."
John: "We attack problems, not the person. We face crises together and stay away from committing character assassination."

Favorite marriage advice:

Priscilla: "My mother told me, 'Always scratch his back.' That means give him a love touch every day."
John: "Close off the day in each other's arms."

* * *

"It Seems Like a Dream"

It sounds like the classic set-up for a mother-in-law joke. John and Nelda Fisher were on top of a mountain in Montana when their car's fuel pump failed. In the backseat was Nelda's mother. To get off the mountain they'd have to coast for miles down a steep, winding road with hairpin turns.

John and Nelda Fisher
Married: October 11, 1952
Hometown: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Children: 1 daughter, 3 sons
Grandchildren: 8

Nelda's mother didn't want to do it. She was afraid the brakes or steering would malfunction and the car would fly off the edge of a cliff. Nelda decided her husband knew what he was doing and agreed to stay in the car with him. Her mother chided her by saying, "You've always thought John was God."

Nelda chuckles at the memory and says, "Of course, I don't really think John is God. But I do think he's totally dependable. He's the gift God gave me."

When John, age 21, and Nelda, age 19, were married, they'd never dated anybody else. "We sort of grew up together," Nelda said. "We grew into one unit."

After three months of marriage, the couple was forced to endure a year of separation. John was recruited into the Army and stationed in Germany. It was the height of the Korean War and the newlyweds' only communication was daily letters.

"We were so lonely that year," Nelda said. "Ever since, we've been grateful to be together."

Following his time in the Army, John went on to a successful career as a professor of engineering at Lehigh University. His profession has taken him far from home on numerous occasions. As a specialist in steel, he was called by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to join the team studying the collapse of the World Trade Center in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

The constant demand for John's services has been the couple's main source of conflict over the years—though they say it's the only thing they ever fought about. "Professional obligations took me away from family too often," John admits. "Resentment would build in Nelda and we'd argue about my absence. But we strived never to go to bed angry with each other."

"I knew John didn't really have a choice about all his traveling," Nelda says. "He was using his talents, but it was difficult not to want more of his attention."

To resolve the conflict, Nelda began traveling with John as much as possible. When they were home they agreed not to go to bed without each other—an arrangement that's been a mainstay of their relationship.

"The past 51 years have gone by so fast," Nelda said. "It seems like a dream."

On keeping marriage happy:
Nelda: "Even when we were pinching pennies, we had regular date nights. Time together was essential."
John: "Nelda always supported me. No situation ever arose where I felt she wasn't there for me."

Favorite marriage advice:

Nelda: "Allow your talents to complement each other."
John: "Always have closure together at the end of the day."

* * *

A Promise Kept

World War II was over and Paul Winter returned home from active Navy duty to court a wonderful girl he'd met in church. But before Betty, the future Mrs. Winter, would consent to marry him, she wanted to know if he'd someday sail around the world with her. She had romantic notions of sharing adventures on the high seas and of seeing exotic lands. What she didn't want was a humdrum marriage. Paul was in love, of course, and so he promised to take her.

Paul and Betty Winter
Married: March 1, 1947
Hometown: Pasadena
Children: 3 sons
Grandchildren: 4

Then reality intervened. Children came sooner than expected. Paul became busy with his job and Betty was often exhausted rearing the children. Paul found himself feeling unhappy and jealous that his sons were taking his wife away from him.

"I can't imagine how families do it now," Paul says, "with both partners working outside the home."

The dream of sailing the seven seas was relegated to the back burner. In those early years, the Winters did go to Afghanistan, of all places, to teach at a technical school, but it was a tough job with two small boys. They returned home at the end of their service term and Paul settled into life as a structural engineer.

The couple found that marriage was anything but humdrum as long as they had strong interests in common. They loved to go to the symphony and theater together. As often as possible, they'd curl up next to each other and read books, so they could share interesting tidbits. And they spent many hours teaching Sunday school together.

It took 19 years, after their sons graduated from high school, for Paul to keep his promise to Betty. They sold their home in Pasadena and, along with another couple, purchased a 55-foot cutter rig. The four of them sailed to Hawaii, the Society Islands, the Cook Islands, and New Zealand.

Was it difficult to be cooped up on a boat with one's spouse?

"We did fine," Paul says. "By then, we were good friends. Friendship is such an important aspect of marriage."

Smooth sailing came, in part, from knowing that a boat can have only one captain. When two people take the role of skipper, almost everything from anchorage to reefing the sails can produce disagreement. What's true for sailing is true for marriage—only one partner can take the helm at a time.

Betty cautions, "But that doesn't mean both partners aren't important! When one spouse overruns the other, that's not a healthy marriage."

Paul agrees: "Partners should hold their own, but not be competitive. You can't always want to win."

"When you get married," Betty says, "you have to realize you're building a life together. You grow as individuals and, as long as you grow, the years can only get better."

On keeping marriage happy:
Paul: "We've found it wise to think before speaking. You can't take back what you've said once it's out of your mouth."
Betty: "Trust is so important. I have to let Paul know who I am, otherwise how can he love me? Paul knows all about me and he still loves me."

Favorite marriage advice:

Betty: "You should have a life of your own—your own friends and goals. Then you have something to bring to your spouse."
Paul: "Successful marriage partners will respect each other. There's no room for putting each other down. Each partner has qualities worthy of respect."

Paul Kortepeter, an MP regular contributor, lives with his family in Indiana.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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