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Good Housekeeping
September 07, 2006

How to Stay Married

Afraid your marriage isn't going to make it? Four couples--none married less than a decade--shed practical light on how you can keep love alive through the years.
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Oh, they’re poles apart! Agnes is the serious one, the loner, the introvert, while Jon, her husband, is the outgoing, friendly extrovert. She’s kuripot, thinking a hundred times before making a purchase, even for something as small as a toothbrush. Jon is the impulsive spender. She thinks and plans; Jon acts right away. She’s the disciplinarian mom, and Jon the playful dad. She hates crowds; he delights in them. She’s the first to exit from a party while Jon is usually one of the last to leave. Jon can work with everything going haywire around him, while she needs all the concentration she can muster.

“If marriage was founded on compatibility, we would never have made it beyond the first months,” Agnes says. But, hey, they have been at it for more than a decade, and their union is still going strong. Rock-solid, you might say.

How can two individuals with vastly contrasting personalities stick it out for the long haul, 11 years to be exact, and still love each other deeply?

Carol asks a similar question, taking into account her manifest incompatibility with Boy, her husband of 14 years. “My husband’s the gourmet. He iron clothes better than I do. He sews better too. Curtains, pants, shorts, you name it, he can make it. He keeps house better than I can. ‘Yung mabango pa para sa ‘kin, hindi na para sa kanya. He’s the organizer; I’m the scatterbrain. Maglilinis siya magkakalat ako. Magpaplansta ako, uulitin nya.

Stories of marital success are wonderful to hear, especially in today’s times when more and more couples head for Splitsville rather than a lifetime of togetherness. But what makes for a long, fulfilling union? Four happy pairs share their experiences and their secrets for keeping the home fires burning. May their lessons and discoveries serve you well.

Accept Your Spouse—Warts and All
Through the years, Carol and Boy Caaway have done just that—learned to accept their individual differences. “You have to be more flexible. To accept things as they are. To stop trying to wish things were different. That your husband was different. That your marriage was different. That you were different,” Carol says.

Of course, it also pays to value yourself. This Carol considers a key to a long-lasting marriage: “That despite your own failings, your flaws, you are somebody special. God put you here for a purpose. And that purpose is always good.”

A full-time mom, Carol at first had to deal with feelings that ran the gamut from boredom to insecurity—until she realized how privileged she was to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. “It’s God-given and should therefore be treasured. ‘Pag ganyan ang outlook mo and full-time wife and mommy ka, you will be happy. A happy wife makes a happy home,” she philosophizes.

Agnes and Jon Malinis also know the value of realistic expectations. “In many situations in our life as a couple, we have tried to let our individual strengths and weaknesses work for us instead of allowing them to be a cause of tension or conflict,” explains Agnes. She gives an example: “In attending to the household chores, I have given up on letting Jon to the laundry or ironing because he never did those chores in his growing-up years. It would only frustrate me if I expected him to come up with perfectly ironed clothes.

“But because he is truly handy guy when it comes to fixing up the house and taking care of the kids, then I expect him to help in those areas. In the same manner, Jon knows I have not much experience in cooking, so he doesn’t expect much from me there. That’s why he eats out a lot,” she says in jest. “Seriously, we think many conflicts in a marriage stem from the couple’s in a marriage stem from the couple’s unrealistic expectations of each other.”

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Marital problems are kinks that can be more easily ironed out if only couples would take the time to regularly talk to each other. Chi and real estate executive Danny Mercado, married for 19 years, are firm believers of this. Aside from talking about marriage and family issues as part of daily life, they have also made it a habit to go out on a date—sans the kids, of course—every Monday so they can just bond.

For Agnes and Jon, communication is a major must-do, no matter if it’s painful. “We have agreed to always speak our minds to each other, never mind if what the other one says hurts,” says Agnes “During ‘hurting’ talks, we let the supposedly aggrieved party speak his or her case without interruption. Otherwise, we end up just throwing words at each other without listening to the hurt hidden in the words.”

Put Family First
This is a principle that happily married couples live by, knowing full well that no amount of communication will make married life succeed if the family is not the couple’s first concern.

When Pacifico and Cely Pablo, both in their 70s, decided to tie the knot 44 years ago, their first concern was to live independent of their parents.

“We were willing to go through difficulty,” says Pacifico, or Pasing. This first step made it easier for them to make tough decisions in the course of building a family. Pasing recalls a time when, almost simultaneously, he lost his job and their house help. Their children were still very young, so husband and wife decided one of them should stay home while the other eked out a living. Pasing was the natural choice.

Three months hence, he was ready to go back to work, but only because they had also found a maid. Cely, a retired private school teacher, also stayed home for a time during the formative years of their six children’s lives.

It never bothered the couple that the arrangement deprived them of a bigger combined income. Family was always their main priority—a decision they’ve never regretted, they say, as all their five surviving children have grown up to be the responsible and well-established individuals that Pasing and Cely envisioned them to be.

For the Mercados, that family comes first is a non-negotiable—even if it means saying no to their in-laws. Danny and Chi say that it took them years to learn to refuse the requests of extended family, but they knew they had to do it. This included occasionally declining invitations to spend Sundays over in favor of a more intimate family day, or having in-laws stop doing things that undermine the Mercados’ role as parents.

The family, too, is always on top of Agnes and Jon’s list of priorities. “Even before marriage, we made it clear to each other that we would value a solid family and home over everything else, for example, over a more exciting lifestyle or a more impressive career. We agreed that we would try to be with each other and to be with our kids as much as possible. That we would work around difficult work situations (such as overseas employment, further schooling, financial decisions) with our family as the first consideration.”

Their priorities are clearly identified, albeit is no particular order: build a good home, put the kids in good schools, be there for the children, and contribute significantly to the church. “Keeping these essentials in mind, we found it quite easy to make decisions,” they say. “For example, it was not difficult for us to decide in favor of purchasing our home over buying a car. Or taking out educational plans for the kids instead of traveling.”

Honor Your Vows
Remembering one’s marital vows always, no matter how long you have been married, is a primary ingredient in any fruitful union. Ask Danny and Chi, who to this day remind themselves of the vows they made to each other almost 20 years ago. “They’re not merely words,” stresses Chi. “We must keep them.”

Keep them they did, even when their marriage was on the brink of collapse because of seemingly irresolvable differences. Danny was the jealous type and extremely possessive, and Chi found it difficult to deal with his volatile temper. Holding on to their promises to each other helped them through the difficult times. Today, husband and wife are the picture of a happy couple, with none of the traces of their once turbulent marriage.

Cely affirms the need for any couple to work hard at keeping their commitment to one another. Without doubt, that commitment has helped a lot not only in making their marriage work, but also in keeping it strong through the past 44 years.

Pray Together
Through the many years of their married life, Cely and Pasing have stuck to a dawn routine: After waking up at 4:30 a.m. every day, they drink coffee together, listen to an early morning Christian program, and then they read the Bible and pray together. “It has brought us closer to each other,” says Cely.

Agnes and Jon do the same, often with their two kids—holding regular family devotions as a measure of their commitment. “God is the fulcrum that evens out our naturally different, and many times differing, personalities,” says Agnes. Danny and Chi echo this sentiment. They, too, pray together as a couple and with their teen kids.

Boy adds his bit: Recalling the days when nothing seemed to go right with their marriage, he says, “ I don’t know how we could have survived 14 years without God.”

Tags: marriage, couples
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Filter comments by:
  • Elizabeth Aug 11 2006 @ 07:36pm Report Abuse
    I need to this topic to remind me about my marriage
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:21pm
  • Mommy_Kat Sep 05 2006 @ 09:56pm Report Abuse
    A very inspiring article! Thanks Ms. Tess!
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:18pm
  • jeta garces Sep 13 2006 @ 11:28pm Report Abuse
    after 27 yrs i have believe all my husbands words and honesty but all are not true
    he is having an affair wt diff women and ended having a child he believes he s d father to a 23 yrs old woman
    i pray always i can cope up my frustrations anger and resentment that no man is honest in whole span of marriage
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:15pm
  • tinagem Oct 05 2006 @ 08:04am Report Abuse
    Being married for 12 years made me realize that love is just a state of mind. To stay married, we shouldn't look for that feeling to surface all the time, but make up our minds and will ourselves to overcome any storm that may come. Of course, finding ways to stay in love with our husbands, despite his and our flaws is a must priority.
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:15pm
  • KISH Oct 08 2006 @ 04:37am Report Abuse
    i agree when i hear the word's BABAE NAG DADALA NG RELATIONSHIP... i for a fact feels that way. If i didnt wanted our marriage to last and love him the way i do. I swear i have given up already.
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:15pm
  • ru-v Oct 30 2006 @ 08:38pm Report Abuse
    My friend and I am wiriting a thesis on marriage and what factors could maintain an intact one. Can I use this article for our related literature? thanks so much! This would be of help to us!
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:14pm
  • mommy ex Nov 06 2006 @ 08:59pm Report Abuse
    I decided to keep several basic rules that somehow helped my going 27 years of being married worked. 1. ) Put God in the center of your relationship. 2.) Understanding your partner is an understatement, LOVING ACCEPTANCE of the person you chose to live and spend the rest of your life with is the true measure of genuine love. 3.) Never say" I love you because........", when you lose the reason, you may lose the love. 4.) Keep the friendship burning. ( notice, it is friendship not love. where there is genuine friendship, there is honesty, faithfulness, caring, concern etc. therefore there is genuine LOVE) 5.) Always look your best for your partner. 6.) And for the wives, " a perfect wife is an angel in the house but a devil in bed".
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:13pm
  • happydose Nov 07 2006 @ 03:49am Report Abuse
    here's a 19-year-old who thinks marriage is the worst thing that humans came up with
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:13pm
  • Judith Nov 10 2006 @ 11:32am Report Abuse
    Despite having a mistress with whom he sired a child, I am still married with my husband of 30 years. A liar and a cheat he may be, but he spoiled me to the hilt and he is the perfect father to our three grown-up children. He said the affairs had long been over and that I am the only woman he loved and will continue to love. Am I a fool to believe him?
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:13pm
  • jc Nov 12 2006 @ 02:42pm Report Abuse
    amen to everything written on this article. my husband and i are also very different but we regard it more as a blessing than a challenge. we feel that we complement each other and this makes our bond stronger, and our marriage more interesting.
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:13pm
  • .joy ambe. Nov 24 2006 @ 12:16pm Report Abuse
    ..i Married a MAN who is older than me, Im just lucky to have a friend, a father, a husband in ONE.in marriage, learn to trust your better half,love him all over again and respect is always the secret to a happy bond that will last a lifetime...
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:12pm
  • iya Dec 06 2006 @ 01:21pm Report Abuse
    ...being married is always a trial and error thing..there's no perfect formula for it..."acceptance" i guess is the magic word .....LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY....
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:12pm
  • els Dec 08 2006 @ 10:51pm Report Abuse
    being married with my husband is the nicest thing that happened in my life.I have learned that love is not passive.U have to make it grow and work...
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:12pm
  • mrs.know.it.all Jan 04 2007 @ 11:10pm Report Abuse
    am sharing this secret to all of u reading this... understanding ur husband more than loving him would be the key. never invest too much love on him, it will suffocate him and make u nagged on small things... trust me with this one!!!
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:11pm
  • sweet Jan 17 2007 @ 02:47pm Report Abuse
    i've been married for 15 years my husband and i are still very much in love. The secret... always understand each other (give and take relationship), always look your best and most importantly be like a whore in bed... trust me with this one!!!
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:10pm
  • yeth Jan 23 2007 @ 07:53pm Report Abuse
    praise to all...
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:10pm
  • fiona Feb 07 2007 @ 01:04pm Report Abuse
    helps me remind of my reasons because I choose to marry my husband.. hooray for that!!
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:10pm
  • marie Feb 19 2007 @ 03:31pm Report Abuse
    staying married means a lot of commitment and an endless numbers of sacrifices. Just dont loose yourself in the process
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:07pm
  • lina Feb 21 2007 @ 07:18pm Report Abuse
    mommy ex is right, loving acceptance, i guess she hit the right word for that, open and constant communication, friendship, intimacy, do your thing as a mother and as a wife...make yourself always available, never forget to look best as well. and where trust is compromised, prayer! Have faith, God is in charge!
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:07pm
  • joan Feb 26 2007 @ 01:07pm Report Abuse
    ang pagsasama na tumatagal dapt my respect sa isat isa, isang key ito para lalong tumagal ang pag sasama ng isang mag asawa, and concerned kayo sa ista isa, kung anu ung gusto ng husband dapt give ur responsibility as a wife, and always put god in your life.
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:07pm
  • gregi Mar 20 2007 @ 12:51pm Report Abuse
    reading this article was truly an eye opener for me.. you see i too, am experiencing difficulty in my married life but looking back i know i made the right choice of choosing him for my husband
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:06pm
  • nina Apr 09 2007 @ 02:04pm Report Abuse
    reading this article has made me realized a lot of things on my marriage too.i have been married for 11 years already but little did i know that it would take a lot of patience for me to be able to stick on my marriage vows.i believe that love is never a feeling but is a commitment to stay with the person regardless of his flaws.Just continue to pray.
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:05pm
  • chuma Apr 10 2007 @ 01:24pm Report Abuse
    Nice to read comments re marriage, it makes me feel i'm not alone in this world..Really Our faith to God helps us so much to stay married..Make sure you go to bed at the same time, chat,discuss and make love...
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:05pm
  • angelrodriguez27 Apr 19 2007 @ 06:10am Report Abuse
    good to hear that love still prevails, inspite if time and age
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:05pm
  • glen_perez08 Apr 22 2007 @ 08:58pm Report Abuse
    reading this article makes me love and appreciate my husband more.Thanks for the enlighting words and comments.
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 05:03pm
  • digitalbodega Oct 31 2007 @ 02:57am Report Abuse
    I was touched with this article, I learned to value my husband and my family more and to face reality..
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 04:51pm
  • irish Feb 01 2008 @ 11:07pm Report Abuse
    family--still really matters...
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 04:42pm
  • quenniegirl Apr 07 2008 @ 12:36am Report Abuse
    i agree that people have their own differences and u can't please anybody...
    Last modified Apr 07 2010 @ 04:32pm
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