Happily ever after?

Peggy and Jim Francis are celebrating 56 years together. SOURCE SUBMITTED
August 5, 2014

In Parade Magazine Sunday, July 27, writer Francine Russo asks, “Once the cake has been cut and the bouquet tossed, what are the secrets to an everlasting marriage?” The article cites a research study conducted more than 40 years ago by psychologist John Gottman, who identified four negative behaviors that could predict divorce with 90 percent accuracy. They are criticism, defensiveness, contempt (rolling your eyes, for example), and stonewalling (aka the silent treatment).

I recall a past argument with husband Rayquest which involved all four of these negative behaviors. The ending first. When I slammed the door to my car in the school parking lot, a young, new wedded teacher asked, “What’s wrong?”

“I am so angry at my husband I could just scream!”

She asked innocently, “What’s wrong?”

“He let the dog eat my starfish! And now it only has four points!” Her facial expression was priceless.

We had flown to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2002 to see our firstborn board a ship called Semester at Sea. She would visit nine countries beginning in Japan and ending with Cuba rather than attend the first semester of her junior year at University of Arizona. We had to borrow money, but we felt this would be an experience of a lifetime and a gift she would always remember. If she got to travel the world, why couldn’t I at least see Canada? Our outing together at Stanley Park was magical, and even more so when I spotted a large purple starfish on the shores of the bay. Lena heroically descended the craggy rocks and presented me with this spectacular gift. A gift that I would dry on our hotel balcony and manage to transport back to the East Coast in perfect condition and lovingly place on a tall cabinet to dry. My husband thought it would dry faster in the sun on a table on the screened porch.

When I came down to get my coffee that morning, our dog Rudy had it in her mouth. I screamed and she dropped it. My dream shattered by a dog who simply wanted a biscuit. I screamed, Who wants a four-pointed starfish?

I was critical of my husband. He was defensive. I uttered a few choice words of contempt. He would have much preferred the silent treatment. The point here is that the secret to a happy marriage is to trust your own wife to know how to dry a starfish. There is a sequel to this story and it involves a seahorse, but I am out of space now. But in case you are wondering, the dog ate that too and there was significant stonewalling.

Congratulations to Jim and Peggy Francis of Long Neck who were married in Morris, N.J., on July 12, 1958. They are celebrating 56 years together! I decided to conduct my own survey. “What is your secret to a long marriage?” I asked Jim. His response, “Always give in.” Peggy rolled her eyes.