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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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Marriage Interview 14: They Almost Didn’t Meet

Uploaded: May 12, 2016
November 22, 1963. President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. The nation was in shock. People were crying.

Set up by friends of theirs, Robert and Deborah were to go on a double blind date the next evening, November 23rd. They almost didn’t go as everything was in an uproar. But Deborah’s friend said, “Let’s go anyway.”

Robert knew that night that Deborah was the “girl” for him (they both were apologetic at the word, but back in 1963, it was the term in use), and he told her so. In fact, when he got home, he woke up his parents to tell them he’d met the girl he was going to marry. Robert was 19.

Deborah said it took a bit of getting used to that Robert told her on their first date that she was who he would marry. Deborah continued dating other boys for a year, and then exclusively dated Robert.

They told me that each of them was a whole person when they met; they didn’t need someone to complete them. In their circle, each family had a large pool of friends and family that had introduced them to potential spouses, and so they had both dated many others when they met.

Robert says they, “Started talking and never stopped.”

Robert moved to the West Coast from New York for graduate school, and he wanted to get married before he left. But Deborah assured him he was the one for her, and that she loved him. Deborah didn’t want to marry until she was in her mid 20’s as there were things she wanted to do first. She was working on her Master’s degree and wanted to finish that, as well as travel.

They wrote a lot of letters, which they still have. Eventually, Deborah realized that she could do everything she wanted with Robert, so they decided to go ahead and marry. They were married in June of 1966; they will be celebrating their 50th anniversary shortly.

Robert and Deborah are an “anchor” couple (Stan Tatkin’s term); solid, steady, supporting each other. As Robert said to Deborah during our interview, “I want to make you happy, but I want to make myself happy, too.”

Having shared values [political, educational, religious and social are reflected in how Robert and Deborah live their lives. They’ve purposely only had joint banking and investments accounts so that they always share their economic lives. No matter the source of money, the funds are in joint accounts. They are transparent with their expenses. Additionally, they are in alignment with what they spend money on. That begins with not living extravagantly and not needing expensive things. Rather than buying objects, they spend money on experiences such as travel, good entertainment [opera, symphony, concerts, sporting events and doing things with their friends.

Robert and Deborah don’t argue (except twice in the last 50 years and one of them was when Deborah was nine months pregnant), but they do have disagreements. When they have a disagreement, they each state their thoughts and feelings, and listen to the others’ perspective. Then each one makes a reasonable decision. They don’t say, “No” to each other.

A couple of examples: Robert has a childhood friend who lives in Seattle that Deborah doesn’t have a good feeling about. She wishes Robert would let that friendship go. But he says it’s his friend, and he goes to visit him twice a year – without Deborah. Another was that Deborah’s mother lived a long time, and was still on the East Coast. For the last several years of her life, Deborah spent a lot of time flying back and forth, taking care of her mom, and issues related to her care. Robert didn’t begrudge any of it – he just missed Deborah when she was gone.

As all parents know, children can challenge any marriage. But Robert and Deborah were united on the parenting front as well. If something wasn’t working, they would make a new plan together. They chose not to indulge their children, but have helped them economically with their educations and to buy homes.

Deborah and Robert’s Tips for Couples:

1. Each of you needs to be listened to, and taken seriously.
2. Each of you is important, both of your work is important, and both of you need to feel valued by the other (trade off coming first; and don’t keep score at it).
3. Get an education/occupation.
4. Have your own identity.
5. Come to the marriage fully formed (or at least mostly formed). Have self-worth and self-value.
6. Contribute to the relationship on all levels.
7. As much as you choose a partner romantically, be sure to also think with your head (e.g., would I have children with this person, will my friends like him/her, is s/he responsible with money, do we share similar long-term goals, how would s/he handle a crisis of health, money, job loss, etc.)

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