published Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Baumgardner: Can married love last a lifetime?

By Julie Baumgardner

Graham and Jeanne Walker have known each other since elementary school. They started dating in high school and married when she was 18 and he was 22. In June, they will celebrate 62 years of marriage, an accomplishment many in today's society believe is unattainable.

"I think the fact that we knew each other's family and friends and that both of us were strong in our faith helped us to get our relationship off to a strong start," says Graham. "After dating for five years, when we married both of us were committed to making it work."

The Walkers have had quite the adventure. They owned a business for 13 years, sold everything they had and moved to Singapore with their four young children to serve in the mission field without knowing a soul. They then returned to America and are now enjoying their nine grandchildren and the opportunity to serve in their community.

When asked what they would like to pass on to the next generation, they shared these thoughts:

• Marry the right person. Take the time to watch how the other navigates life, how a person handles anger, their work ethic, how they treat their family and friends, what they do when something doesn't go their way, how they handle money. All these things tell you a lot.

• Faith matters. Faith gives simple yet important tenets upon which to build our marriage.

• Leave and cleave. As much as they might want to help, running back to your parents doesn't help you truly come together as a couple. You have to learn to work as a team.

• Two becoming one doesn't mean you lose your identity. Coming together with your personality and gifts and growing together allows you to be more together than what either of you were before because of the impact each of you makes on the other. This is pretty profound.

• Your marriage comes before the children. Next to the Lord, there is nothing more important than your marriage. Cherish and nurture it. Putting your children before your marriage is a recipe for trouble.

• Put your money in the same account. The Walkers have never owned anything separately their entire married lives.

• Communication and being able to handle conflict are skills that will serve you well. There will be many times when you'll have lengthy discussions about children, work and money. Remembering that both of you are on the same team and making the decision not to go to bed angry at each other will serve you well through the years.

At their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, the Walkers said: "We are united in our conviction in what we have seen, heard, felt and experienced that the best is yet to be. You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

This is National Marriage Week. As we are all encouraged to help strengthen marriages in our communities, the Walkers offer an example of how to do married well for a lifetime.

Email Julie Baumgardner, president and CEO of First Things First, at julieb@firstthings.org.

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