by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — On June 10, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann celebrated a 50th anniversary Mass for 121 married couples at the Church of the Nativity in Leawood.
Do the math, and that’s 121 couples multiplied by 50 years of marital life: or a total of 6,050 accumulated years of marital wisdom.
Before the Mass, its sponsors, the archdiocesan family life office, sought to draw on that wisdom by asking each couple to briefly answer this simple question: “What advice would you give to a newlywed couple regarding marriage?”
Many of the couples took the family life office up on that invitation; but from the scores of responses emerged only a few themes.
We asked Gene and Joyce Klingele, longtime members of Holy Angels Parish in Basehor and themselves celebrating their golden anniversary, to expand a bit on the five things that so many couples pointed to as critical to the longevity of their marriages: communication, commitment, humor, forgiveness and God.
At this point in their marriage, the Klingeles are so comfortable with each other that they don’t even have to say a word. They’re just comfortable “hanging out.”
In fact, all they have to do is look at each other’s expressions to know exactly what mood the other is in.
Listening is important, said Joyce, but Gene said it’s not only important to listen, but to really hear what the other person is trying to communicate.
And there are several practical habits young couples can institute right off to ensure that the lines of communications stay open:
- Do things together.
- Have “your special together place” to talk about things, like a couple of chairs on the front porch.
- Don’t assume your spouse is simply supposed to know something — tell him or her.
- Set aside a night at least once a month to get away from everything and talk with each other about anything and everything.
Taking vows at the altar is only the beginning.
“Each day is another day to help your spouse on their way to heaven,” said Joyce. “It’s our duty as married people to help each other get to heaven.”
Putting each other first is part of your commitment. Other commitments like jobs, chores and kids take time and energy, but couples must keep the tending of their relationship as their highest priority.
And don’t expect the effort to always be 50-50, said the Klingeles. Sometimes, they agreed, you’ve got to give 100 percent to pick up the slack for your spouse.
Misunderstandings and mistakes are part of any marriage, said the Klingeles. That’s why forgiveness is important.
Forgiveness for accidental wrongs is hard enough, but forgiving deliberate hurts is harder still.
“Christ tells us to forgive one another,” said Joyce. “He forgave the worst of us, and it’s only right we forgive the people we love.”
The Klingeles advise that couples should always first give each other the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible your spouse didn’t intend to offend you.
And don’t fixate on a missed anniversary card or an unwanted gift. Next time, just provide your spouse with a little hint or reminder.
That said, the most important words in a marriage after “I love you,” they believe, are “I’m sorry.”
Idiosyncrasies — everybody’s got them.
One of Gene’s is that he is very particular about the way the dishwasher should be loaded.
“If I do it, he’ll come after me and reload it,” said Joyce.
You can do one of two things about idiosyncrasies in a marriage, they believe: fight about them, or laugh at them. The Klingeles choose to laugh. It’s a formula that has worked for them.
Don’t take yourself so seriously, they both agree. And if necessary, step back and take a longer look at the situation. Does it really matter?
One thing that really impressed Joyce when she and Gene began to date was when he took her to church.
“I remember sitting next to him in church and hearing him pray and sing, and thinking, ‘This is the guy for me,’” said Joyce. “He wasn’t afraid to express his faith.”
Prayer together has always been part of their marriage. They began with rote, memorized prayer and gradually added on over the years.
Prayer together is part of their mornings and evenings. It’s a part of their meals as well. They go to Mass together and eucharistic adoration, too. They also pray the rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet together.
So, their final advice to newlyweds is to always put God first.
Couples need to talk about God, faith and prayer, the Klingeles believe, before getting married.
And once married, “don’t just pray by yourself,” they said. “Make it a point to pray together on a regular basis.”
If you’re a few years in and haven’t established the habit, the Klingeles conclude, no worries.
It’s never too late to start.