Our First Fifty Years as a Married Couple

~ Writers, publishers and multi-talented married couple, Paula and Mike Parker share ten tips on how their marriage has survived and thrived for 50 years. ~

In my career as a professional actor, I get to interact with all kinds of people, but I especially enjoy meal breaks when I can sit with younger folks and hear about their lives and what is important to them. During once such occasion, a young actress asked me about my background and I mentioned that Paula and I had just celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary. Many of the young actors stopped and stared. “How could you be married to the same person for over forty years?” they wanted to know. 

I replied, “Well, it helps if you actually like each other.”

As we are now getting ready to celebrate our 50thAnniversary, we continue to be asked about the secret of our marital success. I wish I knew the recipe and could put it in a bottle and sell it online. We’d be rich. Unfortunately, in our experience, there is no one-size-fits-all advice that works for everyone. But together, Paula and I have identified a number of practices that we believe have helped to keep our marriage strong over the long haul.

  1. Our Faith in Jesus Christ

Mike and I met in September 1971, on a church bus going to the Youth Night of a Billy Graham crusade at the newly opened Texas Stadium. We began dating soon thereafter. From the first we determine that our faith would be the cornerstone of our relationship. Not only did we attend church and church-related activities together, but we also prayed at the beginning and end of our dates and picked out Bible studies to use during our daily devotion/prayer times. After we married, our faith—and participation in a local church—continued to be central in our lives. 

  1. Believe the Best in Each Other

Paula and I are very different types of people. We weren’t far into our relationship before we realized that our disagreements—and sometimes arguments—usually resulted from misunderstanding of what the other one said or did. To address this, we agreed to always believe the best in each other. Whenever we faced conflict or disagreements, we agreed to fight fair. We know words have the power to hurt or to heal, so when we feel hurt, we start by assuming we misunderstood what the other was saying. We agreed to talk it out, being careful to express, “What I am hearing you say is…” instead the “You always…” and “You never….”

  1. Speak Well of Each Other and to Each Other

Proverbs 15:4 says, “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”

We are human and make mistakes. We do goofy things that might embarrass us if others knew. Sometimes, when it’s just the guys gathered together for an outing or just the ladies enjoying brunch, it’s easy to let our hair down and share a story that might paint our spouse in a less than positive light. We agreed early in our marriage to speak only the best of each other. We don’t talk about each other without first asking, “May I share this?”

In addition to speaking well of each other, we make it a point to speak well to each other. This means not only saying, “I love you,” on a daily basis, we also tell each other what attributes or character traits we love about each other. “You are the warrior of my heart.” “You never age; you’re as beautiful today as the day we met.” “You are an amazing whatever we are admiring that moment.

  1. Understand Each Other’s Personalities, Strengths, and Weaknesses

Part of the whole two-becoming-one thing is realizing that we each have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. For instance; once I start a task/chore/project, I can’t relax until it is finished. Mike, on the other hand, needs to take breaks during these times, to relax and refresh. In our finances, Mike is great at setting up a budget, paying the bills, and investing our money. I am good at setting up and maintaining our bookkeeping. Around the house, Mike is good at repairs, renovations, and major yard work, while I am good at organizing, decorating, and planning and caring for our gardens. Another area is our electronic devices. As writers/editors/publishers, we need to have electronic devices that fit our needs and work. Interestingly enough, Mike understands computers and I understand our cell phones and tablets. Whenever my computer is misbehaving, he will work to resolve the issue. Whenever his phone is wonky, I work to determine what is wrong. When it comes to cleaning and cooking, we both are good at it, and we work together.

  1. Support and Encourage Each Other

This is foundational in many areas of our life. We support each other’s careers, interests, and hobbies. Mike loves to act; I have always encouraged him to audition for shows at local theaters and later to get an agent and start acting professionally. Mike understands my dreams, as is evident when he fulfilled my life-long dream by giving me a harp and later harp lessons, or when he encouraged me to sign up for Italian lessons. He knows how much I love flowers and helps me design our gardens and then spends time with me digging, planting, and caring for these gardens. There have been times when I have been away for a week and came home to discover he had renovated my office or our dining room. His desire to encourage me has grown to the point that I have to be careful with saying, “I have always wanted…” 

  1. Common Goals

While supporting and encouraging each other is essential, it is equally imperative that both Paula and I are pulling in the same direction toward the common goal. This can require a significant amount of give and take; and we’ve found it important to have periodic checkups with each other, just to make sure that we’re still focused on the ultimate goal. I think this can take on a whole ‘nuther level of intensity when both spouses have careers that might be leading them in different directions. As in most situations in life, communication is key.

  1. Serve Each Other

We look for ways to serve each other on a daily basis. Sometimes it is as simple as asking, “May I pour you more coffee?” “I’ll clean the kitchen and let you rest,” “What can I do to help you?” Sometimes these acts of service are not simple. When my mother was in her last stages of life, Mike arranged for me to fly to Texas to be with her and my brothers, so we could see her together one more time.

  1. Continue to Dream

Even though we are about to celebrate our first 50 years of marriage, there are still plenty of things we would like to do and places we’d like to see. Even before we tied the knot, we planned on one day buying land and building our dream home. Over the years, the details of our dream home have changed. Our five children are grown, so our dream home doesn’t have six bedrooms. Will we ever build that home? We hope so; Mike looks at land on a regular basis, and we still talk about what we want it to look like.

  1. Laugh. Laugh often!

We are not strangers to life challenges. Who is? Some challenges were hard; some were really hard. It helps when you can share a laugh together. Some laughter comes from telling jokes. Some laughter comes from embracing the absurdity of the situation. Other laughter comes from surprising each other. An example; all our married life, we purchased the same brand/variety of loose-leaf tea to make iced tea. Last year, the company stopped offering this tea in the U.S. The only place we could find it was from third-party sellers and it came at an exorbitant price. Sadly, we switched to a different brand that didn’t taste nearly as good as our old favorite. While thinking about what to give Mike for his birthday this year, I discovered our favorite tea was still being produced and was available overseas, and I decided to order a three-pack from Amazon. I could just imagine him laughing when he opened the gift bag. I shared this idea with our children, and one of our daughters ordered a three-pack as well. I was right; when Mike opened his gifts, he laughed loud and long, asking, “Where did you find this?” 

  1. Watching our Health

We are in our latter 60s, and like most folks our age, we have our share of age-related health issues. For example, last year Mike was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. To face this together, we changed the food we bought and adjusted the recipes we used. We have found several products he can use to substitute for bread, cereal, chips, and some desserts. I have discovered recipes for meals he can eat. While I do not have diabetes, I am adjusting my diet to maintain my weight and health. Occasionally, such as on his birthday, we will splurge, even if it is a tiny splurge.

Our major form of exercise is walking. As long as the weather permits, we walk three miles together, Monday through Friday. When the weather is bad, we each have elliptical machines in our offices.

Walking outside has the benefit of allowing us to be together, to talk about our days, and dream of the future. Our walks have allowed us to meet people who live several blocks away from us. During one of our walks, a car passed us, slowed down, and the driver rolled down her window and said, “You are walking and holding hands; how wonderful!”

We smiled, waved, and thanked her for her comments. When she drove off, we grinned at each other, bemused she would find this unusual. Holding hands is normal for us.

We think it bears repeating that there is no one-size-fits-all advice that works for every couple in every situation. But we do believe having standards and benchmarks that you arrive at together and revisit regularly can help keep your marriage strong over the long haul.

Find out more about Paula and Mike Parker at:



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