12 Charlotte couples weigh in with their best advice for a successful marriage

12 Charlotte couples weigh in with their best advice for a successful marriage
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I got married back in December and life was suddenly the same but different. Without changing anything in our relationship or routine, we’d entered into a whole new phase that was familiar but foreign. We’d already been in love and under the same roof, but we hadn’t been married and that, we’re finding, is something else — something simple and complex all at the same time.

In my extremely limited experience, marriage is equal parts thrilling and mundane, romance and sweatpants, familiarity and figuring each other out.

I’m learning we’ll have plenty to learn over this lifetime together so I decided to ask couples at different milestones — from 2 months to 36 years of marriage — what it takes to uphold the vow. Here’s what they had to say…

Laurie and Kevin Berzack

Married: 22 years
Anniversary: October 16, 1994

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Laurie says: I always say that my husband’s grandfather brought us together from heaven. During my senior year at Emory, Kevin’s grandfather passed away and he started sharing with me some of the wonderful times that he and his family had experienced together. He showed a side of himself that I hadn’t seen before. Although we had known each other for over a year (serving on a fundraising committee together), we had never had a heart to heart conversation before that point. I started to think about him romantically, and he the same. Within two weeks, I was desperately head over heels in love with him and knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

Kevin says: Laurie and I had been dating for about three months when I decided to bring her home to my family (in Charlotte). My family is really important to me and I wanted to make sure that she felt comfortable with them and vice versa. Everything went really well! By the end of the weekend I told her that I loved her for the first time. The rest is ancient history!

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Laurie says: Focus on what is wonderful about your spouse rather than what qualities they may be lacking.

Kevin says: Don’t be afraid of conflict. Sometimes it’s hard to discuss things are bothering you, but when you can push through it you will be closer in the end. It works for us.

Lauren and Roy-Allan Burch

Married: Together since 2004 — married 4 years
Anniversary: October 23, 2012

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Lauren says: I knew Roy was the ONE For life about one year after we started dating. We connected on such a deep level, and I couldn’t imagine finding that elsewhere.

Roy says: I knew Lauren was the ONE for life when times were better WITH her than without her.

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Lauren says: Communication is key. Being open and honest with each other has truly made such a difference over the years.

Roy says: Check yourself. Be aware of your own projections. Never expect your partner to know something just because you think they should.

David and Ashley Butler

Married: 3.5 months
Anniversary: November 12, 2016

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Dave says: After a year of close friendship our final year of undergrad and a year of actually dating following school.

Ashley says: I have no idea. There was never the “aha!” moment. All I know is every time I see him, I’m happy he’s around. And whenever we’re apart, I’m happy I know him.

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Dave says: Remember to keep things fun – I feel like I’m still learning to date my wife!

Ashley says: Learn how to exist outside of the relationship. Remember to have a social life outside of your spouse.

Jake and Page Fehling

Married: 11 years
Anniversary: September 2, 2006 (and/or Labor Day weekend… two options to celebrate makes it easier to stomach Jake being on a fantasy draft boys trip for one or the other of those dates EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.)

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Jake says: I knew very early on that this one was different, but I’d say at about 5-6 months in (we got engaged at 9 months) that Page was a keeper. At 9 months we looked at each other and said, “So, like, what are we doing here? You want to do this (as in, marriage)?? Yeah? Yeah. Great.”

Page says: Oh, I was sold early on. On date number three Jake salsa’d his way into my heart during the most laughable latin group dance class I’ve ever been a part of. Lots of awkwardly tall caucasian hip swivels. After that the rest was historia…

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Jake says: I’m confident Page will say this too, but it’s to find your own normal. People will always have advice on money, lifestyle, kids, etc., and while much of that advice will be good, you have to find what works for you, or else you’ll be constantly be chasing your tail rather than enjoying your spouse/life/kids (although you never really ENJOY your kids, if we’re being honest ;-)).

Page says: Create your own normal. And I’m almost 100% sure Jake will write the exact same thing. When one of you wakes up at 2am for work it does weird things to the rest of your family life and schedule. Embrace the weird. Make it work. And don’t over-think it.

Ward and Rachel Gibson

Married: almost 2 months
Anniversary: December 31, 2016

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Ward says: I called it driving home from our first date. There are actual text messages to friends as documented proof. I always knew what I was looking for in a mate all these years, so when I finally met her – I just knew the Lord had delivered. I prayed that evening that my gut feelings about her were correct. (They were.)

Rachel says: Right away I definitely knew something was different about him. He made me laugh constantly (and still does), we would text back and forth all day and night. Our first date, we closed the coffee house down and we’re asked to leave because they were closing, we had talked for 3 hours and completely lost track of time. By our third date, he told me very matter of factly he was “not looking to play around” and that he was looking for a wife. We had the best date; it was fun, great conversation, and some incredible kisses. I walked in my door that night, set my purse down and literally said out loud “God, I’m in trouble with this one”. I just knew he was something very special.

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Ward says: Let whatever brought you together, keep you together. (For us, it’s keeping GOD first.) Don’t forget what made you initially attracted to that person, the things that made you laugh, made you spend all day texting at work or talking on the phone until bed. Remember what those things are in your spouse, but maybe more importantly make sure that YOU continue to be the same person (inside and out).

Rachel says: We are still very early in this marriage journey, but getting married a little later in life we have had the opportunity to learn a lot from our own experiences and those of others around us. I would say my number #1 piece of advice so far is…accept your spouse for who they are. There is a reason you fell in love with them and don’t forget that. My husband has little idiosyncrasies that are different then mine but they make him who he is and I love who he is, for all of him.

Joey Hewell and Scott Lindsley

Married: We’ve considered ourselves married since 2005 but it wasn’t legal in NC until 10 years later
Anniversary: October 13, 2015

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Joey says: Less than 24 hours after meeting him. We joked with our friends that we had daily anniversaries. I.e. “It’s our 15 day anniversary!” Needless to say our friends got tired of that celebration quickly. Haha

Scott says: Honestly same as above. He rode with me to meet my dad in Durham the week we met. We haven’t spent the night apart more than 2 total weeks since the day we met. We love hanging out together and that started pretty much immediately

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Joey says: Marry your best friend. We’ve been together for 14 years and still love hanging out. We decided early on that arguments/disagreements were just that. I’ve been in relationships where every argument turned into a threat of breaking up/moving out/etc. Once you know you’re going to be with someone for the rest of your life it’s much easier to let the small stuff go.

Scott says: Spend time together. If you don’t like spending time together that’s not a great sign. So assuming you do plan lots of dinners, afternoons & days together! Also try new things together – experience as much as you can together to share those experiences and build from that.

Liz and Aubrey Hilliard

Married: 36 years
Anniversary: August 30, 1980

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Liz says: The first time I laid eyes on him. Literally it was love at first sight. And it was intense, heated and that heat still remains at the base of our marriage today, although not as searing, it’s steady. It gets us through a lot of stumbling blocks. We were married within 8 months of meeting and have now been married for 37 years.

Aubrey says: Within the first month after we met.

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Liz says: Respect your partner. Love waxes and wanes throughout marriage but genuine respect will get you through the rough patches. That and being married to one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met! He makes me laugh.

Aubrey says: Communicate freely.

Eric and Pam Linne

Married: 36 years
Anniversary: December 27, 1980

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Eric says: After a few months of dating, I began to realize that Pam was the best friend I’d ever had. And I felt fortunate to both love and really like the same person. Feelings that I wanted to hang on to for the rest of my life.

Pam says: After the first few dates.

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Eric says: Both of us has changed and evolved over the decades we’ve been together. I think a key to a happy marriage is to simultaneously love the person you first married and the person that they have become over the years.

Pam says: Make sure you communicate openly, honestly and at the right time. Don’t let negativity grow. Talk it out and reset.

Grace Morales and Ellen Kelly

Married: Almost 1 year, but we are old.
Anniversary: May 14, 2016

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Grace says: First kiss.

Ellen says: 10 years ago, I knew I loved Grace and wanted to be with her.

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Grace says: I believe people have different requirements, for me, mutual respect is vital.

Ellen says: Intimacy is the most important thing to me, but I think it’s different for every person. I used to think if I needed something, so did Grace. Once I realized that we both needed different things, ironically, we became more in sync.

Jim and Karen Noble

Married: Almost 29 years
Anniversary: May 7, 1988

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Karen says: I knew that he was the one on our first official date- we took a trip down to Charleston with his mom. I was already smitten but it sealed the deal for me.

Jim says: See her answer.

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Karen says: Give more than you ever expect to get in return! Also, it’s a covenant, not an emotion. It is a commitment for life! My mother told me a very long time ago that marriage is not a 50 50 proposition — it takes both people giving 100 percent to make it work. My parents have been married for 55 years so I believe she could be right!

Jim says: See her answer.

Emily Breeze Ross Watson and Montell Watson

Married: 2 years, 4 months
Anniversary: October 11, 2014

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Emily says: Our first date was a jog and a workout sesh (go figure, I’m easy to please)—but really the fact that he was down to workout and get sweaty and, most importantly, see me all natural and stinky!

Montell says: The first time we talked on the phone (do people even talk on the phone anymore?) for TWO HOURS–she wouldn’t let me hang up!

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Emily says: Communication!!!! You gotta talk about it, talk some more, and then really talk about it! 🙂

Montell says: Communication. Always express your feelings and thoughts towards each other.

Scott Wooten and Shannon Schultz-Wooten

Married: 4 years
Anniversary: November 30, 2012

When did you know your partner was The One for life?

Scott says: There was never one moment that I can remember. I knew she was the one when I learned to trust her, because that meant she’d never break my heart.

Shannon says: I wouldn’t constitute this as a “when” as much as something that occurred over a period of time. I have a pretty strong sense of self. He, too, has a very strong sense of self. I would say I knew he was the one because he never let me get away with any bullshit and I appreciated that, and in return, he knew I’d never let him get away with any nonsense either. He was my friend and I was his and that is exactly what I needed.

What is your #1 piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Scott says: Know how to communicate with your partner.

Shannon says: Passion, intimacy, and sex will never heal you, the way listening, communicating, and being someone’s friend will. Always remember to be friends first and you can conquer the world… as well as the bedroom.

Cover photo by Hayley Lawrence

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