Recently, I had the privilege to interview Gil and Sandra Cragen, honored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter as the longest-married couple among nominees in the state of Alaska.
That interview will appear in the Catholic Anchor, Anchorage’s Archdiocesan newspaper, next month. But I thought I’d share some bullet points about their marriage and what has made it so successful.
I know that simply being married 54 years does not equate to a good marriage. Yet, from the moment I entered their home, I felt blessed by their mutual love and warm hospitality. Sitting there eating homemade cookies and sipping lemonade, I not only felt physically but emotionally and spiritually nourished. So, I think these tips are worth sharing. I have also newly committed to praying for and striving for these qualities in my own marriage, and those of my friends and loved ones.
1) Commitment. It sounds silly, since marriage is a commitment, right? But in this day and age, one shouldn’t take for granted that both parties bring a strong commitment to the table. I myself did not understand that marriage is a lifelong commitment when I got married. My husband taught me this through his example, and showed me where the error was in my thought process. A lot of people have an attitude these days of, “I can always leave when things get tough and I’m no longer feeling happy.” I speak from experience.
2) Communication. Wait for the spirit of anger to dissipate, and then find the time and a way to communicate. It doesn’t have to be talking. The key is to prioritize mutual respect and tenderness for one another, as well as patience and compromise. This is probably the biggest challenge in my marriage–not the respect, tenderness, patience and compromise part so much as the time part. Between my husband’s work schedule and raising 9 children, time is often in short supply.
3) Intentionality. Strong families don’t happen by accident. When you think in your mind of what looks like a strong family, what is important to you? Do strong families eat dinner together at the table, for example? Do they read the Bible together? If you are not doing these things you wish you did, start! The time is now. There will never be a better or more right time.
4) Church. Raise your children in the Church. Show up frequently. Go together. Pray together. Practice the faith at home, exercise faith in your lives. Be the example.
5) Love one another. If there’s one thing that was supremely obvious from my time with the Cragens, it is that they dearly love one another. They do it through their tenderness in speech, their patience while conversing, their mutual respect for one another’s viewpoints.
What has worked for you? If you feel you have a particularly strong marriage, we’d love to hear what makes it so. Thanks for sharing!
Mindy Goorchenko lives in Eagle River, Alaska with her husband and seven children, as well as foster children who may be living with them at any given time. Her favorite subjects to write about are Catholicism, adoption, foster care, and parenting.