Jim Gibson likes to tell people the story about the first time he kissed his wife Judy Birdwell Gibson.
“I walked away right in front of a bus,” Judy said. “Luckily it was the English Bayou bus, and it didn’t go very fast.”
Scientists might point to Judy’s increased output of dopamine to explain her distracted state of euphoria. Falling in love – or what scientists have narrowed down to the three very unromantic-sounding stages of lust, attraction and attachment -- causes a physiological flood of feel-good chemicals.
Science is less helpful in determining how the Gibsons — who tied the knot seven months after they met on December 13, 1960 — are still married today. What do they know about making it for the long haul that the 782,038 other couples that divorced last year, don’t? The American Press set out to discover just that in this light-hearted look at long-lasting love.
Kenneth and Sharon Kraemer Stratton met in 1956. He was a Marine Corp. veteran attending McNeese State University. The Cowboys had just won the national title, and there was a dance.
“I spied her walking across the floor, and from that day on, I pursued her until I put a ring on her finger,” he said.
They married Nov. 26, 1958.
“When you live together, you start acting alike,” Kenneth Stratton said. “That’s what marriage is all about, becoming one.”
She disagrees that they act alike.
“When you live together, you learn patience,” she said.
Neither think young people today are prepared to pay the price of give and take required to make marriage work. Kenneth presented Sharon with her Valentine’s Day gift on Monday, two bundles of flowers.
“That gets me out of the doghouse early and allows her to enjoy the flowers for a full week,” he said.
Dr. Lehrue Stevens will definitely mark Valentine’s Day with a gift of candy or a card to his wife Betty.
“If I didn’t, trouble would brew,” he said. “I have spoiled her rotten.”
He recalled their first date, a bar where the glass tables moved out from the wall. He accidently pushed against it when she was about to take a sip of her beer and chipped her tooth.
“It was a while before that second date,” he said.
His advice to men and women considering marriage: Do not marry anyone you wouldn’t consider being your best friend.
“I think we’re both pretty easy-going people,” she said. “We don’t get bothered about the little things.”
John and Eleanor Greeson Moffet lived in the same neighborhood and walked to Central Elementary School together. He asked her out the summer between her eighth grade and freshman year.
“My mom would not let me go until I was attending LCHS,” Eleanor said.
They still tell each other “I love you.”
“We do exchange Valentine cards, and now we go to the files and choose a card from past years and re-gift it,” she said. “We forget what the card said, so it is a new sentiment.”
When asked to put a song to their relationship, they chose Unforgettable by Nat King Cole. Each must have been to the other because the first two years John was at Tulane and Eleanor was at LCHS, they did date others.
How has their relationship stood the test of time? In addition to having a great sense of humor, they are quick to forgive, support each other, resolve conflicts, offer compliments, say thank you and “honey, you are correct,” often.
Their advice to those considering marriage is to date long enough to know each other well and do not go to bed angry. Remember that daily prayer is the most important activity in a marriage.
Dr. Pat and Barbara Perez Unkel agree on the importance of faith and prayer to help couples through difficult trials that will inevitably come to any marriage. He counseled engaged couples through a class offered through the Catholic Church.
“You could hear a pin drop when I announced the title, Sexuality of Marriage,” he said.
Talking about sexuality was a springboard for the real lesson: True love, which is agape love, is not what you can get out of or from the other person; it is what you can give.
“Love is the giving of yourself for the good of the other,” he said.
He told the couples, “and they lived happily ever after” only applies to fairytales. Marriage is work. Dr. Unkel admitted to spending more time with work than at home when his children were growing up. He admitted to what he called, “rigid thinking.” When Barbara was asked how she managed to overlook the behavior of his early years, she grinned and answered. “What makes you think I have?”
When they went through bad times, they lived through it. They went to counseling. The marriage survived. In August they will have been married for 65 years.
“Sunday, we’re attending the Baptism of our grandchild,” she said, with more excitement than she showed when talking about other weekend plans that include exchanging cards, having dinner and receiving flowers.
They have six children, 15 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. Judy Gibson, quoted at the beginning of the Valentine’s Day story, defines love as caring, sharing and “raising a family of remarkable daughters.”
“Love is hoping to set a good example,” she said. “Arguments will happen. Work through them. Be faithful. Be respectful. Listen.”