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Lasting love

"Lasting love" Continued...

Issue: "Iraq: Unity in adversity," Feb. 12, 2005

They raised four children, have 12 grandchildren, and now volunteer as marriage counselors at Saddleback church. Their marriage-buffeted at times by financial problems and family separation due to Daniel's career-has been largely a peaceful one, a fact they attribute to the culture of Christian devotion they encouraged in their home.

They also try to keep things light. "Sometimes people take life too seriously," Rachel says. "They enlarge their problems so big that they cannot cope with them." Many of the married couples they mentor, she said, spend no time in God's Word, and want to "manage their lives with their egos instead of by the Holy Spirit." To make strong marriages, the Craigs suggest switching drivers.

Arthur & Cookie Wood

Park City Presbyterian Church
Dallas, Texas
Married 57 years

While courting her in New York City in December 1947, Arthur Wood kept telling Betty "Cookie" Cooke that they'd known each other long enough to marry. They'd met and dated a bit the previous April when he flew in from Oklahoma for a business meeting at the home offices of New York Life. She was 25 and he was 28-in those days a bit old to be single, an issue that concerned them both. Still, as Arthur squired her around the city when he returned for two weeks that December, Cookie told him she'd always favored a long engagement.

Arthur, however, wouldn't take no for an answer. Every day for a week, he sent long-stemmed roses to her 5th Avenue office where she worked as a corporate secretary. "She was vivacious, attractive, outgoing, interesting," he says now. "I noticed especially that she related well to people. I could see she had what I needed. She had the whole package."

For her part, Cookie said Arthur was attentive and romantic, taking her to dinner, indoor polo games, the theater, and walking with her all over New York. As for all those roses, well, "I think that's when my personnel manager started looking for a replacement."

After traveling to Oklahoma to meet Arthur's family, the couple married in February 1948. Despite their whirlwind courtship, they were practical about marriage and thought their common backgrounds-both had college educations, came from families of similar financial standing, and were Christians-boded well. And they did. Still, they fought about the normal things like money and child discipline-"and a few others," Arthur laughs.

Their children grew up during the child-indulgent Dr. Spock generation. Cookie says she wasn't very good at spanking. Arthur says he was better at spanking than talking things out. Family finances were also tricky because as an insurance agent, Arthur always worked on straight commission. Cookie stayed home to raise their four kids, but, not knowing how much money was coming in, often felt insecure. Eventually, they worked out a viable solution: Cookie would have her own budget regardless of what kind of financial month Arthur was having.

That solution was 20 years in the making.

"There's always something to work through," Cookie says of marriage, noting that today's "something" is Arthur's hearing ("I think he has a hearing problem. He thinks it's my talking.") But the Woods urge other couples not to get hung up in the struggles.

"Focus on living one day at a time," Cookie said, "because God's grace is fresh every morning."

'You just can't give up'

Not every married couple makes a big deal out of Valentine's Day, but Anthony and Mitchie Stewart of Tallahassee, Fla., vividly remember Feb. 14, 1996. Their son Jamal, then 3, was spending the night with grandma, and Mr. Stewart had planned a cozy dinner for two, a warm bath, rose petals-to some wives, the stuff of romantic dreams.

But not to Mrs. Stewart. By then she was tired of fighting with her husband over the time he spent away from home, working overtime or hanging with his friends. It had gotten so bad, she remembers, that the couple would pass in the driveway-Mrs. Stewart and Jamal pulling in, Mr. Stewart pulling out. On at least one such occasion, Jamal began to cry.

"So when Anthony planned this really nice dinner at home, I was like 'whatever,'" said Mrs. Stewart, 41, a university admissions officer. "I thought, he's never here, what's the point? Valentine's Day comes around and now he wants to be the perfect husband. I did not want to be bothered. I just went through the motions."

She kept going through the motions for three more years. Mr. Stewart, meanwhile, truly loved his wife and thought he was showing it by being a good provider. The pharmacy supervisor, now 42, tried to change to please her, but change never lasted. Finally, in February 2000, the Stewarts divorced.

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