This article is the 20th in a series profiling couples who have been married for at least 35 years. As sociologist Mark Regnerus writes, “Young adults want to know that it’s possible for two fellow believers to stay happy together for a lifetime, and they need to hear how the generations preceding them did it.” It is also important to see that marriages are not always happy all the time, but commitment is crucial.
Each year, Ed and Tina Green watch their daughter’s wedding video at their Gambrills, Md., home in silence. She died on July 5, 1993, of cancer, just one year after walking down the aisle.
“If I was ever going to be depressed, that would have been the time,” recalled Ed. “But Tina and the kids kept me from it.”
Their daughter’s loss was a test the Greens would not have passed had they not resolved early on to make their marriage work.
When they said, “I do,” 52 years ago, they enlisted in a difficult challenge. As a Marine, Ed had to travel often and sometimes far away, leaving Tina to fill the role of both mother and father.
But Tina accepted the mission readily. The daughter of a Philadelphia cab driver, she grew up watching her mother raise the family while her father worked six-and-a-half days a week to provide. “It wasn’t my job to make [Ed’s] job harder,” she said. “It was my job to make it work.”
Imitating her mother, Tina supported Ed while keeping the children active in sports, music, and the arts. She also earned two master’s degrees and worked in family therapy. Meanwhile, Ed excelled at work, including one post as the commander of an infantry battalion overseas.
Living apart in different cities or together at home, commitment to the Bible, each other, and their children made the family work. It took resolve, since Tina came from a family whose parents stayed married, while Ed’s parents separated when he was a baby. Ed had a harder time envisioning a successful marriage and identifying the threats.
This difference surfaced during one conflict when Tina challenged Ed on how much time he spent at work. “Ed said, ‘Maybe military families can’t make it,’” Tina recalled. “I lost it! I told him there was absolutely no chance that was going to happen.”
Keeping that resolution took hard work. Tina learned to curb her tendency to criticize and pick little fights: “I love the verse that says, ‘The heart of her husband does safely trust in her.’ That’s what I want for my husband.”
Ed worked on being reliable: “I’ve had to make sure she will always trust that I’ll be living up to her expectations.” He went out of his way to avoid tempting situations during long months away from home. He had three rules: “Stick to your business, avoid alcohol, have like-minded friends who keep you on the straight and narrow.”
Their resolve paid off when they heard their daughter had cancer. Tina stayed by her daughter’s side all 10 months while Ed flew in every weekend from his work in Florida. “I look back on it and until this day I can’t tell how we made it through.” Tina said. “Probably because we loved each other as much as we do.”