This article is the 23rd 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.
MARIETTA, Ga.—Eleanor Herron’s smile reflects off her husband Warren’s large, bifocal glasses as they talk about their 59 years of marriage. She said for the first 39 years, “He did his thing and I did mine. … We cooperated on Sunday mornings, got the children dressed, and served on [church] committees.”
They didn’t bicker, but they grated on each other. Warren worked as a Navy meteorologist in posts that took them to London; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Carmel, Calif. He played a lot of golf and tennis and was involved in politics. Eleanor raised the kids. They said they had “totally unrealistic” expectations for marriage. Eleanor said she pictured a “rose-vine covered cottage where Warren and I would do everything together.”
But it wasn’t that way. Even when their interests coincided—at church, for instance— Warren was involved in church politics while Eleanor had her friends there. Then Eleanor had a dramatic experience. Standing by her living room hearth, 39 years into their marriage, she felt an inward transformation of her beliefs. God impressed upon her that she was focusing on herself, manipulating situations for her benefit—and her marriage and family were suffering.
She said it is now a “ladies first” world, but when a woman biblically submits to her husband, he is able to lead—and the two can work in harmony. “Eleanor’s submission encourages me to be a leader,” Warren added. “Up to that point we didn’t enjoy each other. Now marriage is enjoyable.”
Their new understanding led the couple to look for ways they could serve together. From 1993 to 2012, they both volunteered with Cobb Pregnancy Services in Marietta. Eleanor began mentoring younger women and wrote a book about biblical submission.
At 83, Warren still plays tennis and would play golf if he could. He laughed when Eleanor, 81, explained she doesn’t like being hot, but she no longer resents him playing. Warren’s tough military exterior softens as he talks with his wife. He loves her writing and knows the details of her ministry to women.
The Herrons often make spicy tea for their guests, carrying teacups from the kitchen and serving visitors together. But when it comes to their own tea, Eleanor and Warren insist on serving the other first.