This article is the 36th 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.
TUCSON, Ariz.—After four knee surgeries, LaDonna Evans couldn’t cook, clean, or shop—so her husband John, an engineer, did the dirty work.
In the last six years, LaDonna’s eight major surgeries and the floundering of John’s home-based engineering business have tested the strength of the couple’s 45-year marriage. They’ve moved past puppy love and learned to do the little things: John turns back the bed for LaDonna. She bakes his favorite chocolate chip cookies.
They met at church around 1964. Choirboy John spotted 15-year-old LaDonna at a New Year’s Eve scavenger hunt. He liked what he saw, but never expected to see her again. LaDonna’s older sister spotted John, 19, and developed a crush on him. LaDonna was unimpressed, deterred by his glasses.
Both of LaDonna’s parents worked and restricted dating before 16, so John drove across town and into the desert, through saguaro-lined roads to see her. The two spent the summer sitting on LaDonna’s front porch in 100-degree heat. John did most of the talking. They enjoyed each other’s company and a physical attraction.
But when they married in 1967, their relationship had to grow up. The first 15 years brought discontent, as they moved to California and back to Arizona, raising four children. LaDonna expected marriage to bring immediate fulfillment, but instead found herself believing that staying at home as a mother indicated a lack of worth.
In 1982, LaDonna realized she was not actually a Christian: “I think John suspected that I was not a believer, but I would say, ‘I am too,’ thinking I was, but I wasn’t.”
The couple argued about going to church. Their children expressed faith in Christ, and LaDonna watched them laugh around the dining room table. She realized she lacked that joy in her own life, and soon after professed Christ as Savior.
The couple’s common faith helped their relationship mature. They grew closer even when John started an engineering business from home. An office at the front of the house kept John and his clients from tromping through the family’s home, intruding on LaDonna’s quiet days. Their marriage grew with LaDonna stranded in bed, trapped by surgeries and recoveries.
The couple no longer sits on the porch surrounded by desert and the heat of infatuation, but they still sit together, now on the comfy sofas of their Tucson home.
“I’m not a believer in love at first sight,” LaDonna said, looking at John. “You aren’t either, are you?”
John hesitated before responding.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I thought I was in love when I first saw you.”