How to make a marriage last: Local couples share secrets to decades of happiness
by WILLIAM WRIGHT, Lifestyles Editor
Feb 13, 2011 | 2645 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
EVERLASTING LOVE — Charles and Shirley Hawkins will celebrate 60 years of bliss April 2. The couple cite having God in their lives, laughing together and seeing life together as important ingredients to a long and happy marriage. Banner photo, WILLIAM WRIGHT
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Many couples wishing for a special day of romance on Feb. 14 may also enjoy knowing the secret to a lifelong relationship filled with love and happiness.

Experts recommend those in wedlock treat marriage as sacred, speak respectfully to each other, know when to keep quiet and not be too hasty to take offense. Cultivating kindness and compassion, taking turns listening, being quick to forgive, quick to apologize, flexible, having a good sense of humor and working at expressing affection and appreciation are keys to a long-lasting relationship.

Although it is easier said than done, several couples in Cleveland/Bradley County have reached their golden anniversary and beyond — thanks to following this advice and using other keys to a happily married life beyond Valentine’s Day.

J.T. and Shirley Shadden of Cleveland celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary July 9, 2010, and remain happily married and devoted to each other.

“They care for each other in tangible ways as well as emotionally,” said longtime friend and neighbor Bettie Marlowe.

Dr. Charles Hawkins Sr. and wife, Shirley, will celebrate what she calls, “Sixty years of love and loyalty” April 2. The Cleveland couple said seeing life together and sharing their special missionary work together has been another key ingredient to a successful and lasting relationship.

“Our journey together began here in Cleveland,” said Shirley. “We were both in the ministry and, after falling in love and marrying, decided to evangelize together. This union and commitment to each other and to God has been an exciting life — taking us all over America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Mexico and the world.

“Meeting our brothers and sisters in the world has truly enriched or lives. The necklace I am wearing is one Charles had made for me commemorating our wedding April 2, 1951. God has blessed us.”

James D. and Aleene Silver will be married 65 years June 1, and are a staple of marital fidelity in Bradley County. The Cleveland couple said having God in their marriage as their top priority has produced a lifelong relationship of joy and contentment.

“First, is the Lord in your marriage. The other is being able to give and take,” said Aleene.

The devoted couple has a son and daughter, both married to their own spouses more than 40 years. They also have five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren who are the results of loving and enduring families.

“We have a deep love and respect for each other and for our church,” said James. “We do everything together. We just enjoy each other’s company.

“You can’t be selfish and stay married,” Aleene added. “You’ve got to give and take.”

Psychologist Marcel Zentner, Ph.D., of the University of Geneva, said, “Men and women who continue to maintain that their partner is attractive, funny, kind and ideal for them in just about every way remain content with each other.”

The way to accomplish this is to choose to cherish instead of criticize your mate, research shows. Also by incorporating forgiveness in your life each day, a relationship can thrive.

PBS journalist Bill Moyers said, “The Puritans call marriage the little church within the church. In marriage, every day you love, and every day you forgive. It is an ongoing sacrament — love and forgiveness.”

In Joseph Campbell’s book “The Power of Myth,” he calls loyalty the essence of marriage — “not cheating, not defecting through whatever trials or suffering — you remain true.”

“Commitment is the key,” said Shirley Hawkins. “The night Charles proposed to me he said, ‘If you ever say you are leaving me, I will pack my suitcase and ask, where are we going?’”

The couple shared their own suggestion on how to be “reasonably happy in the state of wedded bliss until separated by death.”

“Verbally share your common goals,” They said. “Be friends as well as lovers. Children and pets are a magnet to draw couples and family together. Work at loving and enjoying your children. Respect and love your in-laws. Practice love, loyalty and intimacy. Try to enjoy similar foods and entertainment.”

Experts say these ingredients in a marriage will trigger the bonding effect and set newlyweds and struggling married couples on a smoother road to lasting happiness far beyond Valentine’s Day.