Craig couples make it work

An optimist would say one in every two marriages lasts.

Those who study marriage trends in the United States tend not to be optimists.

The number of divorced people in the population more than quadrupled from 4.3 million in 1970 to 18.3 million in 1996, according to a Census Bureau report. It soared to 21,560,308 in 2000.

The reasons are hard to pinpoint. According to "Making Marriage Last," published by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, there isn't generally a single reason from a breakdown of a marriage, but they have tracked the most common. They include poor communication, financial problems, a lack of commitment to the marriage, a dramatic change in priorities and infidelity.

Whatever causes marriage to end in divorce is a mystery to some Craig couples who have done whatever it takes to keep theirs alive -- and vital.

"We've had our fights and disagreements, but never once did we think about getting a divorce," Winifred Blackburn said. She and her husband, Ira, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Monday.

They married at The Center of Craig when they were both 19 and have spent most of their lives together in Moffat County.

Winifred, both flippantly and reverently, attributes their success to their faith in God.

"The family that prays together stays together," she said. "We work through our problems together and with God."

She quotes the Bible in touting equality in marriage as being a cornerstone.

Ira lists trust and forgiveness. He advises young couples to spend time together and time apart.

"If you still feel the same, you know it's going to work," he said.

And 50 years later, Ira said he still feels the same way about his wife and would marry her all over again.

Jim Meineke's recipe for a successful marriage is a little different.

"I keep my mouth shut and do as I'm told," he said. He and his wife, Vi, have spent 48 years together. "We talk everything over," he said.

Licensed professional counselor Gina Golden said there has to be a level of compatibility among successful couples -- an attraction that goes beyond physical.

And, though they don't have to have everything in common, there have to be meeting points.

"It gets really complicated when people aren't at the same level of emotional health," she said.

Jim and Vi have a lot in common -- they both like to travel and they enjoy the same music, movies and TV shows. They even share many of the same hobbies.

Still, in other ways, they couldn't be farther apart.

"He doesn't like to wash clothes, but he loves to iron, and that suits me just fine," Vi said.

She enjoys yard work, and her husband enjoys doing projects in the house. And in the yard is where she works off her madness the few times she's had to get mad.

She thinks the climbing divorce rate is because of financial factors."Kids these days want to keep up with the Joneses," she said. "They're spending all that money, going into debt and fighting over money problems."

Bonnie Mann thinks divorce is too easy now.

"My grandmother told me when a woman burns her butt, she has to sit on her blister," is Mann's version of the adage "you made your bed ..."

"I'm lucky, my blister wasn't that big," she laughed.

She'll hit her 53rd wedding anniversary in July.

"There have been hard times, and there have been good times," she said.

They've lasted, she said, because they're a good match. She said marriages aren't equal, but they last when a couple takes turns being the unequal one.

Thirty-seven years into his second marriage, Ray Talkington said the secret is knowing when to walk away.

"Life is a two-way street," he said. "It's tough sometimes, but you've got to learn to let things go."

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