Devoted – 2020

Story by Johnny Sain

Photos by Liz Chrisman

Marital love often has a fairytale aura. There’s talk of finding “the one,” the single person on this planet with whom we can connect on every level. It starts with a look, a magnetic attraction due almost entirely to hormones, which leads to infatuation, and finally — as we really get to know this person whom we just can’t stop looking at and smelling of — we arrive at something more than instincts. It’s something so incredibly gossamer, yet, seemingly rock solid. We call it love.

Once we’re past the purply pink haze and into mature relationship territory, when we’ve decided that this is the person we want to spend our lives with, we discover that there’s way more to the notion of “happily ever after” than we thought. And that’s when we realize that despite the sweet scent and bright eyes
of our chosen life partner, we’re going to need something else to make this thing work. What we need is commitment.

An enduring marriage requires this commitment from each partner to each partner, and, even more, to the union itself. It’s not just “you” and “me” anymore. From this day forward, it will forever be “we” and “us.”
I visited four River Valley couples at or near various milestones in their marriage to record their words of wisdom as they travel this life together. Each perspective reveals that there isn’t really a secret to a lasting marriage.

It requires a deep appreciation of similarities and differences, and a devotion to promises made.

Amanda & Nathan George

Tell us about your most memorable anniversary.

(Nathan) To be honest, we haven’t really overtly celebrated our anniversary in a big way yet. We do a lot of celebrating our marriage and family throughout the year — take trips, gift giving, small tokens or actions. I’m sure the longer we are married there may be something we do that is more official “anniversary” related.

(Amanda) Our first anniversary was our first outing after having our daughter, Ana Kate, who was a month old. It was dinner at Fat Daddy’s and a movie like we’ve done dozens of times, but it was a refreshing night of getting back to us even for just a short time.

When Jerry Maguire tells Dorothy that she completes him, he revealed a sincere sentiment. How does your spouse complete you?

(Nathan) With us, it’s all about our personalities. Amanda fits into the places where I am lacking and fully compliments me as a person. I feel I do the same for her. I’m an introvert and hyper focused. She’s an extrovert that’s spontaneous. She’s better with detail planning and I see the big picture.

(Amanda) Nathan is the calm to my crazy, the logic to my drama, and the focus to my ADHD. He is also an introvert to my extrovert, which is definitely a key area we keep each other balanced. I keep him from being reclusive, and he makes me rest. I wouldn’t call us opposites, necessarily, as we have many things in common, but we do complement each other where it’s important.

What is the recipe for an enduring marriage?

(Nathan) For me, it’s trust. I don’t just mean trust in regards to fidelity. I mean complete trust. Deep down to the bones. I trust Amanda with my dirt. With my emotions. As a mother, a wife, a friend, she has all of me and I have all of her.

(Amanda) Communication. Mostly, I talk a lot. He never has to wonder what I’m thinking. But seriously, we talk everything out, from our celebrations to big and small decisions to giving each other criticism and our hard feelings. We keep everything on the table, we respect each other, and know that our opinions are valued from the other. Also, laughter is so important. Marriage and parenting is hard. You have to find the joy and silliness in all of it. We love to laugh together.

Stacy & Josh Kanady

Tell us about your most memorable anniversary.

(Josh) Pre-kids trip to Europe, celebrated with dinner in the Eiffel Tower.

(Stacy) For me, it was our fourth. Two weeks prior to that, I gave birth to our first baby. She made us “Mommy” and “Daddy” and completely turned our lives around. We reflected on the years we’d had as a family of two and imagined what the future held for us as our family grew. It was a huge boost in our marriage as our hearts grew for our little one. We leaned more on each other as we figured out (and failed) the parenting game.

When Jerry Maguire tells Dorothy that she completes him, he revealed a sincere sentiment. How does your spouse complete you?

(Josh) She’s so sweet and too good for me, she makes me constantly strive to be better.

(Stacy) Josh keeps me adventurous. He’s very spontaneous and is ready to pack up and go somewhere. We both tend to find happiness in the here and now. We’ve recently taken the Enneagram personality quiz and discovered that he’s a Type 8 and I’m a Type 7. This has opened our eyes on how to communicate with one another. While I like to look on the bright side of things, he helps me stay grounded and is more willing to face difficult situations. Josh has been and forever will be my rock.

What is the recipe for an enduring marriage?

(Josh) Compromise, admitting when you’re wrong, and keeping quiet when you’re right. I haven’t quite mastered the recipe yet, but getting flowers just because it’s Tuesday usually helps make up for it.

(Stacy) Faith, Love, Adaptability, Humility, Honesty, and Humor.

Lydia & Chris Zimmerman

Tell us about your most memorable anniversary.

(Chris/Lydia) It was our 15th Anniversary. Lydia had always wanted to visit Natchez, MS, so we planned it and off we went. We stayed at the Dunleith Plantation Inn and toured several plantation homes during our visit. The history and sights of the area were incredible, but the cherry on top (according to Lydia) was “The Book of Us” that I had made for her that chronicled our life together up til then. “It was the best gift (besides my Rainbow vacuum) he ever gave me. I loved it so much that I cried.” she says.

When Jerry Maguire tells Dorothy that she completes him, he revealed a sincere sentiment. How does your spouse complete you?

(Chris/Lydia) Easy, we’re opposites. I’m casual, she’s deliberate. I’m able to help her let her hair down and enjoy things in life she previously has not. In return, she’s helped me learn to not be so haphazard about things and has made me better as a result. We agree we’re opposites in most every way but we feel we balance out each others shortcomings rather well, and, thus, compliment or complete the other.

What is the recipe for an enduring marriage?

(Chris/Lydia) Our recipe: First, rank you priorities in life. Ours have always been The Lord, family, then the rest. We have a plaque on our wall that was given to us as a wedding gift that reads, “Marriage Takes Three. In homes where Christ is first, it’s obvious to see, that those unions really work, for marriage still takes three.” Secondly, as life becomes more and more hectic, always make time for your spouse and family. Even if “date night” is running to Sonic for an ice cream or taking a drive without the kids, make a point of doing it at least once a month, if not more. Then last, communication. It is so important to talk with your spouse and listen to what they say. Work on becoming a better listener, and your marriage will only prosper.

Joy & Mike Miller

Tell us about your most memorable anniversary.

(Joy) There are several memorable anniversaries, but if I have to choose just one, I’ll say the last one. Our 50th was very special because both children and all their children were here with us to help us celebrate with many of our dear friends.

(Mike) Most memorable anniversary would probably be our last, our 50th. Our children were nice enough to host a party for us and invited some of our dear friends, some of which we had not seen in awhile. Great day, great friends, great kids, great wife.

Another anniversary that comes to mind is from years ago. I don’t even remember which one, but Joy and I both had been extremely busy. We had a meeting in Joplin that weekend. As we drove up the road, somewhere up just short of the Missouri line, the light went on for both of us about the same time — “hey, it’s our anniversary”. Strange, some of the things we remember.

When Jerry Maguire tells Dorothy that she completes him, he revealed a sincere sentiment. How does your spouse complete you?

(Mike) I could never say enough kind things about Joy. She truly is appropriately named and has been the “Joy” of my life for over 50 years. I cannot imagine life without her.

What is the recipe for an enduring marriage?

(Joy) I think the answer to both of the questions is the same. We like being together. We have a wonderful relationship in that we each have a unique sense of humor. We laugh a lot — at ourselves, each other and at the same things (most of the time). We also seem to weep about the same things.

We enjoy many of the same activities. We like watching volleyball, softball, basketball and baseball. We enjoy traveling together. We have fished several times in Alaska. We’ve been to Europe, London, Canada, Brazil, the Virgin Islands, Mexico and many, many places in the United States.

We also share a strong faith and believe that faith has seen us through some major health issues in the past 11 years. I truly believe that Mike is a ‘walking miracle’.

(Mike) Have fun in all that you do. And make sure it’s fun for both and not fun at your spouse’s expense. Do fun things together. Joy and I love to travel, love seeing and doing new things together. We still have places that we haven’t been that we would like to see and have places that we have been that we look forward to seeing again.

Have a Christ-centered marriage. Know that the Lord is in control and trust him in all issues. Much of our life has revolved around our church, related activities and Christian friends from all over.

Love and trust one another in every situation. No, you won’t always agree about every issue but learn to compromise always considering the other’s desires.

Be dependent on each other. Seems like in recent years, I’ve depended more on Joy than vice-versa. On at least two separate occasions in recent years, I would have lost my life had Joy not been there and reacted to the emergency.