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Real Rhode Island Couples On Life After the Wedding

Three local couples with three decades of marriage under their belts share their experiences.

What’s the secret to a long and happy marriage? as you’ve probably realized, nobody can give one single answer. But it helps to ask advice from those who have stayed happily married for decades.

David and Mary Sweet, 38 years

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Any stories from when you first started dating?
MARY: When David arrived at my parents’ home the evening of our first date, just prior to ringing the doorbell, he overheard the following conversation between my mother and me: “Marybeth, do you have your dimes? You don’t know what kind of a guy he is. You never know, you may need to call home.” After meeting my parents and getting into his car, David said to me, “Have you got your dimes?” I was mortified. To this day, David always remembers the anniversary of our first date and one year sent a beautiful floral arrangement to my office that was decorated with dimes.

What are your favorite qualities about each other?
MARY: David has many qualities that I admire. He is loving, intelligent, honest, understanding, a good listener, calm, thoughtful, multi-talented, creative, funny and not afraid to share his opinion.
DAVID: Mary is a great mom who cares deeply about all the little details that make family very special. She is the keeper of traditions and this comes from her strong faith, her family upbringing and that heritage where family comes first. She has the strongest of moral and professional compasses and is recognized as a true leader. She’s responsible for where we are today.

What are some differences you’ve had?  
MARY: David is a risk-taker and I am not. His hobbies are focused on being outdoors, riding motorcycles, antique cars, all things mechanical. I enjoy those things along with him but in small doses. Riding his motorcycle long distances or in the rain have resulted in some interesting stories. One of the current discussions we are about to engage in will be about what the future years will be like. Retirement from our roles in education looms for both of us at some point and having a plan for those years remains a work in progress.

Do you think love changes?
MARY: There are many facets of love. As time passes you grow from ‘me’ to ‘we’ and then, with the birth of children, to ‘us.’ Some say it’s a natural progression, but it takes work. Depending on your circumstances your focus is not always on each other. Many times your children’s needs, your job and other commitments demand attention. However, David and I have always shared household/family responsibilities and made major decisions together. We celebrate the positives and deal with the negatives as a team and are sensitive of each other’s needs. We also laugh a lot.

 

John Gacher and Federico Santi, 43 years

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How did you meet?
RICO: I had just moved to Boston from the Deep South (on a dirt road) and John placed an ad in the Boston Phoenix seeking a roommate. I answered his ad.
JOHN: I had a black Cadillac limousine and picked him up at the Back Bay train station. He had taken the train in from his home town: Stamford, Connecticut. He was on his way back to BU. It was love at first sight. I had just come out. John was nineteen and I was twenty-five. None of our family knew for a while.

What’s the most important thing marriage has taught you?
JOHN: Tolerance, listening, being there — always — talking things through. Everything we have is together: friends, money (we never had separate bank accounts), home, food, likes, dislikes.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with as a couple?  
RICO: Certainly the death of one’s parents was hard, for both of us. There was a mutual respect between families and that loss was tough. Also the passing of friends over the years, and the big one for John was the loss of our kitty of twenty years. He had to go into therapy for that one!

After gay marriage was legalized, when did you decide to get the license?
RICO: Immediately. First in line for the civil ceremony and first in line for the marriage. We tried to get married in Amsterdam around 1973 while touring Europe. We were invited into the civil office for marriage applications at City Hall, explained to the old gentleman that we wanted to get married and he told us to come back in a few years and it would probably be possible. ‘Not just yet, though,’ he told us.
JOHN: We were surprised at the national coverage of our City Hall day. AP was there with a cameraman and reporter covering the ‘blessed event.’ We ended up in newspapers across the nation. We got lots of calls from friends and gifts dropped at our gallery from total strangers. It was great.

 

Marta Martinez and Patrick Youngs, 33 years

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What lessons has marriage taught you?
MARTA: I have learned how to be flexible. I grew up with six sisters, so part of what I learned was living with a male is quite an adventure.

Do you think love changes?
MARTA: When one is young, love is optimistic. As we age, it becomes more realistic and practical. By that I mean as a young couple, my dreams for our future were based on ‘what if,’ and ‘wouldn’t it be nice….’ Today it’s about knowing what the other person likes or dislikes, knowing there are some things he’s not comfortable doing or saying, so I respect that out of love.

What do you most appreciate about your partner?  
MARTA: One thing that was immensely helpful (and amazing to me) is Patrick’s dedication to helping raise our three boys. He gave up time with his buddies to be home to help with the boys, took time off from work to take them to doctors’ visits, drive them to places they needed to be and attend teacher/parent meetings. Today’s fathers tend to get involved with their families, but when we started having our family, it was very uncommon. Having him share that role made my work schedule easier and helped me grow in my profession because I was not the sole childcare provider.

Coming from different cultural traditions, how have the two of you embraced heritage in your family?
MARTA: I am first-generation Mexican. Patrick not only appreciates that, he is very proud of that. Our children have Latino first names, which often baffles people who meet them. They all enjoy and fully celebrate many of the Mexican customs that are part of my culture and appreciate the work I do within the Latino community as an advocate. My husband is Irish-Italian and I’ve encouraged my kids to embrace that side of their heritage. One example of mixing and blending our cultures is, for St. Patrick’s Day, I sometimes make green enchiladas and have taught my kids the story of the San Patricios, a historical event that happened during the Mexican War where the Irish army stepped forward to offer help to the Mexican army in 1846.
We have both educated our boys to have respect for all cultures and all ways of life.

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