By RENEE FITE
The best marriages get even sweeter with the passing of time.
For some couples, love at first sight is a moment shared that defines their relationships. But it takes a deep commitment to make it last.
When she was 30, Gwen Grayson was enjoying an after-work meal and beer with Wilma Mankiller at Granny’s Attic.
“This guy pulled up wearing a black jacket, on a black motorcycle with beautiful back hair. Wow, who’s that?” Gwen wondered aloud.
Mankiller answered, “That’s my friend, Joe.”
He came in, ordered a pitcher of beer, and joined the women.
“Hi, Wilma,” he said. “Who’s your friend?”
Gwen remembers Joe asking, “What color are your eyes?” and her response: “Green.”
“I thought, what beautiful children we would make,” Gwen recalled. “And we did.”
It was love at first sight, Grayson said: “Some people grow into love and some know right away.”
Mankiller used to enjoy telling people she saw sparks of two people in love at first sight.
“We’ve been very comfortable, had a perfect life – not without conflict, but our marriage is a happy place to be,” Gwen said. “Others may not see it, but he’s funny; he makes me laugh.”
Gwen’s intellect, Joe said, is what he first admired about his wife.
“But her eyes overruled that,” he added.
A good marriage means being with someone you can count on no matter what, Gwen said.
“Marriage is the exercise of sticking together through challenging times, committing to a forever relationship,” she said.
“You have to love the person, be calm about everything. Be adaptable and respectful,” Joe added.
The Graysons agree they look forward to each day and what it brings. In their comfortable chairs, she often reads while he cleans one of his guns. They also cook together.
When he was working, Joe said, Gwen was right there, traveling with him and supporting him.
“She worked very, very hard, her and the kids,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve loved being with each other and doing things for each other. We like taking drives out in the country and over to Arkansas to look at old houses.”
A scripture – Ecclesiastes 4:12 – they keep posted on their refrigerator represents their marriage, Gwen said: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Other local couples also shared a glimpse into their love stories.
Diane and Jeff Walker just celebrated their 25th anniversary. They met at Northeastern State University 28 years ago when they were students.
“Even though we have a lot in common, our differences really balance each other out,” Diane said. “We have fun together and with our girls, Lauren and Rachel. We love our family vacations, but we also know the importance of having our time alone together as a couple.”
Mitzi and Jeff Reasor met in high school at Tahlequah and have been married 36 years.
“I noticed him one day, and thought he was the cutest guy I had ever seen!” Mitzi recalled. Today, she especially admires “his love for our family and his dedication to the business he helped build.”
Her recipe for a happy family: Soak up all the different stages together.
“I think young couples today should not rush things too much,” she said. “ Work hard, but spend time together now. Life goes by fast! Talk to each other, say ‘I love you’ and be forgiving.”
Several people left perceptions of joyful marriage online.
Suzy Andrews knew she was in love with her now-husband, Gary, the first time she saw him in seventh grade. They’ve been married 40 years.
“My stomach flipped and my heart fluttered. I do believe he felt the same,” she said.
The key to a long and loving relationship is to keep God the head of your household, she said.
“Learn to love no matter what; be tough through the storms of life and always remember that no two people love alike,” she said. “Find joy in the fact your spouse loves you. I love the fact that we can both be in the living room, him watching TV and me reading, and all is still good.”
Communication has been important to the 14-year marriage of Joseph and Jennifer Bosley.
“The key for us has been communication,” he said. “Deal with one problem at a time; don’t try to fix all at once.”
He admires his wife’s strength and positive outlook, which keeps him going.
“I know now more than ever how much she loves me and how lost I would be without her,” he said.
Bryn Smith believes respect for one another is absolutely key.
“Listening to each other – not trying to provide a solution to things you merely think you know better, but just listening actively, boring or not,” she said. “I value how my husband treats women, respectfully and gently.”
Respect is also critical for B.J. Foreman.
“Humor, respect, thoughtfulness, consideration, honesty, and appreciation,” Foreman said. “After 37 years of marriage, I know what teamwork is in a marriage. Not all times are wonderful. All are not terrible, but one thing remains constant: companionship.”
Humor is valuable, too, said Molly Peterson.
“More and more, I appreciate Jerald’s nearsightedness!” she said.