The fourth post in our series Secrets of a Happy Marriage From Couples Married 25+ Years in which I interview Eric and Catherine Andersen.
This Interview is Part Four of a 4-Part Series: Secrets of a Happy Marriage
When I was thinking of couples to interview for this series the Andersens seemed like an obvious choice. They’re always so sweet together and wise and patient in all they do. They are a real asset to our area, to our congregation and to each other. 🙂 I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did conducting it! – Celeste
Q: How many years have you been married?
Q: How would you define a successful marriage?
Catherine: It continues.
Eric: It lasts and the couple keeps loving each other. There are some that last when people don’t love each other very much I suppose, but I think the first line in Tolstoy’s Ana Karena applies to couples as well,
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
There are some husbands and wives who do everything together and some don’t but work together well, we’re somewhere in the middle. We each have our things. We banter a lot.
Catherine: Our own parents’ marriages were very happy but very different. Eric never saw his mother disagree with his father.
Eric: And Catherine always saw her mother disagree with her father. 🙂
Catherine: I think a successful marriage is you keep adapting to where ever you are. People change, circumstances change, and you have to keep adapting.
Q: What has been the secret to YOUR happy marriage? Has it changed over the years?
Eric: Well, it’s a secret . . . If we tell you we have to kill you. [laughs] No, I’m kidding. I mean really it sounds so trite, but living gospel principles is a huge start. I’m not talking about just going to church, but really living gospel principles. We’ve known people who are very active in church, but have very unhappy marriages. Living what Christ teaches- loving others and putting them before yourself is an important foundation to any marriage.
Catherine: We have breakfast and dinner together almost always. There was a time when Eric was in the stake presidency in Cedar Rapids and he was gone A LOT and our daughter was in Young Womens and the teacher was talking about fathers and she said, “What does your father do for you?” And I thought, “Oh gosh. What is she going to say?” I mean he was gone A LOT. But she said, “He is always there for dinner.” He made a point of always being there for dinner. I’ve always remembered that she noticed and appreciated that.
Eric: And we’ve made a point of always having breakfast together even when Catherine taught early morning seminary for nine years. So, we’ve been busy, but we have eaten together.
Catherine: I’m a big believer in eating together.
Eric: When she’s gone, I sort of wander around snacking. I much prefer when she’s here.
Q: What leads to an UNHAPPY marriage?
Catherine: Clinging to hurts.
Eric: Yeah, I would say holding a grudge. You need to forgive easily and regularly.
Catherine: Eric is so good about taking me as I am.
Eric: I think that goes both directions.
Q: If you had to give the younger version of yourself marriage advice what would you say to yourself after one year of marriage?
Eric: I think I would say to ourselves that it will never be effortless, be prepared to work at this and you’ll find greater and greater happiness. But you will have to work at it. We’ve had challenging circumstances- living abroad and various challenges getting our kids here. We have three kids, one adopted.
Catherine: Constant adaptation.
Q: Why do you think your marriage has gone so well?
Catherine: We are fortunate in that we have the same commitment to the gospel. We know some really good people who have not ended up there.
Eric: One other thing that I appreciate about Catherine is that she is such an exemplary Latter Day Saint. She thinks deeply about things. She stayed home with our kids despite the fact she had a law degree and a job. She had a degree before me. She didn’t insist on a career, although she could have.
Catherine: I didn’t want one. Our first son was seven by the time that we adopted our second son. I couldn’t bear not to be there when he came home. I adored my kids.
Eric: Catherine has had a lot of difficult choices, and she’s cultivated the skill to be a critical thinker in a positive way. She thinks carefully and concisely about things. She asks hard questions and through all that she has a great faith that builds me up. She’s always been a great example to me of thinking carefully through difficult issues.
We also have the same views about money. My approach is to make her handle all the money. So she does all the taxes and budgeting. Big decisions we make together, but I get my $20 spending money.
Catherine: It’s more than that. [laughs]
Q: Is your marriage now different from what you would have expected your marriage to be when you were first married?
Catherine: I constantly think life is so different than what I expected.
Eric: Yes, the model I had was my parents marriage. And theirs was a fabulous marriage and mine is fabulous, but very different.
Catherine: You just don’t have any idea when you’re young what its going to be like when you get older. People see me now as an older person, but how I feel isn’t any different from when I was younger. I’m still just me. Just my knees hurt now. 🙂
Q: Can you describe a challenging time you went through and what you did to maintain a strong marriage through the challenge?
Eric: Raising kids is hard.
Catherine: The third year we were married, Eric was working in a job that required him to be gone six days a week, long hours. Our son was two years old and we bought our first house and we ended up having to move twice because it wasn’t ready and I can still remember right where we were when we were in your office and Eric said, “Oh no!” and you had forgotten both our anniversary and my birthday and I had too! We both forgot.
Eric: How about those first six months or so in England?
Catherine: Yes, that was hard. What did we do? Kept going to the theater and it got better [laughs].
Eric: Here’s some advice: never pick a place to live that your wife hasn’t seen first!
Catherine: [laughs] That is good advice. We lived on Kings Road in Chelsea which was the punk capital of the world. I mean a huge intersection right there, bus station just downstairs, rock band playing late all night long. He was working long hours, always gone.
Constant adaptation as I said. Prayer helps. And not blaming your spouse for difficult circumstances.
Q: How do you work out disagreements?
Eric: I cave in all the time. 🙂
Catherine: My daughter came to me one day and said, “it really worries me when you and dad fight.” I said, “what do we fight about?” And she said, “doing the dishes!” [laughs] She meant we fight about letting the other one do the dishes. Like, “I’ll do them.” “No, I’ll do them.”
Eric: We don’t disagree about much anymore. We disagree about birthday gifts.
Catherine: I kind of think that it goes with whoever feels most strongly about the issue. Like when we were moving out, I kind of thought we should sell the house, but you really felt like we shouldn’t, so I deferred to you.
Eric: Which was a mistake, but yeah, whoever feels most strongly. I think that’s right.
Q: Final marriage advice?
Eric: Be considerate of your spouse. You don’t have to be right. I can remember some of these men when I was bishop of a married student ward and the first thing they would do when they would come home was go play computer games. Their poor wives. So I guess it would really be live the gospel and not just be active in church or callings, but focus on the principles of loving your neighbor and your closest neighbor is your spouse.
Catherine: Letting go of things.
Eric: That’s a good one because everyone gets hurt or has things that will hurt them.
Catherine: It makes a big difference. It helps me a lot in my own life that my husband says such positive things about me and I hope I say positive things about him too. I think that you should be your spouse’s biggest supporter.
Eric: Make a real effort of seeing the good in your spouse. If you want to see the negative side of anybody you’re going to have material, but make an effort to see the things that are most important and comment on them.