Second post in our series Secrets of a Happy Marriage From Couples Married 25+ Years in which I interview Garth and Loretta Parker.
This Interview is Part Two of a 4-Part Series: Secrets of a Happy Marriage
So excited to introduce you to this sweet couple- Garth and Loretta Parker. I LOVED interviewing them. Something Garth said has stuck with me for weeks now. When he said, “it took a few years for it to dawn on us that the most important person in our lives was the other person, not ourselves,” I thought yes, of course. I’ve been trying to re-align my thoughts to remember Rich’s importance to me since then. Thanks Parkers! -Celeste
Q: How many years have you been married?
Q: How would you define a successful marriage?
Loretta: Wherever you are either close or far, you know you’ve got your best friend right there. I feel like he’s my best friend. He’s always there. He makes me feel like his best friend, and he knows whats important to me without me asking. My sister passed away, and we couldn’t afford to fly me out at a moment’s notice but he said, go. Fly. You should do it. So I never had to feel guilty. He always makes me feel loved by the things he does and says for me.
Garth: What makes a successful marriage is longevity. After 46 years there’s not a lot we don’t know about each other. We learned it along the way and always try our best to have our marriage based upon the principles of the gospel. She knows what’s important to me and tries to make that happen and I know what’s important to her and we’re always learning.
Q: What has been the secret to YOUR happy marriage? Has it changed over the years?
Garth: Well, through the years you forget self. It just doesn’t matter, you’re more tuned in on the others needs. In the beginning we had different personalities and it took a few years for it to dawn on us that the most important person in our lives was the other person, not ourselves. For me there are still streaks of selfishness, but by and large it’s what is important to the other person that is most important.
Now I think about what the house looks like when she comes home and what can I do so she can come right in and relax. I try to do the laundry and stuff like that. I guess that’s the biggest thing- the longer you’re married the more you forget yourself and the more you’re concerned with the other person. That’s why its important just to stick it out whenever it gets tough.
Loretta: I’d say doing things together, which we do a lot through our church service. Years ago we decided that If we’re invited and the church doors are open, we’re there- baptisms, wedding showers, activities, everything. By doing that together, we’re doing things together. Marrying in the temple to start it off with is a great blessing because you have that foundation of an eternal marriage.
When he was working and I wasn’t working, I would go out and wave good bye to him. Now that he’s retired and I’m working, he goes and waves goodbye to me every morning.
Garth: Yep, me and the dogs we follow her out.
Loretta: It’s the little things.
Garth: Little notes in lunch boxes.
Loretta: Yeah or coming over and stopping over at my work to say hi, just showing acts of kindness.
Q: What leads to an UNHAPPY marriage?
Loretta: I think distrust, not being loyal.
Garth: There are always those that would like to destroy what you have so you have to be very very careful. That I can think of I have never had a personal conversation about personal matters with a member of the opposite sex other than her. When people in the work place start talking to members of the opposite sex about problems at home, pretty soon they’re in trouble. When there are troubles at home, you discuss it with no one but your spouse. Not even family- not siblings. If you feel like you’ve got to discuss it, you’ve got to figure out a way to discuss it with your spouse.
Loretta: One way to do that is through prayer. Sometimes it is hard to talk to the individual about a problem, but when you’re praying together, it is easier to talk to a third person (God) about it. But your spouse is there, so they can understand your feelings.
Q: If you had to give the younger version of yourself marriage advice what would you say to yourself after one year of marriage?
Garth: I would say save money.
Loretta: When we were younger, we were advised to never go to bed angry, but we have found that sometimes sleeping on it can be better. Things are clearer in the morning.
Garth: So we’ve gone to bed mad! . . . Sometimes in separate places.
Loretta: Sometimes we’d stay up till 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning trying to work things out and still have to go to work the next day. Even though its a rough night, we think going to bed is better. And sometimes it just takes a few days. I wouldn’t recommend it all the time, but when you can’t figure it out, you need to step back.
Garth: You need time to figure out how stupid the argument is.[Celeste here, we totally agree with this advice and have come to the same conclusion- fighting when you’re tired is the worst time to fight. Celeste out]
Q: Do you guys still fight?
Garth: Sometimes, but generally its when someone withdraws a little bit. Its not a fight its discomfort.
Q: Is your marriage now different from what you would have expected your marriage to be when you were first married?
Garth: I would have expected it to be like our parents, and it pretty well is. Maybe better in someways, maybe not as good in some ways. Particularly her parents- they were a great example to us.
Loretta: They were. I can still see my parents when I’d go to ask them something late at night, they’d be holding each others hands in prayer.
Garth: My mom and dad had a major obstacle . . . me! There was a lot of contention over me. But that went away.
Q: Can you describe a challenging time you went through and what you did to maintain a strong marriage through the challenge?
Loretta: We would disagree on how to discipline the children. I often felt like we should provide consequences right away and he often thought we should let natural consequences play out.
Garth: The argument was almost always between waiting it out and seeing what happens or providing consequences and discipline now.
Garth: And we had plenty of opportunities to have those discussions. You probably will too. One challenge to our marriage and we handled it by pulling closer together, was a severe illness of one of our children. She was already married and she nearly died and we couldn’t get a hold of her husband and when we did it was an awful lot of stress and we were making decisions about her and we were taking care of her kid, trying to take care of our own family. So that was a challenge and it brought us closer together. And we haven’t had anything like that since, but I feel like it has prepared us for most anything that could happen. We have 30 kids and grand kids- the bigger your family gets, the greater the odds that something tragic is going to happen and you need to be ready. I feel like we passed that test.
Q: How do you work out disagreements you have about parenting?
Loretta: Basically if it came up to what the choice was and we disagreed, I trusted Garth. I went with him. I went to my Bishop once for advice and he told me to trust my husband. I’ve followed that advice with great results. It has taken the pressure off and led to peace.
Garth: A lot of times we would compromise and her opinions always tempered my reactions.
Q: How do you support each other?
Garth: I try to help around the house for her, and she always supported me in my callings, I’ve been bishop for 10 years, on the high council for 10 or 15 and she always supported me, never questioned me.
Loretta: I remember when he was bishop in Texas and when he needed to go on a call that he had during family home evening and and it was a half hour away this person’s house so he was gone like 3 or 4 hours. when he left I cried on the bed and thought, “why do you have to go on family home evening! Its our night! Its a commandment!” We had all these little kids. Even though I let him go, I didn’t like it- I had had it with the kids and now I had all evening too and he came back and said, “thank you for letting me go, I probably saved his life.” So I realized my situation wasn’t as bad as what they had.
We support each other in lots of little ways every single day.
Q: Best marriage advice?
Garth: Don’t give up, make a home wherever you’re at.
Loretta: If you’re serving the Lord, you’re serving your spouse. If you’re doing what the Lord wants you to do then it will be easier to have a close relationship with your husband.
Garth: So just don’t give up.
Loretta: Trust the Lord and trust each other.
Garth: Have fun, keep the romance alive.