The third post in our series Secrets of a Happy Marriage From Couples Married 25+ Years in which I interview Doug and Terry Mahlum.
This Interview is Part Three of a 4-Part Series: Secrets of a Happy Marriage
The time has come. I knew my parents would have to be featured on this blog eventually. Here they are! My parents have a great marriage, which is extra impressive because they are two very different people. My mom’s idea of a great day would be filled with learning, exercising, plenty of social activities, volunteering, dancing and checking things off her to-do list. My Dad’s idea of a great day would involve a stack of five or six books and a comfy chair. 🙂
Also you know how most couples call each other babe or honey or some other pet name? For as long as I can remember, my dad has called my mom “gorgeous lady.” Like, “Hey gorgeous lady can you hand me my cup?” 🙂 Or, “Dad, have you seen my backpack?” “No. Ask the gorgeous lady.” I kept in most of my dad’s sarcastic comments in this interview not because they are particularly helpful, just so you can love him as I do.
They’re great. You’re going to love them. – Celeste
Q: How many years have you been married?
Q: How would you define a successful marriage?
Terry: When you feel comfortable around each other, when you’d rather be with your partner than anyone else.
Doug: You like being together. A guy I knew years ago who had been divorced and remarried said that he first realized when his marriage was in trouble when he started looking for excuses not to come home. So looking forward to being together, enjoying each others company.
Terry: Before he retired, when I used to hear the garage door open and he was home from work, I would be so excited that he was home everyday.
Doug: So now that I’m home all the time, she’s excited all the time!! [laughs] I think its good when you enjoy each other and can make each other laugh.
Q: Whats been the best thing you’ve done to keep a strong marriage?
Terry: The best thing I’ve done was to make the right choice in who to marry. Because I could have married . . . there were guys before him.
Doug: She was passing out numbers.
Terry: So I think we have a strong marriage because I married the best person I could have married. Some of my friends who have had hard marriage problems, I don’t think I could have gone through that, but I think the best marriage advice needs to be to marry someone kind and thoughtful- the best person you can.[Celeste here. My mom and I have similar opinions on this.]
Doug: And my advice is to marry up. Love is a choice and the physical love is easy to recognize but choosing to love and finding someone who you CAN choose to love is the trickier part.
Terry: Other than that, we always pray together every day, go to the temple together and try to do things together that we both like to do. Every year we celebrate our anniversary by staying somewhere overnight.
Doug: I’m still trying to keep my mouth shut.
Terry: I try to think about what I say and to not be offended and to just accept things the way they are.
Doug: Terry said it a lot better- that’s what I meant.
Terry: You have to compromise. Like when we’ve gone on cruises we spend some time together but I like to go to the classes and do my thing. So I try to go and relax with him even when I’d rather be at a class and he goes and does the dancing class with me even when he’d rather be relaxing. We like to be together and so we compromise what we like or don’t like. He watches movies he’d rather not watch and I watch ones he likes.
Doug: No, you sleep through them.
Terry: [laughs] True.
Q: What are some lessons you’ve learned through the years?
Doug: I remember Terry’s birthday now [laughs].
Terry: Yeah, the first birthday we were married, we had gone on a backpacking trip and I knew we had been together the whole week and he hadn’t bought me anything. He didn’t do something for me all day and at 5:00pm on the way to my parent’s house, he said, “Happy birthday.” [makes a classic Mom disapproval face 😉 ] But I never said anything.
Doug: [laughs] Yeah, she never said anything . . .. . icicles.
Terry: But then he made up for it on Christmas.
Doug: Because in my family birthdays were never a big deal. We’re lucky to get a card a month later, but I learned quickly that her family was different. So now we celebrate her birthday on time 🙂
Also, I’ve learned that it’s important to make eye contact with her when we’re talking. When we were dating, I would sit somewhere she couldn’t see me and she wouldn’t talk. I would have to sit right next to her and look at her. So I learned I have to look at her when I talk to her. That’s important to her.
Q: What do you think leads to an UNHAPPY marriage?
Terry: When people don’t do things together, they grow apart and they become easily offended. They become selfish.
Doug: All those things that Terry said. I think you have to make an effort to talk and communicate and not get caught up in all the busy things there are.
Terry: We make sure we have a date night every Wednesday night.
Q: If you had to give the younger version of yourself marriage advice what would you say to yourself after one year of marriage?
Doug: Stick with it, it’s worth it!
Terry: For us, we were told it would be really hard and it is really hard for many couples but since we were older when we got married and we’re both so easy going, it was never that hard for us. But when it seems kind of hard, I always tell myself that things aren’t that bad and just to accept things the way they are. That attitude goes a long way.
Doug: And I have to tell myself to change. Because I’m really good at accepting things they way they are. We complement each other that way.
Terry: And if I do start feeling bad or offended, I just try to get over it. We never go through long periods of time without speaking. We talk. We get over things.
Q: How do you work out disagreements?
Terry: On our mission, one of the disagreements we had was that I wanted to visit more people. I wanted to work longer hours, but he was the driver and I just had to get over it and compromise. We were together all the time and we didn’t always agree on what we should be doing.
Doug: When we would go visit people I didn’t always agree it was the best use of our time and we’d still go visit them at Terry’s request. Terry never gives up on people.
Terry: I try to be patient and try not to nag too much. For instance, our bathroom sinks don’t drain, so I try to decide how often I will mention the sinks.
Doug: [makes excuse for the sink] See we talk things out, it’s good 🙂
Terry: You can’t really change people, you just have to change yourself and you can’t have your own way about everything, nobody is married to someone perfect, you can’t always have your way.
Doug: After a while, you kind of get used to and like those imperfections. Its reassuring to know that the imperfections are there. Because, obviously I have many myself.
Q: What is something you love about your spouse?
Terry: The thing I like about Doug is that I can count on him when I need help. If someone is coming over, he helps me clean. If I have to make lunch for Bible Study, he is going to make it with me. If I have a talk in church, he is going to listen to me give it everyday. He always supports me. I can count on him.
Doug: And what I like about Terry is that she never gives up on people. And she never gives up on me.
Q: How do you divide up household responsibilities?
Terry: Make your expectations clear. Plan out what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. We each have our nights doing the dishes and that helps me a lot. There are things that I know he’s going to do so I don’t do like taking out the trash. He likes to vacuum so I let him do what he likes to do and what he’s good at doing. He’s going to vacuum our house on Friday.
Doug: In any relationship you’re going to find areas that one is better at than the other and some your both good at it and some your both bad at it. So if they’re better, follow their lead. And try and support them the way they want to be supported, and when you find areas you’re both bad at- you can’t chew each other out over it.
Q: Final marriage advice?
Terry: Tell each other that you love each other
Doug: And mean it!
Terry: And spend some time snuggling every week.
Doug: Snuggling is good. Its important to enjoy each other. I like to look over at Terry when she’s asleep at night and think, man I’m so lucky.