"Marriage," says Trilva Webb, "isn't like a polyester suit. You just don't throw it away when you don't want it any more."
Within that snippet of homespun wisdom lies the secret of Webb's success in her 54-year marriage to husband Carlyle Webb - and the success of her four siblings and siblings-in-law. All five couples have beaten skyrocketing divorce rates by remaining married over 50 years.The secret to such marital longevity: There is no secret. The couples say their remarkable success is due to good old-fashioned patience and perseverance and an attitude that divorce simply isn't an option.
"You have to be patient, and you have to remember that nobody's perfect," Helen Young said. "He certainly isn't."
"He" is George Young, Helen's husband of 58 years. The two have been married the longest of the bunch.
Newell and Joanne Young, George's brother and sister-in-law, who married in 1948, just became the last of the five couples to reach the 50-year mark. All five couples got together Monday to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.
They also shared a few tips to staying together. For example, when you wake up in the morning and look over at your husband's side of the bed to see an unshaven fella sawing logs after taking all the covers, you would do well to heed this advice from Joanne Young:
"You need a good sense of humor."
In some ways the Young siblings had it easier than couples do nowadays, simply because divorce was less accepted when they wed their sweethearts in the 1940s. When problems arose - and there were many - leaving a spouse wasn't part of the equation.
They were further inspired by their parents, married 55 years.
Marriage counselors report that financial struggles are the No. 1 reason couples separate, and Lowell and LeOra Young, who have been married since 1945, had plenty of their own. But Lowell says he speaks from experience when he advises young couples to stick it out because, hard as it may be to believe at the time, things will get better.
"It was hard in the beginning," he said. "We had money problems in the early years. I made $300 a month for awhile. . . . You have your little spats, but you forgive and forget."
The two stayed together, things gradually improved, and they got a bonus: They say sticking it out during the hard times made the good times that much sweeter.
"True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture," said British author G.K. Chesterton. "It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous - and it is rare."
The 10 marriage counselors advise: Rare is the divorce that is precipitated by unusual problems. The primary difference between divorced couples and those who stay together is how they deal with problems - not the problems themselves.
"It's all about give and take," Joanne Young said.
Nevertheless, sometimes the key to remaining married doesn't lie in emotional compatibility or humor or even sheer persistence. Consider Trilva Webb's reasoning:
"We couldn't afford a divorce."