Love and learn

Couples reflect on lessons gleaned from years of marriage

By: Cortney Casey | C&G Newspapers | Published February 1, 2011

 Sharon and Ed Lewandowski of St. Clair Shores take to the dance floor during their 50th anniversary festivities last year.

Sharon and Ed Lewandowski of St. Clair Shores take to the dance floor during their 50th anniversary festivities last year.

Asked to reveal words of wisdom after 50 years of marriage, Ed Lewandowski was quick to reply in exactly the way his wife, Sharon, predicted.

“I don’t have any wisdom,” he quipped. “I’m married.”

But contrary to his claims, the St. Clair Shores resident and his wife, along with other local couples, recently shared some of what they’ve learned along the way as they’ve faced life’s challenges —together.

Sharon and Ed
Sharon, 67, still remembers advice offered by her father.

“Marriage isn’t like an old shoe; you don’t throw it out because it gets scuffed or it gets a little tight … I’ve always lived with that,” she said.

When they met, she was 16; Ed, 18. She was walking with one of her friends, he was driving by with one of his, and the quartet struck up a conversation.

Ed quickly found favor with Sharon’s mother by dropping by to spend time with her, even when Sharon wasn’t available. Five months later, they were engaged. They recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, renewing their vows before friends and family.

They concurred that forgiving one another for comments made hastily in anger is crucial to keeping the peace.

“You have to be best friends first,” said Ed. “Let things go in and out. Try not to hold a grudge. Because you do say stuff that you don’t mean.”

Sharon said she also subscribes to the adage of never going to bed angry. She and Ed lost a daughter 45 years ago, and many of her relatives have suffered untimely deaths, so “I’ve learned that you never know what tomorrow holds,” she said.

“Expect the unexpected,” agreed Ed, 68. “You never know what the future’s going to bring.”

Josie and Mike
Mike Koltuniak believes marriage is all about evolving from infatuation’s first intoxicating rush to long-term commitment and devotion.

“When you first fall in love, it’s absolutely overwhelming; it occupies all your thoughts,” said the 52-year-old Macomb Township resident. “Over time, new feelings, better feelings arise: dependencies, and being able to count on somebody. … Initially, that’s not what you’re looking for, but those are the things that end up occurring.”

Factors like physical attraction and wealth need to take a backseat to what really matters, he said.

“We seem to get hung up on things of this world, or tangible things,” he said. “And I think the things that make a marriage work are the intangible things.”

Josie and Mike met when he was rehearsing with a band that included her brother in her family’s basement. He was dating the lead singer at the time, but when Josie ventured downstairs, “it was love at first sight,” he said.

Around that time, Mike was grappling with his faith. He’d fervently prayed that he’d find a “good, godly woman” who would be his match. He found her in Josie.

Over the years, he said, they’ve watched each other’s strengths emerge. For instance, though she appears quiet, she’s a skilled negotiator who employs flawless logic, meaning she takes the lead when they feel they’ve been wronged.

“It’s kind of like having a bunch of arrows in a quiver,” said Mike of embracing each spouse’s forte. “You know you can pull out this arrow, and you know it’s going to work.”

Josie, 52, said they always discuss what’s bothering them immediately instead of letting discontent fester.

“We can’t read each other’s minds,” she said. “If you don’t know what the problem is, how can you change things?’

She acknowledges that it seems unreal that two people could stay so solidly in love for so long. The key, she said, is to “always remember what brought you two together from the beginning, what attracted you two, and always go back to that.”

And, said Mike, be prepared to put in the requisite effort.

“I think everybody wants that perfect marriage, that match that was made in heaven,” he said. “I really believe that heaven is what you make of it … it definitely takes work and effort, and I think a lot of people think it’s effortless.”

Jaclyn and Greg
Harper Woods resident Jaclyn Grosfield, 29, harbored a rosy picture of what lie ahead when she tied the knot with her childhood sweetheart, Greg, three years ago: the house of their dreams, perfect jobs, no financial worries.

“You set expectations from the beginning of your marriage,” she said. “For me, it was like, ‘Everything’s going to be great.’”

With time and age, unexpected stressors have encroached. But Jaclyn said it hasn’t tainted her view of marriage; it’s made her appreciate it more.

“Marriage itself, I’m not finding to be tough, but life in general — just different things that you have to go through, like keeping up with the mortgage payments and keeping a job and staying happy in a job, you know, life decisions, really,” she said. “But all said and done, it’s not a marriage that’s tough. It’s just life. And I’m just glad I have him to go through it with me.”

The couple met in middle school and rekindled a friendship that quickly evolved into romance in high school. They parted ways for college and dated others before reuniting for good.

Both credit the strength of their marriage to their complementary personalities. Greg, 29, described Jaclyn as “very organized”; himself as “more of a free spirit.”

“I kind of change things up on her,” he said, “and she tends to keep me grounded.”

Jaclyn agreed that they “feed off of each other,” capitalizing on the other’s strong suits.

“You don’t have to be completely alike to make the relationship a strong one,” she said.

While he joked that most pre-marital advice he received was “pretty sordid,” Greg admitted he found truth in a cliché spoken by his uncle: “A happy wife is a happy life.”

“I think each partner needs to go out of their way to make sure their partner is happy,” he said. “I would say the key to a happy marriage is variety and trying not to let every day be the same — and just being committed to each other.”