3 Lessons Learned From a 38-Year Relationship

Excerpted from FROM THIS DAY FORWARD



We've learned to accept each other's sense of privacy

SR: And, we've learned after all these years, we're not going to change each other. For all the ways we've adapted and the quirks we've accepted, we remain different people with different backgrounds. For instance, I will never share Cokie's experience as a woman, or her education as a Catholic, and occasionally we've disagreed so strongly on an issue that we've split our newspaper column in half, with each of us writing a different opinion. But the differences show up in personal ways, too.

CR: I was raised in a situation where family members and close friends stayed with us for weeks and even months at a time. I would move into my sister's room with her and the guests would take my room. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't inconvenience myself for other people. My aunt Tootsie, who had seven children and not much money, had a saying that summed up the family attitude: "If there's room in the heart, there's room in the home." And sure enough, I would sometimes move into her home for the whole summer. That was very different from the way Steven was raised. I don't think you ever had people spend the night, right?

SR: That was partly because we lived in very cramped conditions. By the time my sister was born, almost every room in our house that wasn't the kitchen or a bathroom became a bedroom. But basically I agree with you, we grew up with a very different sense of privacy, and it's taken more than a little adjusting on both sides. I had to learn to be more flexible and Cokie had to learn to be more protective.

CR: But it's still a source of tension, in fact the greatest source of tension in our marriage. There are times when I feel Steven is being selfish, when he doesn't want to put himself out. Other times I know he is absolutely right, that if we operated the way I would instinctively operate, we would never have a minute to ourselves, we would be completely overtaken by other people's demands. But there are still times when I think he's wrong.

From "From This Day Forward." Copyright (c) 2000, 2001 by Cokie and Steven V. Roberts, published by HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Back to Steve & Cokie Roberts on Marriage

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