“Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.”
— Mark Twain
Every day happy couples say “I do” and start their lives together with the hope of a happy life full of love. But as Mark Twain said, they can’t really know what they’re getting themselves into until years later.
Those who manage life’s up and downs together are the lucky ones, and these Ankeny couples share their stories and their advice about what it means to them to stick together, through good times and bad, and in sickness and in health.
High school sweethearts
Rachel Snyder and her husband Clark began dating in high school and haven’t been apart since. They’ve been married for 15 years and have four children.
“We had children right away,” she says. “That was really challenging because you’re learning how to live in the same house and have bills, and then it’s pregnancy and a baby and getting used to being a couple and parents at the same time.”
As a young couple with kids, the Snyders feel the stress that most modern couples feel — how to balance work, kids, time for themselves and time as a couple. It’s a challenge to find enough hours in the day.
Rachel says it’s also easy to prioritize her kids’ needs over her husband’s. A crying baby or a hurt child trumps an adult who can take care of himself.
“Sometimes I say Clark is an adult, and he can feed himself and take care of himself. It’s easy to put him on the bottom of the list when, really, he’s supposed to be at the top,” she says. “It’s very easy to neglect him when there’s kids crying or they have homework or other things that need to be done.”
One thing the Snyders have done to try to stay connected is to go on vacations together almost every year — just the two of them. Rachel says friends are sometimes interested in joining them, but she sticks to her guns; it’s a chance for just the two of them to reconnect and recharge.
They also keep a mental list of things they want to do more of as a couple once they’re out of this busy phase of their lives. Maybe it’s too hard to regularly go to Iowa State football games or play tennis together every weekend, but they have a bucket list of sorts for things they want to enjoy as a couple once the kids are a little older.
Ultimately, for the Snyders, their marriage is strong because they’ve each married their best friend.
“When you get married, you have no idea what you’re getting into,” Rachel says. “You just can’t until you do it. I’m 36 now, and I have friends who have gone through many different trials in their life, and you have no idea what life will bring. My advice is find someone who you truly enjoy spending time with, because you are going to need that in the good times and bad times.”
Sandy and Greg Winchester have been married nearly 44 years, but they’ve known each other nearly their whole lives.
The Winchesters have two grown, married sons and two grandchildren. In fact, Sandy quit her job at Ankeny First United Methodist Church to provide daycare for them. She says she loves her time with her grandkids, but she thinks it’s harder to raise kids now than it was when they did it.
“Kids are much more involved in extra-curricular activities and things outside the home,” she says. “Parents are spread more thinly now than they used to be. When your kids are young, you’re investing all your time and energy in your family. When our boys were grown and gone, we went through a period of trying to reacquaint ourselves again in a different way.”
Sandy says when the boys were young, Friday night was always family night. They’d go out to eat and enjoy family time at the end of the week. Now, it’s date night. She and Greg still go out every Friday, and they use that time to reconnect.
As they’ve gotten older, Sandy says one of the biggest marriage challenges they’ve had is trying to balance their kids and the declining health of their own parents. When they turned 50, all four of their parents were still with them, but that began to change quickly. They’ve been pulled in a lot of different directions trying to be there for everyone.
“We’re lucky to still have Greg’s mom around,” Sandy says. “As I think back, that’s been one of the biggest challenges to be as helpful as we could and still maintain our own home life. Sometimes you have to choose, and that’s not always easy to do, to figure out who needs you more and make the best choice you can.”
When it comes to giving advice, the couple has some words of wisdom for young couples starting out.
“Make sure they give and take,” Greg says. “That’s the main thing. You can’t be selfish. There’s always a compromise. You can always find common ground, and if you’re consistent about looking at things that way, the little tussles don’t turn into big things.”
“Back when we were married, people were starting to get divorced a lot, and it was really picking up,” she says. “We just knew we were making a lifetime commitment and never thought about our marriage in any other way; it’s our mindset. We saw it as a lifetime thing, even at 19 when we got married, and we still do.”
Ray and Margaret Yori have beaten the odds. The pair has been married for 63 years.
They both came from families of seven children born to immigrant families — his from Italy and hers from Croatia. Margaret says she thinks that’s why their relationship has been so strong.
“Our families had very similar lifestyles,” she says.
Ray and Margaret had five children in seven years, and Margaret stayed home with the kids for 24 years. To them, married life was about their family. Every night when the children were young, they’d all sit down to a family dinner. Once the kids got older and involved in sports, Ray and Margaret tried to attend every game, sometimes with her at one with one child and him at another with another child.
They also had their own interests, and it gave them time to recharge as individuals. For Ray, he bowled and golfed and was involved in the VFW. Margaret belonged to the Catholic Women’s Club and was involved in church activities. They are founding members of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Catholic Church in Ankeny, which they continue to attend.
“It’s very important to have some time to do your own thing,” Margaret says. “It was fun for me to get to do something after being home with the kids all day.”
Once the kids were grown and gone, the Yoris had more time together, and they used it to travel. Though they took plenty of trips together as a family when the kids were home, they continued that trend and took trips together as well. They’ve been fans of long car trips, and they’ve visited every state in the continental United States, as well as Hawaii, which they visited for their 50th anniversary.
Ray says the best advice he can give to young couples is to always remember the following phrases — “I love you,” and “I am sorry.” And never go to bed angry.
“I think couples have to have the same likes and desires and goals and like the same things for entertainment, so you want to spend time together,” Margaret says.
“It’s important to go to the same church,” Ray adds. “People can get along OK without that, but go to church together. It makes it more difficult if you don’t have that shared faith. It can be done, but it’s an uphill battle.”