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Making Love Last

Advice to see your marriage through the decades

Article by Alison Kartevold

Photography by Jodi Lesniakowski

Originally published in Conroe City Lifestyle

Don and Grace Kartevold have made their love last over 69 years. Leading by example, they’ve inspired five kids, seven grandkids, 14 great-grandchildren, and countless friends throughout their marriage. They are the exception and becoming rarer by the day, but making our relationships last is a goal for which we can all aim.

As a youngster, I asked my mom how they could have four kids by the time she was 19, then have dad go to college, get his master's, and finally have me. “Ah, we were young and dumb and didn’t know any better,” she replied, “We just did it.”

If you look at the numbers from across the country, marriage is a 50-50 proposition. Fifty-two percent of people in Conroe are married, but statistically, many won’t last. The three most common reasons couples end up divorced are incompatibility, infidelity, and money issues. 

Some sage advice I received when getting married 32 years ago still holds. 

“I always love him, but I’m not always ‘in love' with him,” my sister Karol Kiefer, who has been married for 43 years, told me. Half smiling, she continued, “There are days I don’t even like him. But that’s ok! You can’t get anything done when you’re ‘in love’ anyways.” 

Falling head over heels in love is exciting, but it is more important to be friends and tolerant when planning a stable future. Without them, you’ll likely end up in divorce court right on track with the national average- in seven to eight years. So there will be days when it can’t be all about you, you’ll have to bend, or your union will break.

Infidelity is the second most common reason people get divorced. It makes sense because trust can take years to earn and only a few fleeting moments to destroy. Once betrayal enters the picture, divorce rates show it's almost impossible to rebuild trust. So, don't make a rash decision if you want to beat the odds and stay married.

Finally, there is the issue of money. While it can be difficult to overcome one party being frugal and the other extravagant, think again if you believe divorce is the answer. Studies show that families with children who were not poor before divorce see their income drop by as much as 50 percent. 

As it turns out, divorce is expensive for everyone. Based on the higher use of food stamps and public housing with increased bankruptcies and juvenile delinquency, one researcher determined that a single divorce cost governments about 30 thousand in 2002 dollars. That means the nation’s divorce rate cost taxpayers more than $30 billion that same year. 

Staying married to keep your wealth or make your children’s life better isn’t the answer to long-term happiness, though. If you do your job as a parent correctly, your kids will leave you. That's why it is important to remember what first brought you and your spouse together and then nurture it. 

Ask couples who have been married more than 30 years, and they’ll tell you a variety of things they’ve done that proved key to their relationship longevity. From learning how to fight fairly and never stop flirting to making sure you both are a team and talk even when you don’t feel like it, communication and kindness are recurring themes. And don't forget to appreciate each other.

The best time to decide if you can spend a lifetime with someone is before you get to the alter. As my husband Dale. always tells our daughters, "Your spouse is your biggest single source of happiness or misery, so choose wisely."

Once you decide to marry, you’ll still need to follow up with Grace’s advice. When asked how she and Don have stayed married through the good and bad times that materialized over almost seven decades, Grace said, “It takes a lot of patience and prayers. Lots of prayers!”

The best time to decide if you can spend a lifetime with someone is before you get to the altar. As my husband, Dale, always tells our daughters, “Your spouse is your biggest single source of happiness or misery, so choose wisely." 

  • Don and Grace Kartevold celebrate their granddaughter's wedding 69 years after their own.
  • Don and Grace's Wedding Photo from 1953