Years Married: We’ve been married for more than 40 years (and it was the 2nd marriage for each of us! We were both much wiser the second time around :)).
Location: We’ve lived in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., for 27 years, now. Kerry was born in Indiana, and raised in Michigan. Walker was born in Virginia, and raised in Connecticut. They met at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Kids: We have 5 children, and they’re now all grown, graduated from college, happily married, gainfully employed, and parents of their own children. In fact, grandchild number 19 is due this fall!
Occupations: Kerry is a full-time high school Art teacher at one of the largest high schools in Virginia. She teaches Computer Graphics (Illustrator, Photoshop, Animation, etc.), along with AP Art History. She is also a consultant for the College Board, and through that position mentors other AP Art History teachers around the country. She also teaches a UCLA online class for Art History teachers around the world. However, until our youngest daughter hit high school, Kerry was a full-time stay-at-home mom…which is the hardest, but most-rewarding & important work any mother can do. Walker is a business executive who has run his own strategy & marketing consulting firm for many years. He is also a writer, political columnist, entrepreneur, and the author of several books.
Hobbies/Interests: Kerry is an avid reader (of all kinds of books), and likes to travel, go to plays (& we never get tired of seeing Les Misérables), talking walks in pretty places, going out to dinner (with Walker), and making creative & fun projects. Walker likes to play golf, go out to dinner (with Kerry), take long road trips (while listening to Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, James Brown, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Adele, and Norah Jones, etc.), and travel to Europe and the UK.
Favorite flavor of ice cream: Kerry likes Strawberry (if there are tons of chunky berries). Walker likes a really good Vanilla with DARK chocolate chips added.
Additional Material: 5 Important Reminders to Keep Your Marriage Happy & Fun
Q. What specific suggestions can you share that have helped you work through challenges that have come up in your marriage?
All marriages have challenges. Some are outside of our control, like accidents, health crises, and losing one’s job. Others are within our control, like finances, personal responsibility, and behavior decisions (such as how we choose to spend our time, whether or not we have anger, selfishness, alcohol or drug issues, and so on).
W&K: Just because your family did things a certain way, doesn’t mean that that’s the only ‘right’ way to do things. If you each have family traditions you’d like to maintain, make a list, prioritize them, and then jointly decide which to retain, which to let go of, and where you might want to start some new ones. If you’re wise, you’ll let your spouse get his or her way on the ones they feel the most passionate about.
Realize that many of the traits you love in your spouse may also have a side that drives you crazy, too. It’s a two-edged sword: If you want the side you benefit from, you just have to learn to accept (or work at accepting) the other side, too. Marriage is a ‘package’ deal. Along with your spouse’s strong points…come a few weak ones, too. So, if you want your spouse to overlook your weaknesses (and don’t we all?)…then you’d better overlook those of your spouse (This is the Golden Rule, after all.).
K: Make the time to spend more time alone with each other. I even "watch," golf on TV, just to be with Walker. (I love him that much.)
Q. What are your top three tips for a healthy sexual relationship?
K: 1. Make your friendship with your spouse your highest priority (not your kids, not work, not church, not your own personal interests)…and the sex will follow naturally.
2. For the husband: The next morning after sex, get up with the kids! And let her sleep in. (Trust me, this is in your very best interest.)
3. For the wife: Yes, once you have kids, you’re exhausted and rarely feel like a Femme Fatale; but realize that, for a man, sex is closer to a need than a want. Do you want him to go elsewhere? So, don’t make him feel like you’re just doing him a favor; make the time to enjoy your companion in this most intimate bonding experience.
W: 1. Don’t let yourself go. Your spouse wants to be proud of you, and get to show off his or her ‘prize’ in public, so don’t dress like a slob, and get dressed up when you go out on dates.
2. Keep flirting with each other…forever.
3. Show complete loyalty & fidelity to your spouse. There is nothing more heartbreaking, devastating, and damaging, than betrayal in marriage. So decide now to never stray, no matter what.
Q. How do you two divide up roles around the house?
W&K: When you see each other as being on the same "team," then this really isn’t much of an issue. Who does what is usually determined by who has the time to do it. And that can readily be determined by who’s got the longer list…and who’s lying on the couch taking a nap while golf is on...
For many years, Kerry routinely did the laundry and cooking, while Walker mowed the lawn and took care of the cars. But when it’s obvious that one spouse has put in a long, hard day, then the other one needs to step-up and fill-in. That’s when you order a pizza, meet at Costco for a cheap hot dog, or run to Wendy’s. And if there are no clean socks or underwear in your drawer…do the laundry! Don’t complain to the other that the laundry didn’t get done. It should never be a question of whose job it is. If something needs to be done, and the person normally responsible for doing it is either unavailable or already swamped doing other things, the one with the extra time should just take over.
You should never "count coup," because once you start doing that, you’re already on the wrong path toward having a happy marriage. In our house, Kerry’s a gourmet cook, so Walker encourages that when she has the time. But because they would both prefer to sleep for as long as possible in the mornings (rather than get up to have a "real," breakfast), Walker makes "breakfast-for-dinner" every Sunday after church. (And Kerry saves up her need-to-eat foods, that Walker doesn’t like, for days when he’s out-of-town.)
Q. What has been your favorite date you have been on together?
W&K: After 40 years, we’ve actually gotten to the point that we see our lives together as being one, long, wonderful date. We’re still each other’s best friend, and although we each have full-time jobs, we would still rather spend time with each other than with anyone else.
K: Any trip away from the kids for two days or more is a wonderful date. Of course, we’d miss the kids, and talk a lot about them, but on such occasions, you get to genuinely reconnect with your spouse and be reminded of what made you fall in love with them in the first place. This is when you can have uninterrupted conversations, romantic dinners, and long walks while holding hands. And when finances don’t allow for much, then long, slow walks around the block—or sitting on the porch and talking (after the kids are in bed)—are important times together. And then having dessert, of course! :)
W: Go out on a date as often as possible…with the goal being at least once-a-week! And until the oldest is old enough to babysit, be sure to include babysitting money in your budget, because going out on a weekly date is more important than you realize. You don’t need to go to concerts or movies (where you spend a lot of money, but don’t even talk to each other); rather, just go out to dinner, go to a museum, or take a scenic drive (or walk) out in the country or down by the waterfront…where you can just hold hands and talk (like you did when you were dating :).
We both agree that vacations are really important. Sometimes with your children, but sometimes without them. Expand your horizons. Make memories together. In our case, we never thought that we could afford to get to Europe. But once we realized that flights and car rentals were cheaper to London or Paris than they were to Chicago or Dallas, we took the leap. And it was one of the best things we’ve ever done. (2 Hints: 1—Paris has not been over-sold; and 2—Marry an Art History expert.)
Q. What is the best marriage advice you have ever received?
W&K: From Kerry’s Dad we learned that the most important relationship you will ever have is the one with your spouse. You leave your own parents to cleave with your spouse. And you raise your own children to leave you, and cleave with their own loving spouses. So make your marriage relationship your highest priority…and invest the bulk of your time, interests, attention, and compliments to your spouse. And while we dearly love our children (and now our grandchildren), we are also loving our time together during this "empty nest," season of our lives.
And from her Mom we learned that the best thing we could do for our children was to show them that their parents loved each other, and stood-up for each other. We were a united couple…and we came first. Our children always knew that our family was a happy & safe place to be; and contrary to what is depicted on TV and in the movies, our children knew that happy & secure marriages do indeed exist, and are achievable for them, too.
W: Here are the two best pieces of advice that I have received regarding marriage:
1. Don’t ever criticize your spouse in public, or in front of your children (or other family members), even in jest! (Would you ever want your spouse to criticize you that way?)
2. Once you’ve made your choice…stop looking!
Q. What have you learned about nurturing your marriage through the transitions of life?
K: Support all of your spouse's "hair-brained," schemes (because you really want your spouse to support yours. Just be there for your spouse with open arms. Be the safe zone, the person your spouse can trust to get love from, no matter what. Keep secrets safe. Don’t betray private trusts. If you keep connected with each other’s lives, you’ll evolve together and not drift apart. Refrain from saying things you may think - but know will hurt during times of stress - you’ll be glad later that you didn't.
W: Stop being so selfish! Put your spouse’s dreams, goals, and wants ahead of your own. As you do this (if you’ve married a good person), miraculously, your spouse will start doing the same for you. (It’s pretty amazing how this works.) Don’t stop dating or trying to look your best. (Next time you’re out "people-watching," see if you can identify what traits those who look happy have, from those who don’t.) Also, it really helps if both partners share the same religion, politics, and moral values; because, if those things aren’t shared in common, the two partners aren’t starting from the same foundation.
Q. How have you strengthened your friendship with each other?
K: We try to spend as much one-on-one time together as we can. On many of our dinner dates, we take a book along, and read passages to each other. We’ve finished many books this way, and have enjoyed lively conversations about them as we’ve done so.
W: Because we genuinely like each other, we admire each other’s talents, and recognize that, together, we’re a pretty formidable team. We’ve learned to be interested in each other’s interests. And we’re also each other’s biggest "cheerleader," and we champion each other’s accomplishments. We laugh a lot.
Q. You are still married. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
W&K: Be lucky enough to marry a truly good person. We did. :) Care about your spouse more than you care about yourself, and show it in word, deed, and action. The rewards of doing so will be exponentially greater for your own happiness than if you fall into self-centered habits. Don’t keep score…unless it’s about all of the thoughtful things your spouse has done for you that make you want to do thoughtful things for him or her. And publically tell others your spouse’s wonderful attributes!
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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