Vivian and William Rogers are delighted by each other and have been married for 57 years. If you knew this cuddly, unified couple in person you might not guess they’ve gone through really hard challenges in their marriage - challenges that tested their commitment and made them face their weaknesses. Their advice for taking charge in turning around a seasoned marriage is priceless, and we know you’ll love their banana story as much as we do!
Interview contributed by Andrea Tate
Years Married: 57
Kids: 3, All grown up!
Occupation: Retired. Vivian declares with vivacity that they can do whatever they want!
Hobbies/Interests: William and Vivian enjoy beekeeping together and belong to a local bee club. William gardens; Vivian reads and reads and reads. They frequently have company because they "cannot help," but talk to people. They make friends with people of all ages and backgrounds.
Favorite flavors of ice cream: William loves chocolate and Vivian loves praline and pecan. They always visit the same ice cream shop and a single scoop is more than enough for one person to handle!
Q. Do you have any special traditions around holidays or anniversaries or birthdays?
V: He usually gets a cherry pie. He gets a cherry pie for birthdays, our anniversary, and sometimes for Christmas.
W: Sometimes we go to movies.
V: Yep, if there’s a good movie we go.
Q. You have been married for a long time. What communication tips would you share with all of the couples following in your footsteps?
V: Don’t take offense. Even if you feel like kicking him on the shin.
W: My specialty is giving offense.
V: (Shaking her head with a smile) Yeah, don’t get your feelings hurt.
W: You just have to roll with the punches.
V: We try to always be polite to each other, although sometimes we yell.
W: Yeah, but it doesn’t bother me too much.
V: We both try to be nice to each other (smile). We have a quiet house. Nobody demands anything, it’s just quiet.
V: People say to us, “You have such a nice marriage!” And I say it wasn’t always like that. They ask, “Yeah right, well how did you get here?”
Q. How DID you get here?
V: It took some hard times to get to where we are. There were good times and there were bad times.
W: It’s amazing. We never could have known how sweet our companionship would become.
The Year of the Black Banana:
V: We had been married for 27 years when William lost his job.
W: Three days before Christmas they met me on the curb and told me they had just filed bankruptcy and I didn’t have a job.
V: Things didn’t get better. At the beginning of being unemployed, on Christmas day, we had dinner and I put the turkey on the stove to make broth and then we went to the movies. We liked it so much we stayed twice. When we got back we opened the door and there was a wall of smoke, floor to ceiling. People told us later that the roof should have blown off and we should have been blown clear over to the nearby field.
W: The fire department said that when that much oxygen is introduced at once there should have been an explosion!
V: The house didn’t burn down. The tile in the kitchen saved the house. So that was the first thing that happened that year. Then I had to have a major operation in February for a cyst in my spinal column. In March, we had bought a new car, a little rabbit, and I was hit by a young girl who just got her drivers license and the car was destroyed. Bad things happened all year.
W: That was the year we called the black banana.
V: We used to get bananas that were not very ripe and put them on the top of the refrigerator to ripen, and that year we found a black banana on the top of the refrigerator that was so old it was just solid black. It was so hard.
W: (Laughing) It was petrified! It was like a piece of coal.
V: It was so hard!
W: And I thought to myself, this is the year of the black banana.
V: He took it and nailed it to the wall in the garage, and we called it the year of the black banana.
The Years of the Golden Banana:
W: On Christmas Eve the next year I got a call from Saudi Arabia and somebody said I could fix a problem this company was having.
V: He went to Saudi Arabia for two years, after 28 years of marriage. It was really good for us. I didn’t go because we had a teenage son and they didn’t have school for him. He got really lonely over there. He realized on his 50th birthday that he didn’t have to be alone. He had a wife and kids! I didn’t really want to come, but he begged me to come for a few months and I finally did. He wanted to make some changes.
W: She came over for 30 days and we had a BALL! We went to the Red Sea and Petra.
V: We went to Egypt!
W: We went on a cruise on the Nile! That job cured our financial problems too. I came back and did construction.
V: I realized on that trip that the marriage problems we had faced were not all his fault. I had to think to myself, “What do I need to do better?” You HAVE to look at yourself. I don’t think that in any marriage the problem is just with one person. You have to look at what you are doing that is not adding to your marriage, and cut that out. After that time, we looked at each other could say, “It’s not your fault and It’s not my fault, It’s both of our faults. So what can we do about it?” That’s when you start to be really productive.
V: We both decided to WORK. He opens doors for me, we hold hands, we want to share the best.
W: I saw a solid gold banana necklace in Saudi Arabia and I bought it. 24 carat solid gold!
V: When you see me wear that, you’ll know why.
W: These have been the years of the gold banana! That’s a really big thing in our lives. It has a very deep meaning.
Q. What have you learned about nurturing your marriage through transitions of life? How do you hold onto each other?
V: That’s just it, we hold onto each other.
W: Yeah, physically holding is a very important thing, and opening the doors and holding hands, etc. (And people behind us at church see us snuggling like that.) That’s what I bring into our marriage, physical things. I think that’s true with a lot of marriages, that men bring the physical attributes.
V: And the physical needs.
Q. How do you build a strong foundation of trust in marriage?
V: One of the things that I think is very important about trust is speaking highly of your spouse. If I go say, "Bill Rogers is really a bad person, da de da de da…," The more I complain about him, the worse he gets. If I say, "I have a really neat husband and I really love him," God reinforces that feeling and that understanding. We really try to do things that will take care of each other.
W: When your sweetheart can't get the can opener to work or put the pots and pans away, or reach the top shelf, these are all things that I can do.
W: I think that keeping a council with your wife is very important, so that you each know what’s going on with your lives. We each carry a cell phone. When I’m out somewhere and I’m getting ready to leave, I let her know that I’m on my way. When she’s in town shopping, she lets me know where she is. Just being aware of each other is really nice. I want to know where she is, and what’s happening.
V: For many years, I would never let him go anywhere by himself. If we are gonna have an accident, I want us both to be there. I don’t want either one of us to be left behind. I’ve gotten better at letting him go.
Q. You are still married. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
V: You might think that this is kind of silly, but whenever we have a piece of fruit, we cut it in half. We may have two, but we each have half of each of them. There always is one that has a better flavor! And so we each have half.
W: That’s important! That’s a very important thing to do!
V: People might think that we are crazy, but it’s what it means. It means we want to share the best. And we always hold hands. If you ask anyone if we love each other, they’d know we do. Making sure that marriage is a relationship with God too, that makes such a difference.
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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