Secrets to a Long, Happy Marriage


By Terry Rogers

With Valentine’s Day hearts and bears filling up shop windows, thoughts turn to love and marriage. For Thurman and Leatha Banning, who will be married 78 years in June, the secret to a happy marriage is fairly simple.

“Love and trust, you have to have love and trust,” Mr. Banning said. “We have always had love for each other and the Lord. We have always put our trust in each other and into the Lord. You see, marriage is not a one-way street. You have to work together to build a long marriage. We have been through good times and bad times, but we went through them together.”

Many experts agree with what the Bannings believe kept them married for so many years. Since happiness comes and goes, succcesful couples learn to do things that will bring happiness back when life gets in the way. Mr. Banning said that, from the beginning of their marriage, he and his wife made the decision to never go to bed angry and he says he cannot ever remember a time when a quarrel was not resolved before they went to bed.

“That is the wrong thing to do, go to bed when you are mad at each other,” Mr. Banning said. “We worked it out before bed so it didn’t fester on us all night.”

Mr. and Mrs. Banning met by accident as his cousin was friends with Mrs. Banning’s sister. He was 20 and she was 18 when they met and they were married six months later. When asked how he knew she was the one he wanted to spend his life with, he replied that he had no idea because that was a “long time ago.”

“We just knew, both of us,” he said. “Something just clicked with us and we knew we wanted to be together.” The Banning’s had no children of their own, but raised Mrs. Banning’s nephew and niece. He said that they always referred to them as their children.

Mr. Banning said that the couple worked hard to get what they have and that they are both simple, “down-home” people. He said that communication is the key to success in marriage as he and Mrs. Banning always talk through any decision they make. One thing they never fought over was money. Both of them worked when they were younger and all the money they earned went into one bank account. Before any large purchases, they talked it through so there was never a need to argue.

“I just don’t get these young people today who are married and keep their money separate,” Mr. Banning said. “That doesn’t work. You need to work together in everything, including financial matters.” Mr. Banning said that his wife often jokes with people when they ask her how she stayed married so long that she had “put up with him for so long, I guess I’ll just keep him a little longer.”

A few months ago, Mrs. Banning fell and injured herself, landing her in the hospital. She developed pneumonia and was required to remain in the hospital until recovering. She is now in a local rehabilitation hospital, healing from her fall injury. Mrs. Banning is 95 and Mr. Banning will be 99 in June.

“She worries now that when she comes home she will fall again,” Mr. Banning said. “I told her she needs to stop worrying. ‘I’m here, honey, and I’ll always be here to keep you from falling,’ I said. It is what we have done for each other all these years and I know I don’t intend to stop now.”

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