Marriage hardly old-fashioned for three generations in one family

  • By Mina Williams Herald writer
  • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 6:59pm

Marriage in the 21st century has made sweeping changes.

Less than two generations ago the institution was revered. Now research indicates that the number of couples walking down the aisle is shrinking.

In 1960, 70 percent of American adults were married, according to a nationwide poll conducted by the Washington D.C.-based Pew Research Center. That number has slipped to a paltry 50 percent.

Close to one-third of the respondents of the Pew study consider marriage as obsolete.

One local family, however, is going against that grain.

Peter and Amy Watkins, of Lynnwood, exchanged vows just shy of a year ago. His parents, Bobette and Clyde Watkins, of Burien, have been married 38 years. Bobette’s parents, Martha and Bob Halvorsen, of Shoreline, will celebrate 62 years of wedlock in June.*

How they met

Martha speaks of the day she first saw Bob as if it were yesterday.

“It is corny,” she said. “He sang in the church choir; a friend invited me to come. At that time the men and women sat in separate sides. He smiled at me and I smiled back.”

When Bob called her four months later, Martha declined meeting. She had been in a car accident and had stitches in her head. At last, ladies from the choir invited her over for pie, along with Bob “to finally get the ball rolling,” Martha said.

After a few movies and traveling together to choir performances, Martha knew Bob was the guy for her.

When Bob was transferred from Pasco to Moses Lake by the bank he worked for, the couple decided to marry.

Years later, their daughter Bobette met Clyde at a wedding rehearsal dinner when they were seated together. The spark, according to Bobette, was Clyde’s good first impression.

“Six months later he called up and asked me out,” she said.

Two months later they were engaged and married three months after that.

“My parents didn’t date too long either,” Bobette noted. “It was just about six months for them.

“They were good examples of a team.”

Unlike his parents and grandparents, Peter met Amy using an online dating site. But like his parents and grandparents, the road to walking down the aisle came quickly.

Two months after a three-hour first coffee date, followed by movies and dinners, Peter said he knew he wanted to propose. However the romantic waited to propose until the one-year anniversary of their meeting.

“I knew he was the one for me when I found myself thinking about him,” said Amy, who works for The Daily Herald. “I realized I cared for him and I was excited to see him.”

They moved in together three months before their wedding, departing from Peter’s parents’ and grandparents’ paths.

“It was taboo to live together when we got engaged,” Bobette said. She was a student teacher and, at that time, could have lost her job.

Staying married

Fidelity is No. 1, Martha said. A good friendship is No. 2.

“It helps to be best friends, not just infatuated,” Martha said. “You have to be able to communicate and talk things over. Money can be a terrible problem.”

Clyde advises young couples to examine how compatible they are with their hopes and dreams.

“You have to have the same financial outlook on life and look at how you will handle money,” he said. “If not, there will be trouble.”

Religion, kids and core beliefs are the potential stumbling blocks, the couples reported. The younger Watkins see good communication as the key to married success.

“Prior to getting engaged, you have to discuss the big issues,” Peter said. “Not everything will be perfect and there will be disagreements. It’s how you discuss those disagreements that matters.”

Amy said that keeping the lines of communication open and talking about future life plans – from finances to owning a home, to children and retirement – is crucial.

It also helps to have good role models.

“Our families are amazing examples of strong, loving marriages,” Amy said. “It is important to me to have grown up with my mom and dad to see how a marriage works in good times and in bad.”

Both the Halvorsens and the elder Watkins point to their faith as a cementing factor in their marriages.

While in purely practical terms marriage is not as necessary as it used to be, the institution remains revered by the Halvorsen and Watkins families.

*Correction, May 25, 2012: This article originally said Martha and Bob Halvorsen will celebrate their anniversary in August.

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