Staying Power

Advice on how to have happy marriages from Diane Rehm, Ted Gibson, Mary Cheh

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Anyone who's ever been married can testify that throwing a wedding is the easy part. Delece Smith-Barrow asked notable Washington couples what it takes to maintain a happy marriage through the years.

Ann Hand

After 57 years of marriage, Hand says, "Find someone you respect deeply." The longtime jeweler for politicians and presidential first ladies is married to lawyer Lloyd Hand. "If you respect your mate and love and cherish them, that's a magical combination." The couple, both in their 70s, live in the District and raised five children, two of whom are deceased.

Diane Rehm

Having been a bride at 19 and divorced less than three years later, radio host and author Rehm, 73, is all too familiar with the highs of wedded bliss and the lows of realizing that your marriage is coming to an end. "I became the first in my Arab community to get a divorce, which shocked the entire community," Rehm remembers. "I was somewhat ostracized for a while." Luckily, she was embraced by the man who became her second husband, John Rehm, 79. That relationship has led to 50 years -- and counting -- of partnership.

So, what's the best way to establish a strong relationship? Know what you're getting into before walking down the aisle, Rehm says. Ask lots of questions, she says, including: "What kind of background did your lover have [before you met]? How did his parents handle finances? How did his parents treat education? Did his parents talk to each other? How did they raise him?"

Rehm and her husband reside in Washington. They have two children and four grandchildren.

Ted Gibson

Mixing business with pleasure wasn't such a bad idea for celebrity hairstylist Gibson, 44. He solidified his union to business partner Jason Backe, 41, in a commitment ceremony 14 years ago. "We were married gays before it was cool," Gibson says. He and Backe got together at an ideal time in Gibson's life. At 29, he was ready to settle down and the couple fell in love after six weeks of dating.

After more than a decade with Backe -- and having experienced the many ups and downs of being in a committed relationship -- Gibson offers these words to couples who've hit a rough spot: "As rewarding as relationships are, a lifetime commitment to someone is not always easy. [A] relationship is work." He continues, "And when you give up on the work, that's when you have divorce." Trusting your partner and allowing him to have some freedom is also vital, Gibson says.

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