Two generations of love: Couples share secrets to a good marriage

When Barb Kramber saw the question posed in The Central Minnesota Catholic magazine, “Do you know a couple who holds the secret to a good marriage?” she wanted to recognize her daughter and son-in-law, Lena and Kevin Coe, who have been married for 14 years. 

“With four children, jobs tried and lost and gained and tested, financial woes and worries, growth from the college life days to little time and energy for fun and frolicking, [theirs is] the textbook story,” Kramber said. 

What inspires Kramber most is Lena and Kevin’s “give-and-take” attitudes through the ups and downs. 

Barb and Terry Kramer, left, and their son-in-law and daughter, Kevin and Lena Coe. (Photo by Dianne Towlaski/The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“The support they give each [other] is the main attraction. He and she have an acute awareness for the needs of the other,” Kramber said. 

Kramber has been married to her husband, Terry, for 51 years. The couple live in Glenwood and attend Sacred Heart Parish. The Coes live in St. Cloud with their four children: Anthony, 13; Sarah, 11; Mallory, 6; and Clayton, 4. The family attends the parishes of St. Peter and St. Paul. 

The Central Minnesota Catholic had some fun designing an adapted (and Catholic) version of the “Newlywed Game,” posing both entertaining and thoughtful questions to the two couples about marriage. Here is a sampling of their answers. 

Q. WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST KISS? 

Kevin: First kiss was our freshman year in college. First kiss that mattered was at the Benton County Fair four years later when I asked her to be my girlfriend. 

Q. AS YOUR RELATIONSHIP HAS GROWN, HOW HAS THE WAY YOU EXPRESS LOVE FOR YOUR SPOUSE EVOLVED? 

Lena: My mom taught me that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It’s a good thing I love to cook, and Kevin enjoys eating! I think that is how I won him over, and how I have kept him for so long. But in all honesty, I feel I show my love through acts of service, such as cooking, or just getting things done so we can be together as a family. 

Q. POPE FRANCIS SAID EVERY COUPLE SHOULD KNOW THREE PHRASES IN A MARRIAGE: “MAY I?,” “THANK YOU” AND “I’M SORRY.” WHICH PHRASE DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT AND WHY? 

Terry: “I’m sorry.” It shows you care. 

Q. WHAT QUALITIES IN YOUR SPOUSE HAVE BEEN IMPORTANT IN BUILDING YOUR MARRIAGE? 

Lena: Kevin has an immense amount of patience! Which is great, because I am short on this virtue. When I need to vent, or am caught up in the moment, he just listens and then helps me work through whatever the situation is. 

Q. HOW HAVE YOU LEARNED TO OVERCOME DIFFERENCES? 

Barb: We’ve been married 51 years. About 49 years ago, his way and my way were becoming more defined, and there developed the system — “You do it your way, and I’ll do it mine,” with consideration given of the circumstances. And it’s a good thing, too, because we’re still having our differences! We accommodate and we bend. 

Q. IF YOUR LIFE WAS A REALITY TV SHOW, WHAT WOULD THE TITLE BE? 

Lena: “The Amazing Race.” 

Q. WHAT IS A SPECIFIC WAY YOUR FAITH HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN YOUR MARRIAGE? 

Terry: We both know God is always there to help. 

Q. AS YOUR RELATIONSHIP HAS GROWN, HOW HAS THE WAY YOU EXPRESS LOVE FOR YOUR SPOUSE EVOLVED? 

Barb: The love for my husband has evolved from a young love of excitement and romance and anticipation, to a complacent love, to a love of familiarity and comfort. 

Q. WHO TAKES UP MORE THAN HALF THE BED? 

Lena: The kids! (But Kevin hogs the blankets.) 

Q. MARRIAGE IS OFTEN A GIVE AND TAKE. SHARE AN EXAMPLE OF A TIME WHERE THIS HAS WORKED IN YOUR MARRIAGE. 

Kevin: There was a six-year period where I worked nights and Lena worked days and we were raising our children. And even though this was not ideal for us personally, it was a time that both of us had to sacrifice for each other. 

Q. WHO HAS A BETTER SENSE OF HUMOR? 

Barb: Terry has been the joker, teaser, party pleaser! 

Q. HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE AND BUILD ON EACH OTHER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES? 

Lena: Sometimes, it’s nice to hear, “What can I do to help?” But other times things can be so overwhelming, and it’s hard to say or even think of how to ask. Being able to see, sense or feel what the other is going through and just being there, doing what we do best, is the best help of all. For example, if I am cooking a large family meal, the kids like to wander in the kitchen to “help.” Kevin will step in and find a way to distract the Littles or help engage the Bigs. 

Q. AS YOUR RELATIONSHIP HAS GROWN, HOW HAS THE WAY YOU EXPRESS LOVE FOR YOUR SPOUSE EVOLVED? 

Kevin: I have learned the little actions mean more than the big ones — e.g., helping with chores and giving her random hugs. 

Q. WHAT QUALITIES IN YOUR SPOUSE HAVE BEEN IMPORTANT IN BUILDING YOUR MARRIAGE? 

Terry: Her love. I was in a really bad accident and she was always there for me. 

Q. POPE FRANCIS SAID EVERY COUPLE SHOULD KNOW THREE PHRASES IN A MARRIAGE: “MAY I?,” “THANK YOU” AND “I’M SORRY.” WHICH PHRASE DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT AND WHY? 

Barb: “Thank you.” These two words show appreciation for what was done, acknowledgement of something done, recognition that the giver gave, and a humbleness — “You gave because I needed.” 

Q. WHAT IS A SPECIFIC WAY YOUR FAITH HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN YOUR MARRIAGE? 

Kevin: About 10 years ago, Lena developed pancreatitis and almost lost her life. I remember watching her in the ICU and visiting her at the Mayo Clinic and asking God every day to protect her and nurse her back to health. She made it through that time and is stronger now than ever. I took that time as a sign as well and watched the staff that helped take care of her and thought to myself that I could do that. Since then, I have been in the medical field for eight years and have always thought it was part of a bigger plan. 

Q. WHAT IS THE SECRET TO A GOOD MARRIAGE? 

Kevin: Laughter. I believe laughter is the best medicine. When you have someone to laugh with, it makes everything better. Being able to share the good moments and even recall bad ones and laugh about them makes all those times feel important. 

Lena: I read an article a couple of years ago and wrote it down: “Real marriage is messy. It’s a fight for connection in a disconnected world. It’s loving each other and serving one another even when we’re depleted. It is constant exchanges of understanding, compassion and grace.” 

Terry: Be willing to cooperate. 

Barb: Three C’s: “Communication” — talk, talk, talk! And allow for the silent communication as well. “Commitment” — I always compared a marriage to having siblings: You may not like them at times, but you’ll always love them and you’ll never abandon them. Ditto for your spouse. “Cooperation” — to work or act together toward a common end or purpose. 

“Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” (Philippians 2:2). 

And last, when you are miles apart in thought and tired and worn out, and the weight of the day’s worries are too much, just smile at him or her, lean in for a hug and say softly, “I love you.” 

 

 

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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