Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, Harry and Sally, Beauty and the Beast, Scarlett and Rhett … Norman and Eleanor Rothstein?
So many people strive for a long, loving marriage, one that lasts forever, in good times and in bad. But it’s a rare case that two people, who lovingly go by Nan and Pop to everyone they meet, want to share the journey of their 75-year marriage — with hopefully many more happy and healthy years to come.
While I’m not related to the couple (though everyone Jewish from outside Philadelphia is likely related one way or another), after talking to their family, I can see how anyone would feel the warmth that they share.
Nan and Pop met in Atlantic City, N.J. in 1934, when they were both just 17 years old. Yes, that means they are 98 now. After living through so much history — the Hindenburg Disaster, the introduction of Social Security (Pop was angry that they started taking $1 a week out of his paycheck, though now he lives off of it), the Great Depression, and the beginning of World War II — their love only grew stronger. No one had any money in those days, including them. Nan got a job where she made $6 a week, and Pop found a job making a whopping $17 a week. That was a big deal back then.
After six years of dating, Nan finally asked Pop if he was going to propose to her. His response: “If you love someone and plan to spend the rest of your life with them, then what’s the big hurry?” He makes a good point.
Last month, they were lucky enough to celebrate their 75th anniversary. Despite all of the changes in the world — as crazy as it sounds, they say the world is more unstable than when they first met — they’re still going strong.
Today, people often tend to take the easy way out rather than doing what it takes to make things work. Putting in the effort instead of giving up is a lesson Nan and Pop have instilled in their two daughters, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. People will argue about silly things. Why? What is it going to do? Pop is big on perspective. As they say, the words “for better or for worse” were all they needed to hear.
From Nan and Pop, here are the five keys to a successful marriage:
*You need to have love and respect.
When you love someone, there is nothing you wouldn’t do for that person. Love and respect are the foundation for any great and lasting relationship. Pop has said before that he loves Nan more than he loves himself. If Nan needed an arm, he’d cut his off to give it to her.
*Keep your sense of humor.
Life has its own funny way of throwing curve balls at you, but you have to retain your ability to look at life objectively and not let it consume you. And learn to laugh at the little things. This is something that Pop has instilled in the family. Laughter is always a part of family gatherings and a way to deal with life’s unexpected events.
When Nan would get upset about something, Pop would crack a joke to defuse the situation. He would address the situation, talk about it with her and do his part to keep the relationship working. But when things got too intense, he would retain his sense of humor to make them laugh.
*Value what you have.
The belongings in your life don’t matter if they don’t create memories. The memories you have come from interacting with each other and with friends and family. The most important asset you have is each other. Pop always says, “I don’t need fancy gifts. I prefer happy memories.” Nan and Pop’s most treasured asset is their family, which keeps them going strong. Little do they know that it’s their own inspiration that also keeps their family going strong.
*Forgive and forget, otherwise you’ll end up with an ulcer.
“An ulcer will interfere with your ability to enjoy a good drink!” They have disagreements, but as Pop says, “Sometimes you can win the battle but lose the war. Pick your battles.”
*Never go to bed angry.
Leave the day’s events to that day, and move on to the next day. Nan and Pop’s marriage wasn’t (and still isn’t) always sunshine and roses. They have tiffs like any other couple. But, before they rest their head on the pillow at night, things are addressed or resolved, and tomorrow is a new day. You need to learn how to live through the tough times together.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Nan and Pop’s youngest grandchild, Scott:
“Nan and Pop are a nonstop inspiration, not just to me, but to everyone who is lucky enough to get to know them. Their never-ending love for one another, desire never to give up in love and life, sense of determination and commitment, and ability to never stop laughing are all lessons that I carry with me daily. I can’t thank them enough for all they’ve given and taught me. May their love and lessons continue to inspire all those who cross their path!”
Happy 75th anniversary, Norman and Eleanor. L’chaim!