Saturday, February 20, 2010

Living from the Heart

The Idaho Statesman newspaper recently did a feature on my grandparents. Since newspaper online links often don't last long, I am posting the whole story here on the blog rather than just doing a hyperlink to it. Sorry if it seems long; it is worth the read!

Katherine Jones/Idaho Statesman:
He calls himself the Love Doctor. The Marriage Mechanic.Which makes her the wife of the Love Doctor. And somewhat of a Marriage Mechanic herself. You know, what with the two of them having to, well, kick the tires and tinker around under the hood together, so to speak.
Before this analogy goes awry, let us note that it is true: One can't go about fixing things if one doesn't also know what makes them run. Clark and Eleanor Swain have been married 55 years. Their love and their marriage give them the voice of experience.
Clark is a therapist, specializing in "marriage counseling, sex therapy and divorce busting." Eleanor is his partner in life, associate in business and wife.
Eleanor says: "We're the models. If we're counseling people, helping them to develop less conflict, better communication, and a better sex life we want it to be right in our lives. We want to be models of what it can be for them."
That's five and a half decades of living together, defying odds in a culture where so many marriages end in divorce. The Swains use their knowledge, wisdom and experience - 20 years of Clark's teaching plus their own experience raising five children - and help couples enhance the quality of their own marriages, commitments and relationships.
Clark says: "My philosophy is marriage is the heart of the family. It's the hub of the home. As the marriage goes, so goes the family. As the family goes, so goes Boise, Nampa - and the whole country.
"The best thing ever for you to do for your children, I say to husbands, is to love your wife, and the best thing a wife will ever do for her children is love her husband."
He tells a story, rooted in their philosophy that the committed relationship comes first. A couple called, needing help with a troubled teenager. They wanted to drop off their son to be "fixed."
Clark: "That's not how we work. É We helped them improve their marriage and enrich their relationship. As they became stronger parents, their relationship with their child improved."
Eleanor: "Marriage comes first. It's been important to model a good quality marriage for the next generation."
Lest you think their marriage is an anomaly, they've had their challenges. Their courtship started romantically enough, in the college newspaper office when they were 18 and 19 years old.
Eleanor: "I was immediately interested in Clark. As you can see, he's a really handsome guy. I always told him, I was thrilled to look into his eyes and see the kind, caring look on his face."
And they'd see each other at dances.
Clark: "Dancing was one of the main reasons we started dating and kept dating. I'd watch her on the floor, with someone else. I'd think: I can dance that good.
"We met mid-September. I asked her to go steady Dec. 12. I told her before she answered: I would not ask anyone to go steady with me if I didn't plan to marry her."
Eleanor: "It was an old-fashioned romance."
They were married three years later - while Clark was losing his eyesight. What they thought was temporary proved permanent: Clark has good enough eyesight to take walks alone and watch TV ("I always watch Miss America," he teases), but they both talk about his visual condition as a challenge as well as something that helped them be more compassionate, understanding and kind.
For her part, Eleanor has debilitating arthritis. They take care of each other.
Clark: "We make it an enduring marriage in spite of the challenges.
"We have a philosophy about anniversaries that we teach couples. If your anniversary is Aug. 22, then make a special date the 22nd of every month."
It's the little things that mean a lot. During this interview, Eleanor interrupted herself in an aside to Clark, "You don't even know it yet - I bought chocolate at the grocery store."
Eleanor: "Like yesterday, he was walking by and Clark put his arms around me and gave me a good, long kiss. It's called the '10-second kiss.'
"Because it's 10 seconds, it's not just an automatic peck on the cheek. It can take us back to when we were falling in love, in so many dimensions."
They're both 74 years old. Their health issues have put some stress on their marriage. It's not like they don't have to work on their relationship like the rest of us.
Their dancing - their romantic doorway to memories and the flame of young love? On hold. ("Now we're watching Dancing with the Stars together," Clark says.) He speaks of several health challenges recently - and then he pauses.
"But the most important thing is I'm still really happy. I love Eleanor and she loves me."
Clark is working on his second book. It's called "Finding and keeping your true love: Choosing your partner and creating a forever marriage." Clark turns to Eleanor and smiles.
Eleanor: "Where there's a lot of love, there is joy and happiness and great quality in relationships."


Valerie said...

Thanks, Courtney. I made copies straight from the newspaper for each of you children, since it also includes a photo of Grandma and Grandpa when they were dating!

Darlene said...

What good timing - I was just about to go ranting on my own blog about Tiger Woods again. This article was much more productive and got the same point across, lol.

Sarah Walker said...

What a beautiful story!

Trina said...

That's awesome they wrote an article on your Grandpa, they need more articles like that in the world! Hope everything is going well.