I wish I had met John and Amelia Rocchio.
The Guinness Book of Records honored the couple as holding the world record for staying married the longest – 83 years. If given the chance to visit with them, I would have asked what they did to fuel the flames of romance for eight decades. Did they go on regular dates? Did they take trips to exotic places? Or, did they incorporate simple pleasures like candle light dinners at home, or hold hands on regular walks through their Rhode Island neighborhood?
I would loved to have asked them how they navigated through the inevitable tough times, disagreements, and conflicts that they, like all couples, encounter. Did they ever consider breaking up? If so, what kept them together? What advice would they give couples headed for divorce?
On June 29, 2005, one year before Amelia died, the couple was interviewed by the Associated Press who asked them for the secret of their marriage. John, then 101, said, “Patience and understanding will get you a long way – especially with your wife.” For her part, Amelia, 99, said, “Making love” is what kept them together. She added, “We’re still holding hands.”
Jean and I have been married just 22 years. We have a long ways to go to top the Rocchio’s world championship of 83 years. Of course, marriage isn’t a sprint. It’s the proverbial marathon. As I’m sure the Rocchio’s would have heartily agreed, when done right marriage is an incredible and priceless gift.
Unfortunately, and more often than not, couples who married with the best of intentions find themselves in a relationship lacking the intimacy and sparkle that first attracted them. Disappointed at the lack of “togetherness,” they drift apart on separate oceans . . . or they jump ship in hopes of finding someone new to put fresh winds in their sails.
While I didn’t have the chance to talk with John and Amelia Rocchio who died several years ago, I have been walking with a couple (I’ll call them Mike and Amy) who have had their share of rough sailing. Married for 13 years, Mike and Amy were headed for the rocks. Jean and I prayed for them and stood by them as they sought professional godly counsel.
The other day, Mike sent me an email. He could barely contain himself over the miracle of healing that God had provided. Here’s a portion of Mike’s note which he’s invited me to share with you:
Jim, I wanted to update you on things with Amy. I can’t get over how God has met us in our place of total brokenness. Thanks to the help of our Christian counselor, I learned I needed to humble myself, admit my “stuff” and stop being selfish. I found that forgiving Amy was one of the hardest things to do. The only way I could do that was to die to “self” and give up the need to be right. I had to forget about getting even and stop keeping score.
These were very difficult steps to take, but I know I had to do them to stay married. I believe everyone in a marriage comes to this fork in the road; and it’s the road less traveled. I almost bailed because it’s too hard to do these things. It’s so difficult to say, “I’m sorry” to a person whom I think is the one at fault. It’s hard to forgive someone who might keep hurting me the same way again. And, it was next to impossible to admit I was wrong, too.
I found it was easier to blame Amy for everything and give up.
Now that we’ve worked through the restoration process, I have to tell you that it’s been worth all the pain we went through to be where we are today. We don’t even think about the money we spent on the counseling – which was several thousand dollars. After all, a divorce is far more expensive. We’re rejoicing in the fact that we’re far better today than we ever have been since we got married 13 years ago. I’m thankful we stuck it out.
If you’re struggling in your marriage and would like someone to talk to, contact us. Our counseling department is staffed by fifteen full and part time family counselors who would love to speak with you. They also have access to a National Referral Network of more than 2,100 carefully screened, licensed Christian Counselors.
Mike’s story is a wonderful reminder for me there’s nothing impossible for God. No troubled marriage is beyond His helping hand. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (32:37).