I’m a Jamaican-born immigrant to America where I met a man so elegant and gorgeous, he reminds me of James Bond. After seven years of friendship, when I tried to fix him up with all my most beautiful girlfriends (sometimes they took an instant dislike to each other), we finally realized that we were perfect for each other and got married within six months. We’re now approaching our 28th wedding anniversary, and we love and trust each other more than ever.
Three years into our marriage, we got in our truck and drove 20,500 miles around the country, visiting the spectacular destinations such as the Badlands, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington State. That journey gave us a lot of time to talk and get to know each other even better. When we didn’t have even one blow up, Frank says he knew we would make it.
He had been married twice before and gently shared the lessons he learned. For example, one day he said,
“Honey, there are three of us in this marriage…”
“Wait!” I exclaimed! “I didn’t sign up for that!”
“There’s three of us in the marriage,” he continued unfazed. “There’s you, there’s me, and there’s the relationship. The relationship is made up of how we treat each other, how we speak to each other, and whether or not we make each other our priority.”
Well, that made sense. So we decided that, whatever happened, the two of us would make the decision together, then consider our mothers, our children, and our family and close friends, followed by everyone else.
Another time he said, “You know, each of us is going to go crazy sometimes. But it is very important that we don’t both go crazy at the same time.”
He explained that, if I was upset about something, it would be his job to listen and hear me out, then repeat back to me what he’d heard to make sure he got it right. If he had, he’d explain what had happened to produce that result. If I said he hadn’t got the point, we’d start over. I would do the same for him if he was upset.
Realizing that communication is difficult and that meaning doesn’t come directly from one person’s mouth into another’s head in just the way it is intended, keeps us open to being gently corrected.
I share some of our key principles for a successful, smooth and happy relationship in my brand new book, “From My Jamaican Gully to the World,” which tells the story of our environmental journey resulting in the White House taking action. As a result of our efforts to protect the national parks and share them with all Americans, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum promoting diversity and inclusion in January of 2017.
This Valentine’s Day, I wish everyone the privilege of looking at their partner with new eyes and appreciating what you saw in the beginning. No one is perfect, including you, and once you accept that, the relationship can become much easier and happier.
Read our interview with Audrey Peterman to learn more about her, and Frank, (and how they live on a boat in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) here.