Bill and Anne McDonald met on a blind date in 1944. Both were students at Duke University. They seemed to be “exact opposites,” according to Anne. Still, Bill and Anne – both age 91 – have made it work. They have been married for 68 years. And they’ve never been happier. The McDonalds recently sat for a short interview, and they opened up about the keys to a successful marriage. At the heart of a great marriage, they say, is one thing.
It wasn’t always easy. Their differences presented struggles early on. Anne recollects, “Whenever he said, ‘Let’s dance,’ I said, ‘Not now.’ If he said, ‘Would you like some punch?’ I would say, ‘No, thank you. Let’s dance.'”
Still, Anne thought he was devilishly handsome. Bill, who’d been dating a few women, “immediately dropped them,” she says. The couple spent their first five years of marriage far from family. Two sons would come later, but those early years forced them to rely on each other, working as a team, “to make the foundation for our marriage a success through thick and thin,” Anne added.
Bill says, “We discussed almost everything. One of us would propose something and say, ‘What do you think of this?'” When they couldn’t discuss things – Bill’s 32 years in the Navy required regular stints at sea in the days before cellphones and the Internet – they had to rely on trust.
“I think that’s the most important thing – trust,” says Bill. “We have to trust each other in daily living, when we’re apart. When we’re together, we trust each other for our expertise.”
Do Bill and Anne McDonald know what they’re talking about? I’m guessing yes. You can read a lot of books and articles on what it takes to make for a long and happy marriage. And they give good advice. But I’d rather learn to fly from someone who has flown – a lot. I’d rather learn how to cook from someone who has already done it successfully – a lot. And that’s what makes Bill and Anne worth hearing. They have done marriage well – a lot.
So there you go. According to a couple who has done it well for 68 years – and counting – the key to a great marriage can be summed up in one word.