Mari & Peter

Mari & Peter (Married 34 years):

How did you guys meet?

Mari: At work. I came here from Puerto Rico to get my masters degree at Pepperdine University. He was already out of college and was working. We happen to be at the same place at the same time. I ended up working for him, and we developed a friendship. I was finishing my thesis and had a job waiting for me back home in Puerto Rico. However I knew there was this attraction going and thought, should I pursue this or just move on?  Then we talked about it, he said, 'home is always going to be there why don't you stay a year.' By then I had got a job offer here and decided to stay. And here we are!

Peter: We got married 2 and a half years later in Puerto Rico. I always tease people that I've been married three times to the same woman, LOL! We were married in a Catholic Church in Puerto Rico, we got married in a Greek Orthodox Church here in Redondo Beach the same year, and then on our 20th anniversary, we got married again in the Catholic Church in front of our children.

Mari: It was tough for me to leave everything behind. It was an adjustment. People will sometimes say you're really not an immigrant because you were born and raised in Puerto Rico, you're really an American, but I left everything behind, my family, my little island, some of my traditions. I kind of started over, it was really hard, especially after having children when I became a mom. It was hard not having my family around.  We didn't have children until about 5 years into our marriage. I feel that was helpful. We got used to each other. We were both working full time, it wasn't until we had kids that all of a sudden we started making the friends that we still have now. They have become my family here.

Peter: We have a lot of friends through church and through school. Our kids are all around the same age.

Mari: These friends actually have helped me a lot, they are from other countries, and they have gone through the same adjustments as I have. Peter grew up in Ohio. He is a second generation Greek American. So there is a lot of traditions on his side of his family as well, we have blended that in our marriage.

Peter: On the flip side of being away from family, I know being away from your parents or family can be lonely, but sometimes I think it helped us. Her parents didn't get involved in our marriage and my parents never got involved in our marriage. We had time to grow and figure it out on our own.

Mari: I did try to convince Peter to move to Florida for like 15 years into our marriage though. I finally gave up, LOL! I will say one of the things that helped our marriage and why we still like each other, is that we always made marriage a priority and raised our children to understand that there is their time with us and then there is mommy and daddy time.  We've been going on dates for the last 34 years, once a week we go out on a date. Now that we are empty nesters we go twice a week, LOL! It was a priority always, and yes it was hard when the kids were little because we didn't trust just anyone to stay with our kids, but we made it work. Definitely try to do something with your spouse regularly. Just a couple hours only the two of you. It really helps.

Peter: I think many couples don't date. They get so wrapped up in their children's lives that they get just don't make each other a priority, and they lose that chemistry. 

Mari: You know like us right now, our kids are out of the house. If you go and look it up a lot of parents wait until the kids leave the house, and then they divorce. They realize there was no common interest there anymore. There was no nurturing their marriage during the time their kids were still home. You have to work at marriage. It is not peaches and cream. For us, it hasn't been peaches and cream, but we make it work.

Peter: The other thing that works in our marriage and may not work for other people is although we do spend a lot of quality time together, I think it's good for couples to do their own thing too. I golf and Mari plays tennis. I notice when I talk to some guys sometimes and ask if they want to play golf? They say, I better not. They feel like they can't go out and have their own time.  I believe that's a mistake. Couples should encourage each other to have their own time too.

Mari: I encourage him all the time. When I started playing a lot of tennis, and although he could play with me, I wanted him to find something that he can do on his own and go out with the guys. On Sunday mornings, he plays golf. So I do my own thing. Then I get home make dinner, and we got to mass. That's the other thing, I knew this was very important to me from the get-go, I grew up in a Catholic environment, we would go to mass every Sunday.  I kind of knew I would end up with someone who had a spiritual life. It didn't matter what religion, I just needed to see that he believed in God. We made a choice to get married in a Catholic church and raise our kids Catholic, so we go to mass every Sunday. Whenever we've had hard times, I do believe our faith has helped us and kept us together. We just feel like our spiritual life has helped us a lot in our life.

Peter: I also think, when you start having children the husband and wife have to be on the same page about how you raise them, discipline, how to talk to them. You know we only had two, Mari wanted more, I wanted maybe... less, LOL! But we settled on two which worked out well. You can't have a husband going on seven-day business trips, coming home, and the wife saying, I need you here to help. Yet the husband might tell her she can handle it. That's not being on the same page about how you planned to raise your kids. Kids pick up on all of that stuff.

Mari: I call that mixed messages. Even if we didn't agree with each other, we didn't ever do that in front of the kids. Later we would talk about it, but never in front of the kids, they always heard the same message from us. They knew they couldn't go to him and say, mommy said I couldn't do this, but can I do it? They couldn't play us, they knew we were on the same page.

Peter and I grew up very different. There is a lot of differences. You know if you talk to our children they would say that our marriage should have never worked, LOL!

Peter: We are pretty opposite on the demographic side, she came from a more affluent family in Puerto Rico. Her father is a doctor. I came from a more working-class family, my Dad was a bridge tender, but my parents were always together, and her parents are still together. Whether I've gotten successful or she has gotten successful we never let it get to our head, and we never tried to be people we really were not, but even though you're different on how you grew up, it doesn't matter you still have a good foundation. My parents gave me a good foundation, her parents gave her a good foundation. Educationally and spiritually.

Mari: To be honest in this area were we live, it's pretty affluent, I was the first brown face at our kid's school for a long time. Now it's changed, but I was for a long time the only Latina mom. It took me 8 years with a group of parents to get them to add Spanish to their curriculum. I wanted my children to be diverse, but we choose to live in this area, so it was hard to keep our kids grounded, but I think because of the balance between both of us we were able to do it. Here is a perfect example, when our son turned 16, he didn't get a car. A lot of his friends did. Peter said to him, you have to work for 2 years, then show me the money and I'll help you. Our son was OK with that. They are just more down to earth, and I think it is because of the differences and balance in both of us.

I always wanted to be a mom. I was dying to have babies. I think it was harder for Peter after we had kids because all my attention was going to our son.  We had a conversation because he was upset about how things were. Then later I had a conversation with him when I was back at work. I didn't want to go back, but Peter had just started a business, he was all wrapped up in this work and getting the company going. I'd come home to attend to our son and do housework. So one day he walked in, and I was crying. I said, "I can't do this! I have no family here. I think he could see how bad it was. Then that was IT! After that, he would help me with everything he could. Before that, I just kept hoping he would just get it or see it and help me. I would think, do I really have to tell you that I also, worked all day, that I too am tired. The one thing he did though after our conversation was, he knew I was not getting enough rest during the week so on the weekends, he would take the kids and let me sleep in, it really helped. You have to has these conversations.

Advice for newlyweds:

Mari: My best friend on the day I got married pulled me aside and said, 'I'm going to tell you the secret to marriage. You have to be your husband's wife, husband's friend, husband's lover, and the mother of your children. If you are all those roles all the time, it will always work.' I will say she was right, it has worked for us.

Communication is vital, I think there were times in our marriage where I didn't say anything, I wanted him to know what I was thinking. And you just can't do that, you really have to say what you need or want.

Peter: You hear it so often sometimes, 'marriage is a like a marathon, not a sprint.' Nowadays, I notice sometimes these newlyweds get married, and they're always running to do better than the couple next to them, we have to get a house, we have to go get this. It's OK to walk before you run, what is the rush? Enjoy your life. I notice younger couples want to speed up their definition of success. Let the success come to you, and sometimes it takes a while, but it's OK.

Over the years I just learned about what makes Mari happy.  I listen to what she needs from me. Listening to each other will make a difference.