Wednesday, March 21, 2007

60 Years of Wisdom in Couple's Advice by Dr. Alan Singer

I can't tell you how inspiring it was to interview the Levys for this essay that was published on 3/21/07 in the Home News Tribune.

To see this essay on the SmartMarriages website click here.

Martin and Leah Levy recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. I interviewed them to learn a thing or two. In their home, the photos are grouped demographically. Photos of their children are in one room, photos of their grandchildren are in another, and the great-grandchildren are in a third. Leah is very organized and explains, "My granddaughter told me I am "squared off' because everything goes in an exact place."

I would be doing you a disservice if I paraphrased or interpreted what they said. Instead, I'll just quote the wisdom that comes from the 60-year partnership of this beautiful couple.
Martin and Leah described how they met and dated. Leah: "My mother picked my husband out. After a date, we came home and I'd go to sleep. He would talk to my mother for hours."
Martin: "I would tell Leah's mother everything we did on the date; she was like a mother to me. How many boys have two mothers?"

Leah adds: "My mother knew Martin was the best for me. Now, at my age with my illness, he is the best person that could ever be born. He treats me like gold. When we started out, I took care of him because he worked night and day. Now he cares for me."

Martin describes dating to his grandchildren: "You look someone in the eyes. If someone talks to you and looks you straight in the face, you know that they have a certain amount of honesty. I ask about their mother, their father, how they deal with their grandparents, and I learn about their family attitude. Generally, family matters are a good mark. I want to know if they have a love and closeness to their family, if they honor their grandparents and if they feel that they are special."

Martin told his grandson, "You look for a human being — someone that when you wake up in the morning and you see her disheveled, she still looks beautiful to you. Each morning I wake up and say to my wife, "Good morning, Mrs. Levy' " He told his granddaughter, "One bad thing in the world is that people talk to each other but they're not saying what they really want to say. They talk around the truth because they're hiding their own (Leah inserts: inadequacies). As they talk to each other, they blink their eye, shake their head. Things are bothering them, but they don't say it."

What are the key ingredients of a good marriage? Leah: "When you express anger in a marriage, you're really hurt, not angry. I learned with my husband as we matured, that instead of saying, "I'm angry with you,' I tell him, "You know something? You really hurt me.' When you tell someone you're angry, he gets angry back at you. When you say, "You hurt me,' he asks why and you explain it. Anger is not good."

Leah also stressed the importance of showing appreciation to her husband by preparing for his return from work. "Each night I dressed up like we were going out to dinner," Leah explained. "I combed my hair and put on a nice dress. He came in the door to a nice dinner that I cooked. Martin told me that he could bring any of his co-workers home for dinner without notice, because I would have a meal on the table and look beautiful. It's necessary in a marriage for a woman to show her husband that he's important enough that she prepares for his nightly arrival."

Martin: "The most important thing in marriage is to remember that your wife is a person. Many men take their women for granted. You don't like to be ignored, don't ignore her. Pay attention, and show you're conscious of who she is and that she means a lot to you." Martin concluded, "I tell my grandchildren — you and your spouse are human beings and cannot ignore each other. If you have a problem, tell the other person and never go to sleep unless you solve whatever problem you have, because when you wake up, tomorrow starts a new day."

With such wisdom, I assumed that friends who knew about their anniversary would ask for marriage advice. "Not really," says Martin. "People ask me advice if their air conditioner or heat stops working, because I was in that business for many years."

Be Counted columnist Dr. Alan Singer blogs at He is a marriage therapist in Highland Park and can be reached at