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As the flowers and chocolates of Valentine’s Day are quickly replaced by shamrocks and Easter baskets, it’s a reminder of how fleeting love can be. However, it’s fair to say the couples living at The Legacy Willow Bend retirement community are a testament to the meaning of true love and commitment as they reflect on their love stories. These couples are reflecting on years filled with laughter, change, hardship, compromise, trust and love as they navigated the adventure of marriage. Stephanie and Tom Jones are approaching their 36th wedding anniversary on May 14. Martin and Ruth Litwin recently celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary on February 10.

“Martin and I met in San Antonio while he was in the ROTC,” said Ruth Litwin. “He was in college at the time and I was still in high school, oddly enough we were even seeing other people. Our paths wouldn’t cross again for a couple of years, but when we met again it all kind of fell into place. I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, it took some time to realize this was it, and I think that’s how it should be. We dated for seven months before Martin proposed, and now here we are 66 years later. I’ve found that having a sense of humor and a willingness to laugh even during the tougher moments has been so valuable to our marriage. Life is stressful, there’s always something you’re going to have to face with one another, and if you can do it with a little bit of humor it makes it easier. Life is wonderful, and we’re lucky to spend it together.”

“I’ve been asked the secret to a long marriage and it’s simple: I do everything she wants,” joked Martin Litwin. “Over the years, we’ve learned that it’s important to be open and honest with one another and truly dedicated to the person you’ve chosen to walk through life with. Both people have to listen and pay attention to their partner and be prepared to grow. Their needs and wants become your own, it’s no longer just about you and what you hope to achieve, but what you’ll accomplish together. Looking back on the life we’ve had, it’s hard to believe it’s really been this long, and I’m thankful for each moment. Life is an adventure, and you have to live it with the knowledge that each day brings something new. Marriage it one of the most difficult things you will ever take on, and you have to be prepared for that commitment. It’s a give-and-take that if done willingly makes the journey all the more enjoyable.”

Today, the Litwins are continuing their story at The Legacy Willow Bend, and often reflect on their marriage. The couple has found the most special moments in their journey revolved around their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Whether they were moving, tackling the always-challenging family vacation, preparing for graduations, births or weddings, each moment was filled with laughter and love.

The Litwins’ neighbors Stephanie and Tom Jones met after being set up by a mutual acquaintance. At the time, Tom did his best to dismiss his coworker’s efforts to persuade him to allow the setup. However, during a four-day sales conference they were attending he was slowly worn down and agreed to give Stephanie a call. Though Tom jokes about it, he made a point of telling his coworker there would be “trouble” if everything went poorly during the date.

“I admired the tenacity of our friend and thought if he’s this determined to make it happen then this woman must be something special,” said Tom Jones. “The first time she answered the phone I heard the sweetest French accent that I’d ever heard in my life and I’ll never forget the moment I glanced up at the second-story balcony as I walked toward the entrance of her apartment. It was then that I saw a beautiful goddess with flowing golden hair standing below a beautiful chandelier. The light reflected in such a way that it created an aura around her hair that I swear looked like a halo. My God, I thought, I’d seen pictures of angels, but never before had I actually seen one in person. It was then I said a little prayer which was, ‘God, please let that angel be Stephanie.’ I immediately added, ‘And God, if that isn’t her, can you please let that be her sister.’ When she answered the door and it turned out to be her, I said a silent prayer of thanks. We went to a fancy French restaurant for dinner, and I was absolutely smitten before the end of the meal.”

“It’s safe to say it was love at first sight for the both of us,” said Stephanie Jones. “That evening was something special as we sat and got to know one another and shared our stories. It was one of the easiest conversations I’ve ever had, it was simple and we didn’t have to pretend to be anything other than who we were. We had similar stories, we were both divorced and felt that we had nothing we needed to hide from the other even on the first date. We met at the end of October, were engaged by December and have been happy ever since. From the moment we met we’ve understood one another and have trusted the other completely. We’ve never been jealous and don’t allow a bad word between us.”

According to the Jones couple, in their almost 36 years of marriage they have never had a fight. They attribute this to their desire to always discuss what’s bothering the other and work it out immediately. One way they practice this is through their agreement to never go to bed angry. Every night before the couple goes to bed they make a point to discuss anything on their mind prior to sharing a good night kiss and holding hands before falling asleep. Stephanie and Tom believe that it’s important to be patient and honest with one another and willing to compromise.

“The life we continue to share is truly special and one that I wouldn’t trade for anything,” said Tom. “Both of us learned a long time ago that it’s not all about you and being selfish won’t make for a happy marriage. You’re not trying to one-up the other, but attempting to coexist in harmony. My advice to couples today would be simply to support each other and be honest. Marriage and relationships are so much easier when you can trust the other person. Unconditional love means sacrifice and that’s something that we’ve done daily throughout and will continue for years to come.”

“Love is often accompanied by spectacle and displays of affection, but we all know that it takes more to have a lasting relationship with your partner,” said Laura Levy, executive director of The Legacy Willow Bend. “We are inspired by the love stories we witness our residents live out each day and wish for everyone to experience the romance of a lasting relationship.” 

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