Tips for a lifelong marriage: A WAFF 48 News special report

By Karla Redditte- bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - From Prince William and Kate Middleton, actress Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millipied, even actress Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth, it seems like everywhere you look, love is on the air, leading quite a few people down the aisles to say "I do."

Eric and Rasheba McGowan did just that six months ago after dating for nine years. They met as students at Alabama A&M University. Eric worked in the campus bookstore and Rasheba needed help finding books.

"He was just nice. He was different. He really did help and he was very polite," remembered Rasheba McGowan.

That was just the beginning. Over the years, the two really got to know and understand each other, and that lead to their 2009 engagement.

"I had props with my proposal. I had a speech for my proposal," said Eric McGowan.

[Marriage proposal ideas]
He had all his bases covered, and pictures to prove it. However despite all the bells and whistles that come along with many proposals and weddings, the one thing these two really wanted the most was a lasting marriage.

"I kind of knew he was the one a long time ago," said Rasheba McGowan.

But if they were looking to North Alabama for huge examples of happily-ever-after marriages, they would be disappointed.

When it comes to last year's divorce filings, Madison County lead the way with 1,507, followed by Limestone County at 871, Lauderdale County at 531, DeKalb County at 442, and Colbert County at 349.

These may not be considered major numbers, but they are big enough to question what's going wrong.

"It's just too easy to get married, and too easy to get divorced," said Madison County Circuit Court Judge William Bell.

For almost eight years now, Judge Bell has granted over 60-percent of the divorces in Madison County.

"The most commonly used ground for divorce is called incompatibility of temperament. And all that takes is one party getting on that witness stand and saying I'm unhappy, and the law requires that I grant a divorce," explained Judge Bell.

Since the laws make it so easy to "undo" your "I do," Judge Bell has proposed legislation to make pre-marital counseling mandatory and to give people an option to enter a covenant marriage, which means there would be more of a waiting period before a divorce is granted.

"I see very few cases in my opinion that come through my court, that could not have been saved with a little effort and a little work," said Judge Bell.

A little effort is what the McGowans put into their relationship before they officially became husband and wife.

"I knew before we got married that pre-marital counseling was a must," said Rasheba McGowan.

But after that big day of fancy dresses, tuxedos, flowers, and all of the other ceremonial trimmings, it takes more than just love to keep a marriage from becoming one of the nearly 50% that end in divorce.

Another North Alabama couple's love story began back in 1969. That's when Wayne Reynolds returned from Vietnam, enrolled in Columbus State University, and met Carol, one of the prettiest girls on campus.

They dated for six weeks, got engaged, and married nine months after that. They said it was like a dream.

"You get married with the expectation that everything is always perfect," said Wayne Reynolds.
The newlyweds quickly woke up from that dream.

"I don't think it matters whether you have know each other for a year or ten years, you still don't always see the things that you experience in day-to-day contact and living in the same house," said Carol Reynolds.

After almost 41 years of marriage, this Athens couple has been through the ups and downs of matrimony. They've tackled the big issues like finances and children. Wayne was happy with one child, while Carol wanted one more.

"I wasn't certain I wanted another one and we did wait eight years. We had our son eight years later," said Wayne Reynolds.

Situations like these have torn many marriages apart, but the Reynolds were determined not to become a statistic,

"You have to forgive a lot, you have to compromise a lot, and you have to talk a lot," recommended Wayne Reynolds.

"I think it's too easy these days for couples to think well, if this doesn't work out, I can get a divorce and move on," added Carol Reynolds.

The military also has a high rate of divorce, and many say that helps to contribute to such high divorce rates in Madison County.

"In Madison County, most people can have a pretty comfortable life, living off of one income. So people don't feel the extreme need to try to keep relationships together because you don't have to stay together to support each other financially," said relationship coach Joneia Brown.

Brown says studies over the years prove technology, along with recent television programming like reality shows, have made it easier for married couples to throw in the towel.

"They are programming people to believe that relationships are easy to acquire and if it doesn't work out, then you have a long line of people standing there wanting to be with you. And usually, that's not the case," said Brown.

She says like anything else, relationships take work, and you have to put forth an effort, whether it's seeking professional guidance or using technology to the fullest.

"Instead of using the internet to try to hook up with someone else, why not write poems and send an email to your significant other? You know, when people are chatting on Facebook, when you see your significant other, send little flirty chats to each other. Text each other throughout the day or spend time to call each other throughout the day," suggested Brown.

The Reynolds agree that communication is key to a happy and long lasting marriage.
"None of us can read the other person's mind," said Carol Reynolds. "I think that every young couple must go into a marriage with an idea that this is forever, and that we're going to do everything we can to make it work."

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