Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 21, 2002
Marriage calls for constant change
No secret recipe for a good marriage say veteran couple
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Dwight and Yolande Acheson, happily married for 36 years say there is no secret recipe for a good marriage. “I think it’s time and commitment,” says Yolande.
“You have to work at it,” adds Dwight. “A marriage is not something you can take for granted. You have to be prepared to constantly grow and change.”
Dwight married Yolande, his high school sweetheart, in Winnipeg in 1965, a few years after they had broken up. “It was God’s hand that put us together,” he says matter-of-factly.
The couple dated while in high school, but broke up. Dwight joined the air force and thought he would never see Yolande again.
But Providence stepped in to reunite them. One day while on leave, he saw Yolande go by and invited her for coffee. Before they finished their drinks, they were back together again. Dwight and Yolande married two years later. She was 18, he was 20.
The couple raised four children. One son, Curtis, died in a car accident 14 years ago at age 19. The other children are Shawn, 32, Rachel, 20, and Avery 17.
Dwight served in the air force as an electronics engineer and computer specialist for 21 years, retiring in 1984. Since then he has worked at Dow Chemicals as a computer analyst.
Yolande stayed home to raise the children, joining the work force on a part-time basis 15 years ago. She worked in the retail industry until last year, when she became a clerk at Red Deer College.
The Achesons moved to Red Deer in 1984, following Dwight’s retirement from the air force. Before that they lived in Germany, Ontario, Winnipeg and Cold Lake.
“The moves brought us closer together,” says Yolande. Every time they moved, they had only each other to rely on. So “we became each other’s best friends.”
The Achesons also developed traditions to draw them closer together, such as spending Christmas and other important holidays as a family.
But the most important thing of all, they say, is they always treat each other with respect, compassion and love, never taking each other for granted. “You can be comfortable with each other without taking each other for granted,” Yolande says. “You can reach a point where you can say what you want to say without feeling that you are jeopardizing the relationship.”
Dwight adds, “I’ve always put my relationship above my own needs and wants.”
The couple talks to each other as much as possible, spending time being attentive to each other. If something is eating at Yolande, she will say, “Ask me how I feel” and Dwight knows she wants to talk.
“It’s a comfortable situation,” he says. “But I don’t want to give the impression that I know everything about Yolande,” he says. “I’m always discovering new things about her. I don’t tell her always. Sometimes it is something that I treasure in my heart.”
A turning point in the Achesons’ marriage happened at a Marriage Encounter weekend in 1981. “It made me more open because I was a very private person,” admits Yolande. “It was a real eye opener. It teaches you to communicate better and to take responsibility for how you feel. It made things so much nicer.”
The encounter weekend, which the Achesons continue to attend annually in Cochrane, made Dwight realize he could and should change. “If I’m committed to this relationship there are things I should change.”
Marriage is great if you are willing to put in the time and commitment it requires, the couple says.
One big challenge, they say, is children. “They try to put themselves between the spouses,” says Yolande. “That’s where the love is and they want it for themselves,” interjects Dwight. “If you allow them to play one against the other, they’ll pull you apart.”
The Achesons dealt with that by setting up rules, one of which said that if one parent said “no” to a child’s request, the final answer was no, making it a waste of time for the child to try to persuade the other parent.
They also made it a rule to never critique each other in the presence of the children.
The Achesons are members of St. Mary’s Parish and lead marriage preparation courses through the Family Enrichment Centre in the Red Deer area. The team presents up to five workshops a year, during which the Achesons emphasize the need for communication in couples.
“They must be able to speak to one another no matter what and they must be able to listen to one another no matter what,” Dwight stresses.
The other part is the couples’ spiritual life. “Without a spiritual life your journey is going to be more difficult.”
The Achesons learned the importance of couple communication and spirituality when their oldest son was killed in a car accident 14 years ago. “With our ability to communicate and our faith life, we were able to come closer together at the time,” recalls Dwight. “Without either I’m not sure we would still be together.” Statistics show most couples who lose a child end up splitting.
Are couples who share common interests more successful? Not necessarily. “It’s not the common interests that are the key,” Dwight says. “It’s being willing to support the interests of the other, whatever they are.”
Dwight, for example, enjoys singing and he belongs to the church choir. Singing in a choir is not Yolande’s thing, but she still accompanies Dwight to rehearsals and supports choir activities.
Dwight’s niece is soon to be married in New York. Yolande doesn’t want to fly there because of the Sept. 11 attacks. But she is willing to go just because it is important to her husband. “I didn’t want to go but I will go. There are things you do because you do.”