Sam and Judy Wilkinson (Picture by Dominique Bonnett.)
There is no formula or template for a successful marriage. And after almost 49 years of marriage, Sam and Judy Wilkinson know that full well.
In fact, this couple believes it takes two people committing daily to loving and understanding each other for any relationship to work.
Sam and Judy were married on December 18, 1969, and have been through it all. Their story isn’t the usual love at first sight fairy tale. It was a more gradual type of love . . . a journey that allowed them to become each other’s friend first before getting romantically involved.
They met each other after a “set-up” from a mutual friend.
“At that time I was teaching at Bay Primary Boys School. There was a teacher [Laburn Sampson]there at the time who called me his little sister and we became very close. When he was going to be married, he brought all his clothes for me to see and he told me he was going to find a husband for me. From that day he used to call me Mrs Wilkinson. But I didn’t know Sam at the time.”
“Laburn went and told Sam I said I wanted to meet him before he took me to the wedding. Which was not true. He arranged everything for Sam to come visit my house for lunch and that’s how we met. We went to the wedding and found that all of Sam’s friends were my friends and everything he did in his church I did in mine. We had something in common from day one,” Judy said.
That wedding invitation set the tone for a lifelong friendship and later marriage.
But initially, a very focused Sam told EASY magazine he wasn’t interested in getting to know anyone at that time.
“I was very defensive when I first met her. I was also sports-oriented in addition to work. So, meeting someone for the very first time I didn’t set about to find out who she was or anything like that,” he said.
But after realising that she was one of a kind, nothing could stop Sam from getting to know her.
“There was an extreme pleasantness about the whole thing that appealed to me and a courtesy that really was reflective of someone who had a special type of character. I never thought it was just for the occasion; I thought it was genuine. The natural process
of communication and appreciation followed. I think that the common thread that ran through it is we were both involved in church so there was a very strong binding about the things I wanted to accept and didn’t want to accept.
“A self-evaluation said to me, this is a really honest and pleasant person and it’s really good to meet honest and pleasant people who have similar backgrounds,” Sam explained.
The couple were married three years later on December 1969.
In the interview at their home in Goodland, Christ Church, the couple reflected on their marriage and how they made it work for so many years.
“Married life has been interesting. There are quite a lot of myths when it comes to marriage and how people associate themselves. I think the key thing to marriage is a question of how one respects the other.
“I think respect is a critical part of marriage. Respect people’s views, respect them as they are, understand why people do things sometimes – which isn’t always easy or straightforward. One of the successes of a marriage is not to be to judgmental about things. You have to be tolerant about most things because you are dealing with human beings who see things differently, who behave differently,” Sam said.
Judy said that for her the key to making it work was forgiveness.
“Trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the major parts of a marriage. You’re not going to agree to everything your spouse does. But if you have God in you, you would know that things happen. They’re pains, hurts and problems but you would know how to solve them,” she said.
And though the couple seemed to have figured the key to making love last, they stressed that they don’t lecture their two children, Samantha and Barry, about how to live their married lives.
“We don’t pass down our advice to our children by lecture. It’s more demonstrative. I will never be the one to get into lecturing my kids. A successful marriage has got to be determined by two people with different behaviours, two people who must understand who they are and what they want. Each one has to decide what they want to achieve and go about it based on some amount of guidance.
“To me, the guidance is to see what is practical in your relationship, what is fair, what is just and, above all, how best you can interpret those characteristics. I don’t believe you should go out of that to prove a point by trying to be extraordinary one day and then very ordinary the next day. Those extremes have got serious consequences. You have got to be pretty consistent in demonstrating honesty of approach.
“They can’t copy us to do what we have done. You can mirror us to see what we are doing and if it fits into your scheme of things then you will do it. What I accept and what Judy accepts may not be what others accept,” Sam said.
Judy agreed, adding that there was no blueprint to a successful marriage, but offered some advice to young couples on what not to do.
“Do not go to bed angry at each other. The younger people need to not get and buy a king-size bed. Always buy a double bed. The closeness and togetherness and love are very important. If you and your husband have a misunderstanding, which will happen, and you come and sleep one side of the bed and him the next and then it goes on for days, then there’s a drift between you.
“When you have the closeness and that touch, that works wonders. People come and tell you things but you don’t know how someone is living in their house. People might want to come and tell you how to live and so on but you can’t listen to everyone,” Judy stressed. (DB)