You want to know the secrets of happy couples?
Then Charles and Linda Musselwhite are the perfect people to ask.
They were high school sweethearts who’ve now been married over 30 years. One of the reasons they’ve managed to make their marriage stick is their attitude.
Not only do they believe in old-fashioned commitment (the kind with no exits), but they also believe couples should get out and have fun together. Travel together. Eat well together. Work out together.
To help more couples do that, they’ve created Fun Loving Couples, a community for committed couples who know that getting out together keeps them together.
Discover what they know about love over the long-term in this week’s YBTV interview.
Please note: The sound fades in and out occasionally. Closed captioning is available.
What You’ll Learn
Complacency is the silent killer for relationships.”
Charles and Linda know what an unhappy marriage feels like.
They both grew up in broken homes. Charles’ parents divorced when he was 3. Linda’s divorced when she was 9.
So when they got together, they made a commitment to each other and to their future kids. They weren’t going to do that. They weren’t going to put their kids through what they’d been through.
“Early on, we vowed that we weren’t going to be another statistic,” Linda says. “We said that if we’re going to commit … that we were going to fight through whatever it was.”
“Even though we thought it was for the kids, it’s actually ended up benefiting us tremendously,” Charles adds.
And that commitment stuck.
Not once during their over 30 years of marriage did they ever consider calling it quits.
What makes Charles and Linda different? Why are they still together while so many others are on their second or third marriages?
For Linda, it all starts with being on the same page.
Linda and Charles were the first in their group of friends to get married. By then, they’d been dating for 4 years. They took that time to get to know one another, to make sure it was right.
“We got a lot of the flak from all of our single and dating friends about ‘life forever‘ and ‘same man, same woman forever,‘” Charles says. “But I think there was something in that for us as well. It made us become more reliant on each other.”
Forever can be a scary word. But it wasn’t to Charles.
I was just so fulfilled, like I felt electric. I never even thought about what’s going to happen next. It was just not even on my radar…. I was never looking for the first moment of ‘hell or high water’ to get out. I was always just: we’re here forever.”
Their marriage wasn’t easy. Like all couples, they had their struggles. They went through the usual challenges of creating a home, having children, building a business, family issues and getting older.
But their attitude never wavered.
“Obstacles are just little speed bumps in the road,” Charles explains. “Things will happen, and you know what? We’ll stop and we’ll recalibrate and get back … on track.”
They had to learn to communicate and work together.
“Communication is key,” Linda says. “Because I can hold in and bottle up my feelings—and so can he—but then we don’t even know what’s going on with one another.”
It’s not so much TALKING to each other as FEELING what’s going on with each other, she explains. “We know when we’re out of sync.”
For Charles, it was a challenge to learn to take his wife’s feedback on board. At first, he would get defensive.
But then he got to thinking, “Why would I be defensive against my spouse, my partner? If I’m doing something that’s irritating her, or I’m doing something that would jeopardize [us] down the road, I really need to be on the same side, as a team.”
He realized that, “Whatever she says, it’s not aimed at me to hurt me necessarily, but it’s something I’ve got to pay attention to and then somehow modify—either my behavior or get her to see my position.”
“The #1 thing is it’s not ME versus YOU,” he adds.
Another strategy that has helped is doing a monthly brainstorming session.
They’d originally started brainstorming for their business, but they realized it would be equally useful in their relationship. Charles calls it “one of the biggest investments that we’ve made in our marriage that’s paid dividends.”
Once a month, they get out of the house, sit down, and have a discussion. They ask each other:
What happened over the last 30 days? What didn’t you like? What did you like? What are we going to do over the next 90 days?”
Teamwork has cemented their marriage.
“Our marriage is stronger now than it ever was way back then,” Charles says. “It was more of an infatuation [at first] … even though we felt we were in love. Now it’s just… I don’t even have a word for it. It’s just a lot deeper. A lot deeper.”
To help other couples, Charles and Linda have created Fun Loving Couples, a community for committed couples who want to grow together.
These couples may be married, dating, or in an alternative relationship, but they share one desire in common:
They want to strengthen their relationship through enjoying new experiences together.
Fun Loving Couples get together at events across the United States. They share information on great places to travel, work out, eat well, and have fun.
While listening to Charles and Linda, I couldn’t help but think there was another reason for their success and longevity as a couple.
Dr. John Gottman famously claims that men who accept their wives’ influence have happier marriages. Most wives take their husband’s opinions and feelings into account automatically, but not all men return the favor. The key to a successful marriage, Dr. Gottman argues, may very well be the husband’s level of emotional intelligence.
After concluding our interview, Charles and Linda and I chatted for a while.
I wished I hadn’t turned off the camera, because Charles said something that, to me, encapsulated the difference between their marriage and so many marriages I see.
He said that when he goes out for dinner with his wife, he wants all the other women in the restaurant to be jealous of her—because of the way HE treats her.
Perhaps that’s the secret right there.
A man who treats his wife like a queen.
Jump to Topics of Interest
2:23 Charles and Linda’s commitment to each other
4:07 Whether they ever considered splitting up
6:11 Why other couples split
8:17 The importance of communication and staying in sync
9:15 Being on the same team
9:58 Monthly brainstorming sessions
10:55 Rewards of being married for so long
12:52 Importance of scheduling regular date nights
15:36 Fun-Loving Couples
About Linda and Charles Musselwhite
Charles and Linda were high school sweethearts who both came from broken homes. But they vowed early on in their relationship to stick it out through thick and thin, no matter what. Over 30 years later, Charles and Linda’s marriage thrives. With their latest venture, Fun-Loving Couples, they love to speak about those issues that can get in the way of marriage and partnerships. Join Fun-Loving Couples.