Love at first sight is exhilarating, and flowers, cards and chocolates on Valentine’s Day are wonderful. They aren’t, however, enough to keep a marriage strong and lasting, according to the happily married couples honored at the Master Chorale of Washington’s Candlelight, Wine and Song benefit last Thursday: House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and his wife, Christine (who have been together 34 years); radio host Diane Rehm and her husband, John (42 years); Walter L. Cutler , president of the Meridian International Center, and his wife, Didi (two decades); and Sen. Bill Frist and wife Karyn (two decades).
Faith in God, patience and open communication are the keys to keeping love alive over the long haul, the longtime husband-and-wife teams noted as they chatted with friends in the heart-bedecked ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel.
“There have been times when I haven’t liked Tommy, but I have always loved God,” Mrs. DeLay said. “When you have made a promise to God, you’re committed to make it work.”
Mrs. Rehm pointed rather appropriately to communication as one of the most important keys to making a marriage work.
“You have to talk about the tough issues, including sex, children, money and religion. … You can’t let them fester and build. It’s better to slam doors, swear or get outside help.” (She and her husband have written a book about their marriage, titled “Toward Commitment,” which will be published by Knopf in the fall.)
Organizer Lynda Webster, wife of former FBI and CIA chief William H. Webster, said the awardees are chosen through a screening process (which she, in the best secret-agent fashion, did not reveal) to make sure theirs is “true” love.
“We don’t want to honor a couple and then it turns out one of them is having an affair,” Mrs. Webster said. “We want happy, married couples with integrity.”
The event raised about $100,000 for the Master Chorale, whose director, Donald McCullough , got to tell the stories of how the couples met. The DeLays, for example, were high school students in Texas when Mrs. DeLay fell for her future husband who was wearing black cowboy boots, tight jeans and a shirt with turquoise roses at first sight.
“I was hot,” Mr. DeLay admitted as his wife nodded. “The rest of the story is that she was going out with a friend of mine, Frog. But Frog was moving and asked me to take care of her and I have, for the past 38 years.”