September 19, 2014

Pillow Talk

"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship than a good marriage," Martin Luther wrote in 1569. That enduring ideal is what makes every wedding so joyous, and every bride so radiant with hope. Of course, it helps when the bride is dressed in a gown as gorgeous as those we've showcased in this issue, and when the wedding takes place-as so many do these days-in a romantic Gulfshore setting. Couples come from all over the world to wed here, with family and friends flying in for the happy event-or series of events, since these "destination" weddings are often extravagant productions stretching over several days.

But as any experienced wedding planner can tell you, a lavish wedding is no predictor of a successful marriage. With so much love in the Southwest Florida air, we asked some pros-from happy couples to a divorce attorney-how to make the marriage last.

Marco Island's Don Farmer and Chris Curle met when he was an ABC bureau chief and she was a Houston TV anchor covering a school board meeting that turned into a brawl. "I was chasing rioters with my camera crew when I saw her and yelled, 'Hey, what are you doing after the riot?'" recalls Don. Their 33-year marriage has included 18 years of co-anchoring, including at CNN, where Don says they developed their winning marital strategy: "We decided to limit our arguments to the two-minute commercial breaks." He also credits "two cars, two bathrooms and Chris' amazing ability to start every day with a fresh slate."

Before Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Rick Medlocke met his fiancée, Lily Darby, "it was hard for me to trust and find someone to trust." But trust is essential in a career that kept Medlocke on the road for 200 days last year. He says they counter those separations by "keeping a low pro" when he comes home to Fort Myers, savoring their private life and "ruthlessly" refusing to make it public.

Nancy Lascheid, a nurse, and her husband, Bill, a physician, enjoyed working together for years because they're best friends as well as lovers, she says. But their marriage got a new burst of vitality when they decided, the day after they retired in 1999, to dedicate the next five years to providing low-cost indigent care in Naples. Building that idea into today's 14,000-square-foot Neighborhood Health Clinic staffed by 500 volunteer nurses and doctors drew on all their skills-his patience and optimism and her "get-it-done" drive-and fused them into a deeper "oneness," she says.

Netherlands-born chef Salomon Montezinos, whose restaurants in Philadelphia, Palm Beach and other cities have won top honors (USA Today named one the top French restaurant in the country), is a "creator" who "thinks with my heart" and loves togetherness. His American wife, Judy, has an analytical mind and an independent spirit. And those differences, they say, make their three-year-old marriage work. "She has the things I'm missing," he explains. Now the new Naples residents are merging their talents into a catering and private chef business.

After handling hundreds of divorces, Naples attorney Toni Horne advises, "Know the person you're marrying." She and civil engineer Gary Butler followed that advice, dating three years before deciding to wed this June. With hectic work lives, they schedule formal date nights, taking a taxi so they can enjoy drinks and dinner in a restaurant. She's learned something else from her clients: Resenting your new spouse's ex or kids "will put a wedge between you faster than anything else." Instead of mothering Butler's children, "it's my job to be their friend and spoil them."

Stay-at-home dad and novelist Ad Hudler says he and his wife, Carol, publisher of Fort Myers' News-Press, had "a year to test a marriage," with her job expanding to vice president of Gannett's Southern region just as it was hit by four hurricanes; a home remodeling; a book deadline; and a daughter turning 14. They weathered it, he says, by resolving to give each other more support. Ad now makes sure to ask Carol about her work, providing a much-needed sounding board; and when his deadline loomed, she sent him off to his alma mater, the University of Nebraska, where he holed up in the library and pounded out 45 pages in two weeks. They also started running together in the mornings. "You'll have bad months and bad years," he says. "Marriage is not always fun. But it is rewarding. You know each other better than anyone, and you help each other grow."

-Pam Daniel, Editorial Director

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