|Fred and Marcia Schulman have enjoyed skiing.|
Fred and Marcia Schulman of Teaneck have been married for 27 years. A few years ago, in our Bashert column, this paper reported on their saga of missed connections, of a would-have-happened blind date if only the call had been made, of a re-encounter seven years later where no immediate spark was struck … except for the seeds of friendship, which began to grow into something more.
“Really appreciating everything the other person does is very important,” Marcia said. Also important: “Making sure you find time to laugh together, that you are considerate of the other person’s needs. If you get angry, it’s very important to always take a time out and not say anything you’ll regret because that’s something the other person will always remember.
“I can’t say there are a lot of things I’ve said over 28 years I’ve regretted,” she said. “And I don’t remember him saying anything very hurtful to me.”
“Not that we don’t have our disagreements or fights,” Fred added.
Here’s his secret: “I think I always appreciated her basic goodness, and as time went on I realized that she’s a better person than I am. I always appreciated her, never taking anything for granted,” he said.
“The question is how do you deal with things,” Marcia said. “Do you fight with anger when you disagree? I think you have to realize that you can disagree but you don’t want to hurt the other person.”
“When you go through life, just appreciate the person’s good characteristics. Take the time to think back and ask, ‘What would I be like without her,'” Fred said.
“He improved my life a hundred percent,” Marcia said. “I just think it’s important not to take anything for granted.
“Anybody who is living in a house has built something together. They’ve earned money together, they’re sharing their belongings – that’s not to be taken for granted.”
Some of these lessons they learned when they had their first frightening quarrel – on the plane back from their honeymoon. They had been married for just one month.
At issue: Where would they spend Rosh Hashanah?
Someone advised them to see a marriage counselor. They did, for ten sessions.
“He was very helpful to us,” Marcia said. “He showed us how to see the other person’s perspective. The other person might be very different from you, and have very different needs, but you can understand and have compassion for the fact the other person has a need different from yours.
“If each person can fulfill the other person’s needs, it will work out.
“What makes her happy ultimately makes me happy,” Fred said. “You have to come to the realization that what’s good for the other person is ultimately good for me, even if at the moment it’s hard.”
“If one person wins, then the other person loses and everybody loses,” Marcia said. “You need everybody to feel good about the outcome of a situation.”
Their parents helped the couple work out conflicts.
“He would talk to his mother and his mother would say ‘she’s right,’ Marcia reported. And my mother would say ‘he’s right.'”
One technique for avoiding conflict: Dividing up responsibilities “so we don’t have to have a negotiation about everything,” Marcia said.
“He was in charge of the religious things. Whenever the kids would ask a religious question growing up, I would say ‘ask your father.'” Because Fred worked for CitiBank, it proved very complicated to consolidate their bank accounts. It turned out that “having separate money also helped” avoid conflicts, she said.
“We think very carefully how we spend money,” Fred said. “We’re fairly conservative in that.”
Money had been a source of conflict in his parents’ marriage, he added.
“My parents were very dependent on each other, and I’m sure they loved each other, but I do remember growing up there was a lot of tension in the house. Most of it had to do with money and things like that. I’ve tried to steer my life away from that.
“In old age, my father got sick and my mother was the caregiver. When my mother suffered a fatal stroke, my father was lost. He survived only another year or two,” he said.
Marcia’s memories of growing up are more pleasant. “Music was very important in my house,” she said. “I have memories of my parents singing together, singing with some of their friends. Those aspects of harmony – not just in terms of music, in terms of life – is something I learned from them.”
The Schulmans have three children. Two daughters are in college; their oldest child, a son, married this summer. Unlike his parents, he didn’t wait, but got married right out of college. Not for him his parents’ lengthy sojourn as singles on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.