|Part of Judith and Stephen’s fun is clowning at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Daughter Natalie, left, joins them.|
What makes a marriage work?
The question has different stages.
What sparks the romance that leads to the marriage?
What brings a couple together?
And then what keeps a couple together for the decades that follow?
Fifty years ago, Judith and Stephen Camen never would have become a couple if Stephen minded having to make the two-hour trek by subway from Queens to the Bronx.
A week before mutual friends arranged for the two 17-year-olds to meet, they had introduced Judith Geller to another fellow. She had fun on that date, but the boy said the distance was too far.
Stephen, though, decided that Judith was worth the ride.
Interboro transit wasn’t the only obstacle they faced. There also was the fact that his family had money and hers didn’t.
“My husband’s parents did not want him to marry me,” Judith recalled. “Our wedding was a disaster. We paid for the wedding ourselves. It was challenging.”
Eventually her mother-in-law came around.
The young couple lived in the Bronx. After three years, their daughter, Natalie, was born, and the family moved to Coop City. Ten years later, they moved to Fair Lawn.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to their marriage came seven years later. The couple started a business together, and shortly thereafter, with Natalie getting ready to head off to college, Judith discovered that she was pregnant.
“Brian ended up being the best gift we ever received,” she said. “Today he’s 28 years old and married two and a half years,” she said.
As for running a business with a spouse, “It’s a challenge. It can make you or break you. We know many couples who are divorced because they couldn’t work together.
“We have different roles in the business so we don’t bump heads. It’s a collective effort,” she said.
The years have changed them, she said, and in a good way.
“I’ve become more outgoing,” she said. “My husband came out of his shell. He was very quiet and withdrawn; he’s an extrovert right now. We do a lot more charity work. We work a lot harder than we ever had.”
And as for how to have a happy marriage?
“It’s no secret,” she said. “We have fun. Make it fun every day. Make each other laugh.”
For the Camens, it’s also about making other people laugh. They are volunteer clowns for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
“It is so much fun putting smiles on the spectators’ faces,” she said.
“My husband always says that working on the marriage is another job. He’s absolutely right. You must put an effort to keep the lines of communication open at all times. Make sure those doors are open, that you don’t close down, because it’s very easy to happen. You have to be open and honest,” she said.
The Camens’ immediate family members, however, were not successful with their marriages. Between the two of them, they have six siblings. “Every one of them, brother and sister, was divorced,” Judith said. “We were the only one that made it.
“I think people give up too quickly. I really do. Even today, I think the young people, they have an argument, and the marriage is over. They don’t even give it a try,” she said.
Judith thinks her marriage is different from her parents’ and her in-laws’.
“I think we’re much more understanding,” she said. “They did not treat each other with respect. Their wives were very demanding. It wasn’t a give-and-take.”