On Marriage, Part I: Ralph and Suzanne Roberts

How does a couple married more than seven decades keep the romance alive? Ralph and Suzanne Roberts reveal how they’ve made love last.

Courtesy of the Roberts family.

Courtesy of the Roberts family.

SUZANNE: We’ve been married for 72 years. You need a wonderful love — and a super sex life. But when you get up in your 90s, sex becomes a wish. So you need a sense of humor. You have to realize that bad things are inevitable, so if you can learn to appreciate the good things, and use humor to get through the bad, you’re going to be pretty okay. He can make me laugh. Even now, we remind each other every night how lucky we are to have each other. And we never go to sleep without a kiss.

RALPH: With each other, that is. [laughs]

SUZANNE: What’d he say?

RALPH: That’s the sense of humor.

SUZANNE: And saying “I love you.” In addition, we share a banana. Someone once told us that the potassium in bananas would help prevent leg cramps during the night, and we found that advice has been very good. We’re at that point where it’s not “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” That might have been true some years ago, but today it’s different. It’s appreciation of every moment you have.

RALPH: We’ve memorialized two words that others seem to emulate, and that is, “Yes, dear.”

SUZANNE: I think, seriously, there is a lot of give-and-take. It isn’t one gives, the other takes. It’s a lot of compromise to making it work. And if we go to bed angry, fortunately Ralph has never remembered what we were angry about come the next morning. And it has nothing to do with the fact that he’s 94; he’s always been that way. Ain’t I lucky?

RALPH: I always seem to be the one who breaks the impasse, if there is an impasse. Because I place things in relative importance. Some things are important and some are not.

SUZANNE: Now, we were just married 72 years. Ralph said to me, “What do you think about getting some lovebirds? I’d like to give you one as a gift for our anniversary.” And I said, “I think that’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard!” So we went out a couple days later, and here are the two lovebirds. That’s Ralph, the white one, and the yellow one is me.

RALPH: I thought something symbolic of the anniversary would be appropriate. And I usually look for things that bind the two of us together.

SUZANNE: How many shirts and sweaters and socks can you give a person? The same person?

RALPH: Suzanne is one of the most remarkable people that any of us can possibly

SUZANNE: I know that I love Ralph in so many more ways now [than when we first got married], as I learned to know him more through the years. He shows me today such complete love that it’s astounding. It so deeply affects me. And I know it’s real, and I think that has to do with age and
longevity and the multitude of experiences through life.

RALPH: One way it can be seen is that I promote Suzanne’s talent. If I could get her a rose somewhere, I would go out of my way to go try to get it. Or if I could give her a little show, I would try and do it. Because I would feel that I made her happier. And she is a woman, being a theatrical-type person, who enjoys being recognized.

SUZANNE: He used to go to every performance I had, and laugh or cry. I don’t know how he did it.

RALPH: A part of the success of our business, I think, from the part that I’ve played in it, is that I appreciate the skill of others and getting a job well done. And that’s part of — not necessarily that’s the marriage — but the same elements are unconsciously there.

SUZANNE: Ralph, I can’t hear you.

RALPH: [clears his throat, bangs on the table, and booms] HELLO, MY DEAR!

SUZANNE: [laughs] Yeah! That was wonderful! If you could talk like that, I’d never have a problem!

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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