Robert and Rita Boeke, who have been married more than 40 years, take turns telling the story of their marriage in Forever and a Day. Chapter by chapter, each tells – from his or her own perspective — how they first met, or how they learned to deal with money, or how they sought a balance between the time invested in their jobs and in their marriage.
Chapter by chapter the Boekes also challenge readers to relate to these stories. “Where did I find me/us in Bob and Rita’s story?” the authors ask.
Reviewers do not customarily focus on a book’s discussion questions. But I want to point out that the discussion questions crafted for the chapters of this book encourage readers to reflect not only on their problems and difficulties, but on the strengths of their marriage.
For example, guided by these discussion points, spouses will ask, “What do I think are our strengths in the way we make decisions?” Indeed, readers also will reflect on the limitations in their decision-making style, but not without also accenting the positive.
This approach is not surprising, since the Boekes hope “couples in strong marriages who want to enhance and deepen their relationship” will benefit from this book.
If the story of their marriage tells of “love, commitment, growth and trust,” it nonetheless is “not the story of a perfect marriage,” the Boekes explain. They write:
“Relationships are inherently ‘messy,’ as you will see in our story. Sometimes we thought we knew exactly where we were going and what we wanted our marriage relationship to be, but when we look back, much of the time we just bumbled along. Fortunately, we found that bumbling means we are in an active relationship and is the real story of our love.”
The Boekes have presented retreats, workshops and days of enrichment for married couples and priests since 1971. They have been active as leaders at the local, regional and national levels of Worldwide Marriage Encounter. He has been a columnist on religion, and both are long-time teachers, he on the college and high school levels, she on the high school level.
Readers are likely to enjoy Rita’s story about telling Catholic high school students of the decision she and her husband made long ago to delay sexual relations until they married. When she speaks to students about this, they “roll their eyes” and seem to believe “it was so much easier to not have sex when we were dating.” But she tells them: “We had exactly the same decision to make as they do. We had many opportunities and places to have sex had we wanted to do so.”
She adds: “I have no doubt that it was the right thing for us to wait to have sex. I tell my students that it is the best wedding gift I received, and it hasn’t worn out yet.”
This aspect of the Boekes’ story is all the more welcome in light of the fact that, as authors, they do not shy away from stating the importance of the sexual dimension of marriage.
While the Boekes tell the story of their marriage in “Forever and a Day,” they also share their insights about marriage. For example, they write:
“A marriage is greatly enhanced by small, loving acts of kindness and caring that are unexpected and never demanded.” However, “doing things for your spouse” does not have to be expensive. “It can be in the form of words of encouragement, time for themselves or taking care of some small task that they don’t expect you to do.”
“Loneliness or loss of closeness will happen multiple times in your relationship. Having these feelings does not mean that your marriage is over. Recognizing the loss of closeness is the first step in working through it and presents you with an opportunity to revive the dreams you had or create new ones.”
“Friendship, nurturing and caring for it, is important in any relationship. … To maintain the level of closeness and intimacy that we want, Bob and I try to spend time together. It doesn’t mean we have to be joined at the hip.”
The Boekes believe “the world needs to see that couples can love each other for a lifetime. How much you earn and what you do is less important than letting others see your love.” They also are convinced that “if you are enthusiastic about your marriage, it will have a positive impact on others no matter what you do.”