Randy and Karen are both successful professionals. They have been married for twenty-two years and have three children.
QUESTION: How did you meet?
KAREN (laughing): We met at a party and started dancing wildly together.
QUESTION: What did you think of each other the first time you met?
RANDY:... that she looked like a beautiful Indian princess and I definitely wanted to meet her.
KAREN: He looked like a lot of fun -- sort of wild and crazy and when I discovered he loved to travel like me, I was intrigued.
QUESTION: When did you realize that there was something deeper here than just a casual relationship?
KAREN: It just evolved. I wasn’t thinking at first about getting into a serious relationship.
RANDY: From the moment I met Karen, I knew I wanted to be with her. We spent our first evening together celebrating Richard Nixon’s resignation. We laughed, talked and..... It was wonderful.
QUESTION: When did you get more serious?
KAREN: When I decided not to go into the Peace Corps so I could be with Randy, I knew it was serious.
RANDY: It was very compatible from the beginning. We liked the same things, we laughed a lot and it felt very right to be with Karen.
KAREN (laughs): I must say I was a bit concerned at his casual, rather irresponsible ways. He would drive through a blizzard with bald tires, laughing as the car would slide all across the road. I think he liked to shake me up. Randy likes playing the irreverant little boy. I was concerned that he was seriously irresponsible, but he was so much fun that I didn’t worry about it too much, and I didn’t want to get into conflict.
QUESTION: Does that mean that in a successful relationship you should avoid conflicts?
KAREN (laughs): If it does, you’d better go interview someone else. We went through an initial stage of having to learn that it was a normal part of a successful relationship to have conflicts.
RANDY: I think that it’s impossible to have a relationship without conflict, but the fact of the matter is that in the first year that we were together, we had no conflicts. There was nothing to fight about. We shared the same interests, friends....
KAREN: ...and our families were far away. I think that helped. Our relationship was able to grow without interference from our families.
QUESTION: Were there no differences between you?
RANDY: Yes, she was very organized and efficient... Karen, unlike me, doesn’t have any annoying habits. There’s only one thing wrong. She’s a much less easygoing person than I am. (Turning to Karen) You lose your temper more easily.
KAREN: Right, because you do more things to annoy me.
RANDY: You can be very tense at times, and very confrontational.
KAREN: I know. It’s a good thing that you’re easy going. You just let me blow off steam, instead of letting me escalate. You let me scream and yell and throw things around...
RANDY: You don’t throw things around...
KAREN:...you used to let it escalate.
RANDY: Well, I have to admit that you’re usually right about the things that bother you......
KAREN: That’s the first time you ever said that...
RANDY: That’s not true...
KAREN: Let me go back to something. The fact that you corrected me when I said that I throw things around and you said that I don’t -- it’s like you’re protecting me from being too harsh with myself.
RANDY: An important thing is that I’m really very proud of Karen’s successes...
KAREN: ...and vice versa.
RANDY: I like bragging about how bright and talented she is and how successful she is in her work. I think that can be an area of conflict for couples...
KAREN: It’s a big problem in a relationship when one person feels like he’s being overshadowed by his partner.
QUESTION: Did things change when you had kids?
KAREN: Well, we had been together for seven years before we had kids...
QUESTION: Why did you wait so long?
KAREN: We wanted to establish ourselves professionally and to travel before we took on the responsibility of having a family. Of course, it’s a trade-off. By then I was over thirty, and we had two kids close together. I think it would have been easier to start in my twenties. On the other hand, we were really solid as a couple before we became parents.
QUESTION: Would you recommend that to every couple?
RANDY: Not necessarily. I just think the couple needs to know one another...
QUESTION: And it took you seven years to get to know one another?
RANDY: No, our relationship was probably ready for kids before that. We just wanted to wait for other reasons.
QUESTION: Why do you think your marriage works?
KAREN: I think because our goals are the same, both short and long-term and we respect each other.
RANDY: The other thing is, we’re good friends. There are times we’re less close, but underneath it all, there’s a sense of being very connected to each other
KAREN: We still like to do the same things and we enjoy being together.
QUESTION: How do you get through the times that you’re "less close"?
KAREN: We’re not dependent on each other and we know how to give each other space.
RANDY: That sounds a bit too idyllic. There’s more to it than that. You’re not that self-sufficient. When I’m distant you start getting tenser, more irritable with me, and you get this hurt look about you.
KAREN: Well, yes, but still, I have to work it out on my own and I know how to do that.
QUESTION: What about values? You talked about enjoying the same things, having the same taste in everything. Do you share the same values about family life, child raising, and......?
RANDY: I would say that we share the same values religiously, financially and in overall lifestyle. There’s very little disagreement.
KAREN: We agree about things, but we don’t always pull it off. We both feel that it’s important to spend more time together as a family, but we don’t follow through too often.
QUESTION: You guys sound great, but don’t you ever get into major battles?
RANDY: Yah, we fight about filling out tax forms... No, fighting’s not the right word, more like World War III.
KAREN: All the things that we fight about started after we had kids. I think that answers the question you asked earlier, about if kids changed things for us. We didn’t have fights about how to raise the kids; it was just that things got more complicated, more demanding, and we had to work together, and then our different styles became more problematic.
RANDY: Our lives are more hectic since we had kids. I can never remember things. I’ll go to the store and forget the shopping list...She gets furious with me which can be very difficult. Karen can be very critical at times and I used to get very defensive.
KAREN: ..I sounded like your father...
RANDY: I’ve learned over the years to be less defensive and to keep my mouth shut because it’s never helped for me to argue back.
KAREN: And once I’ve had the chance to blow off steam, it’s easier for me to discuss things.
QUESTION: Let’s go on to child raising. Is your parenting style similar? Do you have any conflicts concerning parenting?
KAREN: I think conceptually we agree about how to raise the kids, but I think how we interact with them is different.
RANDY: You’re more of a disciplinarian; I’m more playful with them.
QUESTION: What have been some of the disagreements you’ve had about child raising?
RANDY: There haven’t been any serious ones. But there are times when Karen is so stressed out that she can be critical and angry with the kids. When that happens I take over.
KAREN: If I act crazy, he doesn’t escalate, and start criticizing me in front of the kids. He just starts parenting, and I walk out and go into the next room.
RANDY: We don’t personalize everything...She’s a separate person from me. She can have her bad moods and it usually has nothing to do with me. Another important thing to mention is that we don’t hold resentments. We get things off our chests and talk about it.
KAREN: I can be furious with you, and a half hour later feel no anger at all.
I remember we used to have these screaming fights when he was getting parking and speeding tickets that were costing us a bloody fortune. It was driving me crazy. Once I even burned a hundred dollar bill in front of him and said, "That’s what you’re doing to our money." That did it. After that he changed.
RANDY (laughs): I don’t remember you burning the hundred dollars...
QUESTION: Can you sum up, in a few words, the ingredients for a successful marriage?
KAREN: Respect and acceptance.
RANDY: Love and friendship.