How to live with your partner for decades

Posted on 13 Feb 2015 at 7:25am

Long-term couples — including two from Dallas — explain how they’ve kept their relationships together in a new book called ‘Love Together’

Jack-&-George-wedding-(Crop)

GODFATHERS | George Harris, left, and Jack Evans, right, tied the knot in a religious ceremony last year, hoping to be role models for younger LGBT community members. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Tim Clausen wasn’t very good at maintaining a long-term relationship so he decided to figure out why not.

“Maybe I just haven’t met the right guy,” he considered. Or maybe it was something else.

So he decided to talk to people who’ve been in long term relationships — 102 of them in all. Some had been in relationships 10 years, some more than 60 years.

From those, he picked some of the most diverse and interesting interviews to include in his new book, Love Together.

Clausen said discovered there’s no magic formula for making a relationship last, but he did learn a number of things that can help.

“I learned it’s really important to have open communication,” Clausen said.

He also said he doesn’t believe there’s just one Mr. Right out there for everyone.

Two couples in the book are from Dallas. One of those is Steve Habgood and Mark Sadlek, who have been together more than 26 years. From them, Clausen said, he learned that successful long-term partners will change over time and you must let each other change as people.

Sadlek said the interview process was interesting.

“We thought he was going to interview us both at once,” Sadlek said.

Instead Clausen conducted separate interviews. Sadlek said when he read what Habgood said, there were no surprises.

In the book, Clausen used Habgood’s interview. So what advice did Sadlek have about maintaining a long-term relationship? When he was younger, he said, he would have said it was all about communication. Now, though, he has some different advice: “As you get older, be willing to let your partner change and grow.”

Sadlek said that one of the challenges he and Habgood faced as a couple was swapping which one of them earned more money. Changing careers can impact a relationship in a number of ways in addition to money, he noted.

When Habgood went into real estate several years after they met, his new career was more time-consuming and took up most weekends — time he and Sadlek had always spent together. Sadlek said he had to learn how to deal with that.

During the first years of their relationship, Sadlek traveled extensively for business, but after Sept. 11, his company closed. He said Habgood wanted him off the road, but being at home seven days a week changed the dynamic of their relationship and could have had a negative effect. But Sadlek said he cherished their extra time together.

Clausen said that even though same-sex marriage has been one of the biggest topics in the news, the gay community still needs lots of role models, and two of the greatest role models he found while writing his book were Jack Evans and George Harris, the godfathers of the Dallas LGBT community who have been together for 54 years and who were married a year ago.

Clausen said many couples that had been together for a number of years didn’t think marrying would make a difference in their relationship. But they discovered the experience did, in fact, have an impact on them. He said most told him that getting married turned out to be a truly profound experience with an unexpected impact.

Evans and Harris, though, are the exception. They married a year ago when their pastor asked them to have a ceremony to make a point to the Methodist Church, which is still wrestling with the issue.

Evans, currently recovering from a fall that resulted in a broken femur, spoke from a rehab facility at Baylor Hospital.

Evans said after they spoke, Clausen told him, “Jack, you ramble too much. I’m using George’s interview.”

So after Evans rambled about on about other things for awhile, he eventually explained what makes their relationship work so well: “George will not argue,” Evans said.

He called that a key to their relationship.

“When you begin to argue, you get mad,” Evans said. “Then the relationship’s over.”

Harris agreed: “I do not argue. There’s no winner in an argument. If you win, you lose.”

But Harris also had another reason they’ve been so successful as a couple: “He’s always made the money, and I’ve always spent it.”

Evans and Harris worked together for many years as partners in a real estate business. They know each other well enough to finish each others’ sentences.

But marrying was something they did for others.

“It was not something burning inside us,” Harris said of their wedding. Still, he said he hoped their example would encourage young LGBT people to be proud of themselves.

But was their actual wedding meaningful to him? “What the hell difference does it make?” Evans said.

Once marriage equality does come to Texas, however, Harris said they will tie the knot one more time. The couple are long-time members of Northaven United Methodist Church. Last year, their wedding, performed by a retired pastor from the church, took place at Midway Hills Christian Church, because Northaven was forbidden by the denomination from having a ceremony there and the church’s pastor, Eric Folkerth could have been defrocked had he performed it or allowed it at his church.

If marriage equality comes to Texas, Folkerth asked Evans and Harris if they’d get married one more time, this time legally. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia hopes to hold their legal wedding in her courtroom.

“We don’t want any big thing,” Harris said. “Her chambers are small, so we’ll just have a few friends.”

Married or not, each of the couples in the book learned to respect, communicate and adapt as they grew and changed.

Clausen said he learned something from each of the people he spoke to — even from Evans’ rambling. He said he came away from the experience encouraged that there are advantages to same-sex relationships.

“We don’t have a standard template handed to us,” he said. “We navigate and find out what works best for us.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 13, 2015.

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