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After the Altar with Debby & Bruce, Married 20 Years

Posted by Angel Babbitt Harris  June 28, 2013 11:51 PM

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It's been a tough news week. Let's end it on a positive note.

It's the fourth week of "After the Altar," my summer blog series dedicated to celebrating the union of marriage and the beauty of love. Every Friday during June and July, I will highlight a married couple who will bravely share their challenges, triumphs, and secrets to wedded bliss.

We often focus on the work that goes into the wedding day -- the invitations, the cake, the dress, the guests. Let's give equal attention to the 'work' that takes place after the altar., meet Debby and Bruce.

Debby+Bruce wedding.JPG

Before we begin, let's raise a glass to Debby and Bruce. Next week they celebrate 20 years of marriage. Some of you may remember them from this article about extinguishing the anti-marriage movement that appeared in the Boston Globe last year. Today we continue the conversation with them and learn more of their wisdom and tips on how to maintain a long and happy marriage.

Expertly Engaged: How did you meet?

Debby & Bruce: At the bar at Dali Restaurant on the Somerville/Cambridge line.

Debby: I had ended a long-term relationship a year earlier and had no interest in ever being in a relationship again. Yet when I arrived early to meet friends at Dali, and decided to sit at the bar while I waited, I couldn't help but notice this really cute guy next to me. He was engaged in an intense conversation with a woman who I presumed was his girlfriend. I eavesdropped and with just about every word fell for his sense of humor. I remember thinking, "Now, if I could be with a guy like that, maybe I'd reconsider." When my friends arrived, it turned out they knew the woman he was with. We were introduced. The rest is history.

Bruce: She walked in and asked the bartender for a ginger ale. He said they didn't have any and she immediately said, "OK, give me a beer." I thought that was hilarious and said so. Before long we were talking (I remember it as being before being introduced by the friends) and laughing at a variety of off-color and off-beat humor points. I was very interested and when she had the brass to call me the next morning, I knew this was a girl I wanted to know.

Expertly Engaged: If you could describe marriage in one word, what would you say?

Debby & Bruce: We can't agree on "journey" or "evolution." It's a "process," but that word's too unsexy.

Expertly Engaged: I once heard that a happy marriage requires more maintenance than a car. How do you maintain a happy and healthy marriage after 20 years?

Debby & Bruce: See the other person as separate, with their own goals, quirks, and baggage, and find a way to balance their needs with your own. Remember how fortunate you are to have found each other and how the other has helped you become the (better) person you are today. Do not expect a problem-free marriage, but rather learn how to navigate and communicate your way through the inevitable rough spots. And always make time to be together as a couple, doing things you both love.


Expertly Engaged: Has being marriage enhanced any part of your life as individuals? If so, what part?

Debby: I came to our relationship with an inability to navigate conflict or deal with anger. Bruce had zero tolerance for the cold shoulder or sweeping issues under the rug so I quickly (though not easily) learned to face our differences of opinion head on. He also didn't conform to the strict social code of my childhood, so I had to learn that there are many ways of being in the world, and mine wasn't necessarily the only or best way. Finally, he's the most fun person on the planet. I think I'd have become an uptight old lady if he hadn't come along and loosened me up.

Bruce: Although I am indeed a wonderful person, I was wrong in thinking I was right about most things. Debby, through the kind of blunt advice only a best friend can give, encouraged me to do something, by myself, to learn why I kept unhappily crashing against the same things in my life. She made it safe for me to let down my guard and evolve, the process of which began during a week-long personal retreat.

Expertly Engaged: What advice would you give to all the newlywed and soon-to-be-wed out there?

Debby & Bruce: Learn the benefits of not digging in your heels. Expect to learn things about yourself rather than win arguments for yourself. Look for ways to take marriage seriously and not too seriously all at once. Keep your friends--you'll need them.

Do you know a married couple whose relationship is all that and a bag of chips? Is your marriage blog-worthy and feature ready for After the Altar? Email me. I'd love to hear your story.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Angel Babbitt Harris, formerly of the Expertly Engaged blog, is now "Newly Wed" and learning how to navigate life as a happy wife. Angel lives for weekend getaways to Brooklyn with her husband and anything currently playing on Netflix. She works as a Marketing Manager for a non-profit organization in Boston. Need newlywed advice? Have newlywed advice to give? Reach Angel directly at or tweet her at @MrsHarrisTweets.

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