Darien couples share their secrets to a happy marriage

Vin and Lynne Burke in their Darien home. — Sandra Diamond Fox photo

Whenever Darien residents Bill Tamme and his wife, Carol Wilder-Tamme, disagree on something, before reacting, they look at the big picture.

“We don’t fight or get upset and argue about ‘little stuff,’” Carol, who is the former president of Darien’s Chamber of Commerce, said.

For its Valentine’s Day issue, The Darien Times asked several couples to share their secrets to a long and happy marriage.

Carol and Bill, who will be married 44 years in May, met in the seventh grade when Bill’s family moved into her school district and he was introduced in Carol’s math class. They began dating when they were high school seniors in drama class, shortly after they were cast in a play together.

Carol and Bill Tamme of Darien

If either one of them is doing something that annoys the other, “they said they think of the long-term consequences.

“Both of us have the mode of operation of, ‘Is it worth putting the energy into this argument? Does it really matter in the general scheme of things?’” Carol said.

One example of this is their habits — Carol is a collector and Bill does not like clutter.

When their grandchildren were very young, “Carol decided we needed to have things for them to do and the Swap Shop was a good source,” Bill said. “At one point, for about a year and a half, even though one of our grandchildren couldn’t walk and the other could barely walk, we had four rocking horses in the house.”

To keep the peace, however, Bill decided that it didn’t matter how many rocking horses Carol brought home. “I didn’t want to create an argument over it,” he said.

Carol and Bill have two children and two grandchildren. Prior to retiring, Carol worked as a registered dietitian. Bill worked in the corporate world and later opened Darien Doughnut, which he still owns.

Another piece of advice the couple gave is to “have a short memory,” Bill said.

“In the heat of a moment, something that the other person said or did can seem like a big deal, but when you’ve calmed down, you realize it’s not important at all,” he said.

“In successful marriages, both partners have to bring a long-term view to the table,” Bill said.

David and Rosemary Mace, who are both 80, have been married since 1961. They said while enjoying time together is helpful for any relationship, it’s just as important to spend quality time apart.

Rosemary and David Mace of Darien

“You need to have different interests so you stay interesting,” Rosemary said.

The Maces are graduates of Darien High School. They started dating in college and have three children and six grandchildren.

Before their retirement, Rosemary was a teacher, volunteer and homemaker, and David was a lawyer.

In their younger years, Rosemary was a president of the Junior League, an organization that teaches women how to be good volunteers. She was also was involved in a singing group that traveled to nursing homes, as well as Parent-Teacher Associations.

David got involved in local politics, was a trustee of their village, and, more recently, became active in World Vision International, a Christian humanitarian organization.

“If you have different activities, it makes for more interesting conversation,” David said.

Another quality the Maces said that is key to a happy marriage is not to take each other too seriously.

“Living in Darien, you can be very caught up with your own self-worth, your own title, and bank account. We never let this overwhelm us,” David said.

To help them stay grounded, Rosemary said they make an effort to stay in contact with people who are not living in the same environment as they are. They do this through mission programs to third world countries such as Ecuador, Kenya, and Tanzania.

“We have had our eyes open to the needs of the poor and being able to provide help to them has brought us closer together,” Rosemary said.

Darien residents Vin and Lynne Burke, who got married in 1970, said being a good listener is very important in a relationship. They said if one person expresses an interest in taking charge of a particular part of the marriage, let him or her.

For Lynne, this is being responsible for paying the bills.

“Lynne is good at handling the household bills and enjoys it. I encourage it,” Vin said. “It’s paying off big time for the family since I know it’s in good hands.”

Regarding being the disciplinarian when their children were young, that was Vin’s territory, according to Lynne.

The Burkes met on a blind date while they were students at Syracuse University. Lynne was an undergraduate and Vin was finishing his Ph.D.

Before they retired, Vin worked in the journalism field. Lynne was a special education teacher. They have three children and two grandchildren.

Having a strong support system of good friends is also key to a long-lasting relationship, the Burkes said.

In 1989, there was a fire in their home, and their friends in town took them in.

“It’s really nice to have great friends to socialize with but also to be able to rely upon in tough times,” Vin said.

The Burkes also said that spending time at outdoor activities together is very important for a happy relationship.

“We all like the outdoors, and boating and skiing are wonderful family activities,” Lynne said, adding that these activities encourage communication.

“You go off and ski and then you come back down the mountain and talk about what you did,” she said.

Other tips they shared is never go to bed angry — which Vin said had always been his father’s advice.

“And a hug always helps,” Vin added.

sfox@darientimes.com