One year later

  • Sue and John Porter (back row, center) pose with family members Eva Kerr, Cameron Kerr, Anna Gurnee, Mary Kerr and Brock Kerr. —Courtesy

  • Lester and Tony on their honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean. —Courtesy

  • Sue and John Porter on their wedding day. —Courtesy

  • Tony Santana and Lester Zaiontz on their wedding day. —Courtesy

LiveWell editor
Published: 2/2/2017 5:20:29 PM

A year ago, two couples in the Concord area were married in February. Looking back on their first year of marriage, they share what they’ve learned.

Sue and John Porter

The Porters of Boscawen were married nearly a year ago on Feb. 26, 2016.

How did you meet?

We met at Trinity Baptist Church, 35 years ago.

What made you decide to get married?

Sue lost her husband, Ed, three-and-a-half years ago from cancer, and John’s wife, Martha, passed away two years ago after a period of failing health and chronic heart disease. Both couples had been close friends for 35 years, and had worked on their homes together, cut cord wood, shared UNH hockey tickets, and spent holidays together over that time. John and Ed were like brothers.

After John’s wife had passed away, and John had gone through the grieving process, he and Sue started working on the fix-it projects that were gathering at Sue’s house. And then we started going out for a meal after a project. Sue’s girls would ask, “Is this a date?” “No, we’re just old friends.” Over the summer, we attended several plays, went out for dinner, and enjoyed each other’s company. By fall, John plucked up the courage, and gave Sue a kiss . . . and then in November, we headed up to Middlebury, Vt., to help a mutual friend split wood for the day. This gave us 3 hours of driving to have quality discussion time. On the way home, John decided it was time to pop the big question. We drove past several beautiful landmarks, John getting more nervous for the perfect setting. Almost at the interstate, John turned onto a dirt road. Sue pulled on her heavy work-boots, getting ready for a farm visit (John made lots of them), but, he stopped half way down the drive, not far from a lovely Vermont barn, leaned over and said “I love you very much; will you marry me?”

Sue said yes! John repeated the question two more times with the same response, and Sue finally added, “John, if you hadn’t asked me by Christmas, I would have asked if we were going to date forever or what?” Good thing we announced our engagement at Thanksgiving with family instead of waiting until Christmas, because Sue would have exploded, and we needed every day to get a wedding planned and ready for 400 close friends and family.

What is your favorite thing about your spouse?

John: Sue is a caring and loving person and is always even-tempered and supportive of me. She also makes a house a home and is a great cook!

Sue: Only one favorite thing? That’s like picking a favorite part of the Thanksgiving dinner! My favorite thing about John is that he has so many wonderful qualities, smart, thoughtful, forgiving, easy to talk to, fun to be with, an old and dear friend, a Godly man, well respected.

Did anything surprise you about married life?

John: I was surprised at how quickly our lives joined together, and we instantly had a mutual trust and understanding of each other.

Sue: I was surprised (and everyone else at the table), when my young grandson was behaving badly, and John quickly announced, “We will have a talk.” Within two minutes, they returned from the next room and grandson was fine. This was the beginning of a mutual respect of the grandchildren and Grampa John for each other.

What is the best thing about being married?

John: The Bible says that “It is not good for a man to be alone,” and a good helpmate is someone to share the joys and sorrows with and be a support through life.

Sue: Having a friend and companion, someone to be with and grow old with. Good and bad times and all the time.

Have you faced any difficulties as a couple since getting married?

We have joked that integrating our lives together has been the biggest challenge. So now we have about three of everything, including three tractors and three trucks, and a lot of pots and pans. We have spent a lot of time moving stuff, sorting, storing and tossing.

How do you overcome arguments?

What arguments? After Sue and John have had 35 years and 44 years of marriage, respectively, and a you.loooong friendship, we have learned how to live respectfully of one another. We believe in following the biblical admonition of not letting the sun go down upon your wrath; putting others first; and seeking forgiveness for wrongdoings. Corinthians 13:7-8 says “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

Do you have any advice for couples considering marriage?

A couple should have a meaningful dating experience to get to know one another and keep their relationship pure. They should take the time to discuss the hard questions of life and be sure they are mutually compatible and not fool themselves that they can change each other later. Then, they should take the marriage vows as before God and resolve together that the commitment is for keeps, to work out difficulties and determine not to give up. Wives, respect your husbands, and husbands, love your wives.

In the case of second marriages later in life, we’ve felt that it is important to maintain respective family relationships and not to co-mingle capital assets.

Lester Zaiontz and Tony Santana

Lester Zaiontz and Tony Santana of Concord celebrate their anniversary on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. It’s both their wedding anniversary and the anniversary of their commitment ceremony in 1986.

How did you meet?

Lester: We met in 1985 through friends we shared while living in San Antonio, Texas.

Tony: I wasn’t so quick to want to get to know Lester, but had heard good things about him from our mutual friends. I had a couple of bad relationships and was about to pretty much give up on the idea.

What made you decide to get married?

Lester: We’ve been living together for the last 30 years and when same-sex marriage was legalized across the country, we decided it was time to make it official. We had a commitment ceremony on Valentine’s Day, 1986.

Tony: We consider Valentine’s Day our anniversary, but since I work at a flower shop, it’s almost impossible to get Valentine’s Day off. Last year, Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday – a day when our shop, Cobblestone Design, is usually closed. So, we planned an evening wedding that Sunday and everything turned out perfectly!

What is your favorite thing about your spouse?

Lester: I love how Tony is so happy-go-lucky. He seldom gets worked up about anything unless it really bothers him. He’s the one who always says the glass if half full. I’m usually the stubborn one.

Tony: I love how Lester tries to take care of everyone, like family or when a friend needs help with something. He makes me laugh and always has a clever answer for everything.

Did anything surprise you about married life?

Lester: Not really. We’ve lived together for over 30 years, so there really wasn’t anything new or surprising that came up after we tied the knot officially.

Tony: It’s just great to know that our relationship now has some authenticity to it even though our family and all of our friends and acquaintances have always accepted us as a couple.

What is the best thing about being married?

Lester: For me, it’s comforting to know that Tony will have some protection financially should something happen to me. I don’t have to worry about him getting left behind or be made to feel like an outsider like it used to be for gay couples. Legal marriage has afforded us the same privileges that other married couples have had.

Tony: It’s nice having someone to rely on and share the good times and bad. Luckily, our families have always accepted our relationship and respected it. When Lester was hospitalized before we were legally married, Concord Hospital never questioned why I was there. That’s another reason why we are happy to say we live here in Concord. The people have always been very welcoming.

Have you faced any difficulties as a couple since getting married?

Lester: We go through the same ups and downs most everyone else faces. There is always something I stupidly say in the heat of the moment that I will regret later on. We have likes and dislikes, but for the most part, we have been able to get through it.

Tony: Well, right now we’re having an ongoing, lively discussion about getting another pet. We’ve had several cats and a dog and have seen them live out there lives. I think it’s time for a new pet, but Lester has been a little reluctant to give in.

How do you overcome arguments?

Lester: Something someone told me one time was that the key to a good marriage is never going to bed angry. We’ve tried to live our lives that way. Of course, we’ve had some pretty loud disagreements over things, but sooner or later we work it out.

Tony: Or, I give in. Kidding! You can’t dwell on the negative. You have to find something positive and good and hold onto that. You have to realize what is really important, even when it might hurt just a little bit.

Do you have any advice for couples considering marriage?

Lester: I know that living together before marriage is kind of frowned upon, even in this day and age, but I think it is really important to see just how compatible you are with each other. Life has a way of throwing punches at you so you better make sure the person you plan to marry will still be there when the going gets tough.

Tony: Spend time with other married couples you know – not just dinner or social occasions and not just on those “good” days. See how they live. See the kinds of problems they go through. Pay attention to your potential partner and watch how he or she treats others. It’ll be a good clue as to how they might treat you.

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