Frank Rocco was 23 and working at a bar in Erie, Pa., when Michele, 21, walked in. He was on the clock, but he asked her to dance anyway.
“I saw her from across the room and took a chance,” says Frank, now 48. “Also, I couldn’t dance, so it must have been a slow dance.”
“It was,” Michele says, laughing. (And no, he wasn’t particularly good at it.)
But something about that encounter stuck because after 25 years—and 15 years of marriage—Michele and Frank are happily married.
They now have a 14-year-old daughter, Katelynn, and live in Clover, S.C. Michele, 46, is a physician’s recruiter for Carolinas Healthcare System, and Frank, 48, is a sales manager for Republic Services. Here are three of their tips for newlyweds on how to make the marriage—and magic—last for the long haul.
1. Trust, trust, trust: When Frank and Michele first started dating 25 years ago, Frank was the jealous type. “I was mad about everything,” he says. “But you grow up.”
Now, he realizes that kind of paranoia can be toxic for a relationship. Unless you’re given a reason, you should trust your spouse, he says. And that means you don’t have to spend every moment together. Michele and Frank each have their own interests.
For example, Michele loves to hang out with her sisters in town and have girls’ nights with her friends. Frank goes to the gym four or five days a week, and every Sunday for the last 20 years he’s been part of a recreational flag football league in Charlotte.
2. Treasure the traditions: Frank’s parents have been married for 49 years, Michele’s have been married for 54, and both sets were high school sweethearts. The common ground behind their long-standing marriages: both couples have traditions they stand by. Michele’s parents love to drive around the Virginia mountains together, just talking and looking. They also play tennis together daily.
Frank’s parents love a good drive around the lake where they live, and they recently traded their boat for a camper. They now go camping three days a week.
As for Frank and Michele, they go bowling as a family. They also own a boat and love to go out on Lake Wylie. They have Taco Tuesdays and Pizza Thursdays as a family, and love to stop by their favorite restaurant, Ciro’s, in University City.
“Family is important, and we do a lot together,” Michele says.
3. Make decisions together—but learn to defer: Though they know some couples that navigate their finances separately but successfully, Michele and Frank have found that combining their finances has been unifying. And all of the big life decisions—where to move (they recently moved from Concord to Clover), where to send Katelynn to school—they make together.
But when it comes to smaller, less consequential decisions, they often defer to each other. This helps keep the petty fighting at bay.
“If she wants to buy a couch, I don’t care about what kind or what color,” Frank says. “As long as it’s not affecting my life in a major way, I’m OK with it. It will pass or we can change it.”
Another example: Their black lab, Chesney (yes, short for Kenny Chesney).
“I picked the dog,” Frank says, laughing. “So I had to relinquish naming rights.”