For many people, the arrival of Cupid conjures up thoughts of love and romance. That nonsense isn’t for me, so I typically contemplate the miracle of dark chocolate.
This year, however, I decided to look into the hoopla about this crazy little thing called love. My investigation led me to this newspaper’s very own Trivia master, Howard Rachelson, and his vivacious wife, Evi. The couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in August.
The Rachelsons invited me to their home for “soup, salad and discussion.” It was three hours of sheer delight. Not only are they excellent storytellers, finishing each other’s sentences, but they also see eye to eye about what makes their marriage work.
They met in 1971, when Evi was on a solo trip to America from her native Switzerland. A mutual friend gave her Howard’s phone number and she called out of the blue to ask if she could stay with him at his Washington D.C. apartment. He agreed.
“But he didn’t pick me up from the bus station,” Evi said.
From there, Evi gallivanted across the country, sometimes with Howard in tow when he was on break from pursuing his master’s in mathematics. They hitchhiked and rode buses together – falling in love along the way.
Eventually, it was time for Evi to renew her visa. She could be given a few more days or another six months in the country. To improve her chances of a longer visit, Evi wrote the word “love” in her answer to almost every question on the application.
Q: Where are you staying?
A: With my lover.
Q: Reason for visa renewal?
A: To stay with my love.
Although granted the max–that time and the next–the young relationship wasn’t without problems. For instance, Evi chose July 29, as their wedding day. Howard put his foot down – they simply couldn’t wed on a date with a prime number.
The Rachelsons spent their honeymoon backpacking in Europe on five bucks a day for almost a year. Their love of travel continues today. They’ve visited 96 countries and counting. Somehow, they also found time to become teachers and have two children.
Even the birth of their daughter was an adventure. As Howard drove to Kaiser in San Francisco, Evi delivered their baby in the back of the hatchback.
Fortune, they agree, brought them together, but they’ve learned some secrets during the last 430,000 hours about remaining that way. The Rachelsons say their life is never monotonous.
“I feel like Ricky Ricardo,” Howard says. “Evi’s so unpredictable, I never know what kind of a mess she’s getting us into.”
Evi also credits their shared sense of humor for helping their marriage stay tethered. But the partners say serious aspects of their relationship contribute to its longevity, too.
Topping the list are their similar rhythms and interests, mutual respect and spending time apart on individual pursuits. They also refrain from finding fault in each other.
“When Howard is making noise with his massage chair and eating popcorn, I don’t criticize,” Evi said.
The couple never argues about minor issues. They don’t argue about the big stuff either. Instead, they talk about it and arrive at a “reasonable conclusion.”
It hasn’t always been a picnic, according to Howard, who moves his hands through the air to demonstrate the difference between couples who grow apart and those who weather the storms. During the ebb and flow experiences of their marriage, they didn’t drift too far from each. They stayed centered and grew together.
And they are best friends.
“With Howard, my heart told me this is it,” Evi said. “This is it.”