Jon and Charlotte’s household includes two energetic adolescent boys, a menagerie of pets, and a partnership that is full of loud laughter.

Charlotte and Jon Doyle in their home in Amherst, Massachusetts in 2015

Jon and Charlotte (both in their forties) have been married for seventeen years, but have been together for twenty-five. In that time, they’ve had their fair share of stresses, which Jon considers a natural part of partnership:

Having intertwining lives is going to necessarily involve some stressful situations, especially if you add children, or if you add pets, or any of those kinds of things. Your’e gonna have – or even just job situations – there are things that come up all the time that are gonna cause stress. So if the basis of that relationship isn’t strong – then I think it goes back to that idea of friendship and actually liking each other.

Their relationship’s strong basis goes back to the very first date, which as Charlotte puts it, “was a bloody disaster.” To sum up the events of the date, they went to a restaurant that had food Charlotte didn’t like. Then they tried and failed to see a movie. Next they drove twenty minutes to play miniature golf at a place that was closing as they arrived.

As a last-ditch effort to salvage the date, Charlotte says, “Poor Jon. He’s like at this point, he’s like I’ve gotta turn this thing around, I’ve gotta turn this thing around. And he says, ‘How’d you like to meet a puppy?’ I grew up as a cat person but I love cute little things so I thought awesome this’ll be great.”

Jon and Charlotte had different definitions of “puppy.” For Charlotte, a puppy was a tiny thing you could hold in your lap. For Jon, it included the nine-month-old gangly chocolate lab waiting to jump all over them at his parents’ house. Speaking of parents, Charlotte says, “the other thing he neglected to tell me was his parents weren’t home,” and that his older brother was. Charlotte says,

[Brad’s] personality is very different than Jon’s and he was delighting in the fact that his younger brother brings home a date to see the puppy, wink wink … at Mount Holyoke as a freshman all you hear is date rape, date rape, date rape, don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re not with any adults. I’m like, ‘Oh Jon where are your parents?’ ‘Oh they’re not home.’ ‘Ahhhhhh!’ … so after the rather teasing comments from Jon’s brother Brad I was like, ‘I need to use the ladies room,’ and locked myself in the bathroom for like 5 minutes-

Jon adds, “At which point I ripped my brother a new one – I was like you had better be nice!”

Charlotte goes on,

I come out of the bathroom. Brad is like, ‘I’m really sorry, I’m gonna buy you guys ice cream.’ And we went to Friendly’s, and actually it was really nice to see Jon with family. So that actually was really fabulous. And um so then Jon drives me home, and at the end of the night, he didn’t try to kiss me which was the majorest bonus points ever. And he said, ‘I’m really sorry for such a godawful date,’ and, ‘Could I please take you out and do it right this time?’ and I was like, ‘Absolutely!’ And then the next date was awesome.

“It’s funny, I don’t remember what we did on the second date,” Jon quips, and Charlotte adds, “I remember you showed up with flowers!”

They didn’t know each other too well before the first date, so Jon says,

Actually having that time in the car together was something that allowed us to connect in some way, and I was okay with her seeing me like totally failing at trying to find these fun things to do and them just not working … she also just kind of took it in stride, and that says something too. It wasn’t like, ‘You take me home right now or I’m done, forget it.’

Charlotte was also grateful for the unique opportunity presented by that first date to get to know Jon’s character: “I gave respect for him because he was – he was honest. And that was refreshing at that point in my life. That was really refreshing, honesty. That was really nice.”

Twenty-five years later, Jon says, “things continue to go wrong [they laugh] and we continue to figure out what to do about it.”

Charlotte says, “I hear friends talking about, ‘oh this happened and I don’t know if we’re gonna get through this,’ and I never ever ever think to myself, ‘We’re not gonna make it through.’”

Jon explains,

I think that it really comes down to Charlotte and I really liking each other as people, and respecting each other, and that we’re both willing to accept each other’s shortcomings and – and augment them. You know like when I need help she’s able to provide that, and when she needs help I’m able to provide that.

When asked if all of this is ever difficult to navigate, Charlotte says,

No relationship is easy and that was like – again I come back to that same thing of like somehow I had gotten into my head like Cinderella and Snow White. That that’s the way things should be. That somebody comes along, and it’s happily ever after. And it’s so not true. I mean there’s lotsa work but the work can be fun … even the things that are a pain in the pattoot, I’m enjoying it because I’ve learned something or I’ve gotten better.

What does adversity reveal about your partner’s character? How do challenges make your relationship stronger?

Tell us about it in a comment below!

Brooke is a founding author of How Love Lasts.

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