Kevin and Johanne (Jo) have been married for 35 years, and Kev says, “being with someone for that long, 35 years – it’s the best thing you’ll ever do.” They live in Wells, Maine. Kevin is a general contractor – direct and outspoken – with a quick wit and wry sense of humor. Jo is a teacher. Born in Quebec, she speaks in a Québécoise accent.
Risk has been built into their relationship from the beginning. When Kevin met Jo, he says, “She was hitchhiking. She looked kind of funny, long skirt, some type of funny hat, it was starting to rain. so I stopped.” She was a student in Montreal at the time but was visiting her great aunt in the hospital in southern Maine. Jo explains her funny outfit:
There were no buses, it was pretty much the only way I could get there. So I had dressed intentionally weird – I figured – not that it was really weird – I had riding boots sort of – riding boots were not in fashion at the time – and a skirt that was going to the riding boots – and a corduroy blazer and a hat that was a british kind of thing. It’s kind of round, and adjusted, a little bit of a brim maybe, certainly not a western style. I figured someone would take pity on me, say, this poor girl will never get a ride [laughs] and will give me a ride, and it will certainly not give any kind of false message that I’m trying to … do anything but to get a ride – to where I’m going!
Kevin agreed to bring her home. In exchange, Jo cooked him dinner later that evening.
When asked if he had ever picked up hitchhikers before, Kevin laughs and says, “Oh yeah! Never married any though. We met and literally have been together ever since.”
Thus began a whirlwind several months – they decided they wanted to stay together in Maine. The two of them moved in with Jo’s great aunt to help care for her after a hospitalization. Here’s Kevin:
This is a horrible part. We went up to Montreal together, to get her stuff. We get her stuff, we’re coming back, at the border, we stop, they look at all this stuff, they ask her how much money she had, and asked her what the plan was, and they wouldn’t let her in because she had too many clothes, not enough money, it looked like she was immigrating illegally. So, we had to call a friend, he came and met us halfway, and I had to come back, and stay here [in Wells] and do things on the house. Really, it was a month and a half while we were waiting, they guy said the quickest way you can get her in – you can fill out a petition for an alien fiance.
Jo says, “We had met in September, and we got married in December.”
When asked if they ever worried about the ramifications of such a quick marriage sparked by her immigration status, Kevin tells us “we got along great – there was just something about her – I’d never felt like that. So to me it was like, whatever it takes … We just fit really good. When we were bringing the kids up – we just clicked – we were in agreement – we worked together. She makes me a better person. I’m a better person today than I would have been without her.”
Both partners cite having common goals as critical to their relationship. Jo says, “There’ve been rough patches – but I think the idea that we can make this work if we want to definitely prevailed. It’s not that everything was always this ideal situation.”
We didn’t always have long term goals. It wasn’t really until [our first child] was born that I woke up and started getting serious. How do you want to raise your kids? How are you going to achieve that? … They’re not pets – you don’t want to just say, well let’s have kids, and watch them grow up. You want them to be productive. You want them to be intelligent, self supporting, independent people who will contribute reasonably to society … but you don’t just want your kids to be your goals. What do you want to do? You’ve only got a little bit of time – what do you want to do with it?
You have to decide, I am going to love this person until I die and no other. I think marriage is huge. it’s standing up in front of everybody … and saying: this is the person I love, this is the person I’m going to love for the rest of my life … You’ve got to love the person enough to let them be the person they want to be.
I know a lot of couples, she works, it’s her money, he works, it’s his money … You’re having separate lives. We’re going somewhere together, we have common goals.
Did you take – at least what other people might characterize – as great risks at the beginning of your relationship? Do you continue to do so? How did those risks sculpt your relationship as it stands today?
Share your thoughts with us in a comment below.
Daniel is a founding author of How Love Lasts.