Mat Boggs is related to a lot of people whose marriages have ended in divorce, including his twice-divorced father, who is a marriage counselor. So Boggs decided it might be best to look for role models elsewhere.
"I wanted to go to people who had walked the talk," says the 29-year-old Boggs, who with his buddy Jason Miller began a quest to find the secrets to lifelong marriages. The 28-year-old bachelors, friends since the third grade in Oregon, are touring the country interviewing couples who have been married at least 40 years.
This week they're looking for love in Salt Lake City, which brought them on Wednesday to a love seat at the downtown Hilton Hotel. There, in a scene reminiscent of "When Harry Met Sally," several Utah couples took turns staring into a camera and talking about why they've stayed together.
Boggs and Miller's Project Everlasting has already produced a DVD, and a book that will be published next spring. Their current interviews will be part of a follow-up DVD.
In the beginning, says Miller, the two bachelors would ask lengthy, convoluted questions that reflected their own over-thought, 20-something preoccupations. And the answer would be something like "I don't know what you just asked me, but I love her."
Miller says he went on the tour "to be inspired to ever get into a marriage." At 28 he's been happily single, maybe even too comfortable, he says. He remembers one of the older couples telling him that "when you share your life with someone, you're going to be uncomfortable some of the time, and I don't know if your generation can put up with that."
From hundreds of hours of interviews, the two friends have pieced together some observations they hope will help them and other young people learn how to stay married. The major threads, not surprisingly, turn out to be acceptance, respect, marriage over work (and even over children), a desire to sacrifice for the other, and a realization that even if life takes a bad turn or the relationship itself temporarily sours, it's possible to make the marriage last.
"There were three interviews in a row where they used the same word: stick-to-itiveness," Miller says. "It takes the perspective of a whole lifetime to understand that."
On Wednesday morning, Miller and Boggs interviewed two Utah couples, LaWanna and Larry Goodrich of Roy, and Vera and George Schrader of Salt Lake City. The Goodriches, who have been married 51 years, and the Schraders, who have been married 58, were nominated by their children and grandchildren after Project Everlasting got a plug on the "Today Show."
Neither Larry nor LaWanna could think of a time when they have ever really been mad at each other. Well, maybe that one time when they were trying to put tint on the back window of their car and the conversation went something like "Hold that up." "I am holding that up."
But during the first two years of the marriage, when they were just getting to really know each other, LaWanna wrote her mom to complain about something, maybe the way Larry rolled up the toothpaste, she can't remember, and her mom wrote back, "Now LaWanna, that's the ups and downs of married life, and you've just got to get used to it."
Like the Goodriches, the Schraders said that shared spiritual values have helped keep them together. And George noted that whenever he came home from work, Vera "always looked presentable. So I didn't have to look somewhere else." Even that one time when he came home to find that, after several years of asking if they could remodel the bathroom, Vera had taken a sledgehammer to the cabinets and the floor, they didn't get mad at each other.
On the other hand, "certain couples can't agree on anything, but it still works for them," Miller says.
He says he and Boggs have noticed that some successful marriages seem to be between "good buds who wanted to do life together," and some couples seemed to "have just fallen into marriages." But a third group seems to have known from the first moment that they were destined for each other.This last group is Miller's favorite. "They're the most in love, and it shows. They'll spend the whole interview staring at each other," he says. "And the way they sit together you can't fit a ruler between them."