With its mid-month Valentine’s Day holiday, February is synonymous with love. And countless couples seal their love by entering committed relationships, whether marriage or domestic partnership.
A little history
Marriage as an institution goes all the way back to 2350 B.C, in Mesopotamia, where the first recorded evidence exists. Over the subsequent centuries, marriage evolved into a widespread practice embraced by ancient civilizations.
And while same sex marriage in Minnesota wasn’t recognized until August 2013, it is documented that the Roman Emperor Nero took not one, but two husbands in addition to his many wives!
Legal interracial union in the United States has a “loving” provenance. Richard and Mildred Loving wed in June 1958 but had to fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep their marriage legal. Now, each year on June 12, “Loving Day” celebrates the historic ruling in Loving v. Virginia, which declared unconstitutional a Virginia law prohibiting mixed-race marriage – and legalized interracial marriage in every state.
Beating the odds – Twin Cities style
Each year, 2.3 million couples wed in our country, but the average length of a marriage in the U.S. is only 8.2 years! To celebrate this month of love, we asked three couples from each corner of our TMC neighborhood paper coverage who have been in long-term, committed relationships just how they’ve managed to outperform this indicator.
Connie Osterbaan &
Longtime residents of South Minneapolis, together 41 years
1. How old were you, and where and how did you first meet?
Herman: I was approximately 25 years of age and was a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of MN-Twin Cities Campus. We met through a group of mutual sociology graduate student friends.
Connie: I was in my in my late 20s, working on my doctorate in social psychology at the University of Minnesota. Herman was working on his doctorate in criminology. We had offices next to each other and had a lot of friends in common.
2. When did you know you wanted to marry each other?
H: I had been divorced from my first marriage several years before we first met; Connie was recently widowed. We were very attracted to each other and felt that marriage would eventually be an important thing.
C: I can’t name a specific time. We lived together for a while before deciding to get married and at some point, we both knew we wanted to be married.
3. Describe your wedding.
H: We decided to get married on Connie’s birthday, July 3, 1980, and have been married 41 years. We decided to get married by a judge at the Hennepin Court House in downtown Minneapolis to simplify matters. We had about 14 friends attend the ceremony with a reception lunch held at the now closed St. Anthony Wharf restaurant located on Main Street in Minneapolis and held a wedding party at our apartment that night. My foremost memory was having our wedding day celebrated with all our closest friends who were able to attend.
C: We were married on July 3, 1980. It was my birthday. We have been married 41 years, married at the Hennepin County Courthouse, with about a dozen close friends present. The ceremony was followed by a luncheon reception at St. Anthony’s Wharf and a larger party at our duplex. A foremost memory for me is our honeymoon in Cuba.
4. When you said, “Until death do us part,” did you think you would have a lifelong relationship?
H: Yes, I believed that and still do to this day. We have had disagreements, etc. throughout the marriage, but at the end of the day, we still love each other and our daughter very much and enjoy a diversity of activity in life even though we don’t have to share the same enthusiasm for it. I have learned quite a bit over the years from various projects Connie has managed throughout her work career and now in her retirement.
C: Yes, I did. I find it hard to understand why someone would enter marriage expecting anything short of that.
5. What do you believe are the keys to the success of your lifelong relationship?
H: Truly loving someone even when there are periods of disagreement about life situations that are major and/or not as important. Learning to take the other person’s point of view and feeling comfortable to raise an issue that should be discussed as opposed to internalizing it and not discussing it at all. Sharing as much time with relatives from both sides of the relationship is important to achieve a better understanding of your spouse’s family/historical background. Lastly, taking trips, near-by and afar, helps bring diversity as to how we as individuals live and our place in the world.
C: Getting married does not mean that you are going to magically eliminate your individual personalities. I believe it is important to make a commitment to support each other and to respect each other’s different interests and personalities. It also helps to share similar values. For example, Herman and I have always both placed a lot of importance on family, on finding ways to give back to the community through the arts or other volunteer activities, on embracing diversity, and on continuing to stay engaged with the world as we age. Finally, I think you must be willing to accept that both of you will, and should, change over the course of your marriage. This is an inevitable and desirable part of individual growth and part of loving someone is being willing to support their growth.
6. What advice do you have for our readers who may be just getting started?
H: Remember the important reasons why you love each other and why you decided to be with each other. Treat each other, your respective relatives, friends with respect and be prepared to make concessions for the common good of the relationship. Love each other even in the most difficult of times.
C: I think it is important to recognize that tension between independence and commitment is a natural part of loving someone, but that the commitment and sacrifices inherent in love are well worth it. You will experience a lot of things as individuals and as a couple over the course of your marriage. Just focus on what you have loved about your partner from the beginning, what you want to be as a couple, and let the day-to-day stuff go.
Herman J. Milligan, Jr., Ph.D.
Dr. Milligan is a managing partner with The Fulton Group, LLC, an independent consultant firm specializing in marketing research, competitive intelligence, non-profit organizational development, and culturally specific projects and initiatives, and is a retired Vice-President of Marketing Research/Competitive Intelligence within the Enterprise Marketing/Customer Insights and Analysis division for Wells Fargo and Company. Herman received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and his B.A. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was as a Ford Foundation Fellow in Music at the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College (Oakland, Calif.) and performed with the Cecil Taylor Black Music Ensemble at the University of Wisconsin- Madison (Tenor Saxophone) where he also served as a music reviewer for the school's newspaper, The Daily Cardinal. Herman is a photographer and art curator.
Connie Osterbaan, Ph.D.
Dr. Osterbaan earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Minnesota. She and Herman stayed on at the university to conduct post-doctoral research on race relations in maximum-security prisons. Connie went on to pursue a 30-year career in criminology and public policy research at Hennepin County focusing on race disparities in criminal justice, violence against women and juvenile justice. She also served as the research manager for the Hennepin County Research, Planning and Development Department where her staff conducted research such issues as mental health courts, teen pregnancy, education disparities, homelessness, and the implications of an aging population. Osterbaan continued to teach for many years as an adjunct professor for the University of Minnesota Department of Sociology. Since retiring in 2013, Connie has been active in OLLI (the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) as a board member, board chair, and instructor of a course about research on police killings. She continues to write and present papers as a member of a women’s study group called ‘Peripatetics’, belongs to a mystery book club, produces photography books on family history, and is and avid gardener, hiker, traveler. Connie and Herman have one daughter, who is a banking attorney in Chicago.
Carmen Gutiérrez Bolger &
Richard (dik) Bolger:
Longtime Como residents,
together 42 years
1. dik and I met in August of 1978 when I was hired as a receptionist at Bolger Publications/Creative Printing. I was 21 and he was 23 and in charge of production. At that time, Bolger Printing was run by his father, John Bolger and mother, Genevieve, and located on North Washington Avenue in Minneapolis. It was in the basement of Genevieve’s father’s lutefisk business. I found out later that I got the job because they were trying to add diversity to their employee pool. You might say that it was love at first sight.
2. We started dating within a couple of months, and announced to John and Gen that we were going to be married the following year. That didn’t sit well with Gen as they knew nothing about me, and employees were not supposed to date.
Almost immediately, the family (parents and two brothers), decided to take me out to dinner and “find out who she is!” Although it was uncomfortable, the family was really very sweet to me. Part of the reason for this is that I was born in Cuba and raised in southern Florida, so my immigrant background and lack of history in Minnesota must have been concerning.
3. We set the date 10 months into the future, for May 1979 and the location would be the Bolger family lake home, Meadowlawn, in Prior Lake. Because the house was at the end of a very long dirt road, Gen convinced me that we should change the date to June so that guests wouldn’t have to deal with driving in the mud. My compromise was to set the date as June 2, 1979. I was 22 and dik was 24.
I was determined to have a private wedding, so the only guests were parents, siblings, their partners, my maid of honor and his best man. Tom Griffith, dik’s cousin, crashed the wedding, which was great. We asked a local judge, Peter Albrecht, to marry us and wrote our own vows based loosely on the civil ceremony. The music was provided by Randy Davidson, a cellist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and his wife came and held the music for him. At our request, he played the Bach Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prelude for the entrance music.
We were married on the lawn in front of the house, facing the lake. I placed a white ribbon on the grass in the shape of a huge circle with an aisle for each set of parents to walk us up to the center. My mom made my dress, a white summer-weight wool suit with a sleeveless silk blouse and I carried white roses. dik wore a blue shirt also made by my mother, and white pants.
dik came from a large family on Gen’s side, so we invited about 200 people to a dance party on the lawn afterwards. His cousin Jay Scoggin had a band and played under a white tent with a wooden dance floor. We served wedding cake, wine, and coffee.
My biggest memory is that part way through the dance I escaped and walked down a wooded path to the beach to be by myself for a bit. I was overwhelmed by the huge crowd of dik’s family and friends. We’ve been married 42 years.
4. I don’t think we had a clue as to how long we would be married, we just knew we were in love.
5. There isn’t one thing that we would say is a key to a lifelong marriage, but there were a couple of ideas that we have passed on to newlyweds along the way. We made it a point early on to celebrate every holiday, birthday, and anniversary with cards and often with gifts. It allowed us to stop and connect in an intentional way. To say “I love you” as part of a celebration.
Additionally, a few times during our marriage, we created “retreats” complete with ground rules. Because we worked together, we had training in brainstorming and working on issues. We stayed at resorts out of town, took large sheets of paper, markers and tape and asked each other questions like: “What does the future look like for you? What should our finances look like in five years? 10 years? What is working/not working in our relationship?“ These were usually about a day and a half of work and then sauna or hot tub afterwards. They were important to the relationship.
We are both headstrong which can create some amazing sparks!
6. Biggest advice: communicate about everything and don’t ever lie.
Carmen Gutiérrez Bolger
Cuban-born Carmen Gutiérrez Bolger is a visual artist and former operations manager in charge of prepress at Bolger Vision Beyond Print. Her 20-year graphic arts career includes her role as a board of director in the National Composition Association (NCA), Typographers International Association (TIA), the International Digital Imaging Association (IDIA) and Women Venture. Additionally, she was board shair of IDIA and most recently the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA). Carmen has participated in invitational and juried shows in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Washington including Katherine E. Nash Gallery and the Larson Art Gallery at the University of Minnesota, The Gorecki Gallery at the College of St. Benedict, The Minnetonka Center for the Arts, The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, The Phipps Center for the Arts, The Textile Center, Grove-land Gallery Annex, the MSP Airport, and the Arrowhead Biennial at the Duluth Art Center. In addition to working in oil and collage, Carmen creates site-specific installations. Her work is inspired by her Latina culture, her love of the graphic arts and the enjoyment she gets from collaborating with other artists. Carmen works in her studio in the Casket Arts Building in Northeast Minneapolis.
Richard Griffith Bolger
Richard was born in 1954 at St. Barnabus Hospital in Minneapolis. Raised in Richfield, he attended Richfield schools up until the 10th grade. Disillusioned with his schooling, he co-founded Inward Bound Free School based on the principles of the Southeast Alternatives organization, an early leader in redefining how children learn best. When Inward Bound could no longer pay its two teachers, dik enrolled and later graduated from Marshall University High School in Dinkytown, moving on to Evergreen College, another alternative school. There, he studied education with the modest goal of changing America’s educational system. Shortly after beginning student teaching, he discovered that teaching a room full of little children terrified him, left college, and joined the family printing business back in Minneapolis. Early on, he struggled with the concept of being a capitalist and discussed his ideals with a mentor, Ken Meter. Ken, without hesitation told him that a business owner had more opportunity to improve the lives of employees and his community, than someone in another profession. That was 45 years ago. After the death of his older brother, Jack, dik took over the role of sales manager, eventually becoming CEO, growing the business from $800,000 to $35 million.
In his 20s, dik began his involvement in non-profit boards beginning with Fresh Air Radio. When his brother died of cancer, he was invited to join the University of Minnesota’s Cancer Research Center Board. He was their board chair for four years. His next board chair position was with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, MCBA. While there he helped to hire a new executive director and to move them into their current location on Washington Avenue. He continued his board leadership as chair of the Playwrights’ Center where he was involved in hiring the current executive director. dik enjoys gardening, making stained glass, sailing, rowing, cross country skiing, swimming, and saunas.
Julie O’Baoighill &
Longtime residents of Longfellow,
together 31 years
1. We met in the fall of 1990 when were both in our late 20s on a camping trip with mutual friends in Wisonsin.
2. We fell in love right away and moved in together within two weeks, so almost immediately. We are each other’s first girlfriend and neither of us had dated women before we met.
3. We have not gotten married and have been together for 31 years.
4. We fell in love so intensely that we both assumed that we would be together lifelong.
5. The keys to a successful lifelong relationship are: honest communication even when it’s tough, kindness to each other even when you’re annoyed, and a willingness to nurture each other’s full expression of their true selves.
6. You are both going to grow and change. Let it happen. Be realistic, be compassionate, be excited. Keep the energy moving, try new things. Have spontaneous dance parties just the two of you.
Julie “JAO” O’Baoighill
Julie is a painter, performance artist and astrologer with a practice that combines modern and ancient techniques. She plays the banjo and enjoys bike-riding, badminton, and juggling. She grew up in Maine and still visits that rocky coast. Find her at www.jaoart.com or www.jaoart.com/astrology
Giuliana grew up in Italy. She is a random artist and activist deeply committed to listening to the earth and becoming a worthy participant in the creative processes of nature. Giuliana desires to lessen her impact on the planet by using leftover materials and developing work that will gracefully decay. Community involvement is the heart of artmaking for Giuliana. She has participated in Barebones Halloween Extravaganza, Heart of the Beast Mayday, ArtCar parades and Center for Moving Cultures events. She has worked in puppetry, cement sculpture and clay, as well as movement and singing.
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