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Issue Date: February 2006 Issue


What We've Learned About Love

Advice from a married couple since July 9, 1949.


Colleen Mytnick
mytnick@clevelandmagazine.com

Ask their secret for a happy marriage and they say this: "Find somebody that you really love and really respect and would like to live with the rest of your life." No offense, Bob and Buster, but even a 12-year-old could tell you that.

After a morning's worth of conversation, with the snow glistening on the evergreens that frame their view, we found that the couple has a lot more than that to say on love. Bob and Buster (whose real name is Barbara) Oldenburg have been happily married for 56 years.

Here's how:

Open up. "You've got to share your feelings with one another," says Bob. This is not the sort of thing you expect to hear from an 80-year-old man.

Compliment frequently and sincerely. Bob has a way of working praise into the conversation often. "People really respect you for your ability to deal with the aging," he tells his wife, as she's describing her volunteer work.
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Don't annoy your spouse with behavior that's easily changed. "I do think all the time about how you would react," Bob tells Buster, an admitted neat-freak. A few examples: When he cooks, he makes sure to clean up any spills on the backsplash. He always puts the keys in the little bowl by the front door. He keeps the bathroom tidy.

Let the wife be the tightwad. It just works out better this way, the couple says. "I'm the bargain-hunter," Buster admits.

Don't fear change. After decades of living in a lovely home in Cleveland Heights, Bob and Buster heard about the renovations being done to the old mansion at Judson at University Circle, a senior-living community down the street. The English manor house was being converted into apartments for seniors. The Oldenburgs now live in a spacious two-bedroom with leaded-glass windows, a bay window overlooking a huge cherry tree and an enormous fireplace. "A lot of people won't leave their home," Buster says. She's happy she did.

Travel. It's not just a hobby; it's a way of building memories, sharing experiences and challenging yourself. When they were young ? and poor ? they took their three kids camping. Since those days, they've been to England, Scandinavia, Russia, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.

Don't be inseparable. Bob has always loved to garden. Buster has been active in the community for years. They have their own friends.

But, at the same time, always keep your spouse in the know. "We don't make our own decisions," Bob says. "We make them together."

Don't put your own feelings first, even fear. When their son was little, a heart defect was detected that could have killed him. During those scary days, they grew closer. "Because we both supported one another," says Buster. At age 5, their son had an operation and is now fine.

See the good in everything. The Oldenburgs' three children live in three different parts of the country ? California, Oklahoma and Massachusetts. Some parents would lament that their kids and grandchildren don't live closer. But Bob says this: "We're so lucky because they all have families and we all get together."

Pray for each other.

Always improve your marriage. "Sometimes, I wish we were more romantic," Buster says. Bob looks surprised, but his response is tender, not challenging. "That's the last thing I'd think you'd want is a bouquet of flowers."


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