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Sunday Morning News

Couple Tells Secrets to Long-Lasting Marriage

Aired April 1, 2001 - 10:14 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We were having a few technical problems, but now I think we're going to be able to bring a very special couple to you. Today the Alliance for Marriage honors several dozen African-American couples who are celebrating 50 years or more of marriage.

And joining us once again from Cincinnati, Ohio, are two of the honorees: Bishop Nathaniel Linsey and Mae Linsey.

All right, can you two hear me?

NATHANIEL LINSEY: We can hear you.

MAE LINSEY: We can hear you.

PHILLIPS: You prayers worked, bishop.

N. LINSEY: Glory to the Lord.

PHILLIPS: All right, amen, there we go. All right, bishop, why don't you tell us how you met your wife.

N. LINSEY: I met my wife in North Carolina, I was in seminary. And I asked her sister to -- I found out that her sister had another sister -- had my wife as a sister, and I asked her to bring her where I was, at my little church. And she brought her to the church. She worshipped with us and I saw that she was what I wanted. She said "amen" while i was preaching, and I knew she would make a good preacher's wife.

PHILLIPS: And Mrs. Linsey, tell us: How do you make a marriage work for 50 years? I mean, to many people that is just impossible nowadays.

M. LINSEY: Well, first of all, you must be friends. And you should value the same things. And you have to really work at building a relationship, because you have two personalities and you just cannot go on the way you would want to go; you have to affirm each other.

And we prayed a lot together. We had fun together, even though we didn't have very much money. And being a Methodist preacher, we moved quite a bit. But each move was a fascinating move because we were going to experience new things together.

N. LINSEY: It was a partnership.

PHILLIPS: Well, bishop, how do you keep the passion alive? I have to ask you that. Everybody always says the passion dies, you know.

N. LINSEY: That's right. Well, No. 1, I recognize the fact that we're partners together and I constantly affirm her and tell her how beautiful she is and even though she's fat sometimes I don't tell her she's fat. I just tell her that I love her. And she looks at herself sometimes and says, you know, I don't like the way I look; I say, oh, honey, you're beautiful.

And I keep affirming her and trying to encourage her, you know, to exercise, come go walking with me.

PHILLIPS: Now, Mrs. Linsey, it's kind of like, you know, you tell him he's still OK even though he doesn't have any hair left, right?

M. LINSEY: That's right! That's right! And I keep telling him, it's all right that you don't have any hair!

(LAUGHTER)

N. LINSEY: But she tells me, she says, you know, you don't have any hair because I've been rubbing your head...

M. LINSEY: That's our secret.

N. LINSEY: And we do have a little secret, you know, to let each other know that we love you. Even when I'm in the pulpit, I know how to communicate with her in a way that nobody else knows.

M. LINSEY: Don't tell that!

PHILLIPS: Oh, really?

N. LINSEY: And I say I love her, and she knows I love her; and she sends me a little signal back, saying, I love you too.

For 30 years she has written little notes to me when I'm traveling and putting them in my luggage and et cetera to let me know that, I'm thinking about you even though you're away.

PHILLIPS: Hey, those little efforts mean a lot, don't they?

N. LINSEY: All those little things -- you have to make it happen, you know? We've had to make it happen, and we've done that through love and through notes and through sharing; and little gifts from time to time -- roses, little notes -- whatever.

PHILLIPS: All right, so what would be your advice, say, to someone like me who hasn't even been married a year yet?

N. LINSEY: Well, I would say to you first that life can be -- marriage can be beautiful and fulfilling, but you have to make it happen. And it has to be a partnership; a partnership between the two of you. But most of all, it's a partnership between you and your spouse and God. You keep God in your life because you're in cooperation, you're in a partnership, you're in a commitment, you're in a covenant with God and your partner and yourself, and you have to have a higher will than that of your own, seeking to please God, seeking to please each other, and not just trying to please yourself.

If you seek that higher will to bring about love and unity and oneness and fulfill that higher will -- which means that you're not living for yourself, you're living for each other.

M. LINSEY: And I would say to make sure that you listen to each other. Keep the communication lines open. Hear what each other is saying. And before you begin to find fault, affirm the person; tell the person that you love them in this way or that way, and then dialogue about what it is you'd like for them to change.

But it's not so bad, and it's not so hard if you keep an open mind.

N. LINSEY: And you have to say, I'm sorry; remember to say I'm sorry when you hurt the other -- your partner, say I'm sorry.

And one of the other things that she has said to me from time to time is that you must feel what I feel when i say that I don't like this or I feel that I'm hurt, then you have to acknowledge that, and not say that I don't care, you know.

PHILLIPS: Sometimes it's so hard to forgive.

N. LINSEY: Well, that's an important part of it. You have to learn to forgive and sometimes see and don't see -- just ignore some things that go right on, and eventually it will come to pass; everything will work out all right. But you don't say everything you think.

(LAUGHTER)

PHILLIPS: We have to hold that tongue sometimes, don't we?

N. LINSEY: Right, sometimes you have to wait for the right moment to say it. You know there's a need for reconciliation, but you can't just say what you fell and burst out in anger and hurt the other person. You have to love them and be concerned about them and be sensitive to their needs. You have to study each other and know what it takes to make the other person happy.

PHILLIPS: Respect each other's character.

N. LINSEY: Right. Respect. Have to have respect for each other.

PHILLIPS: So, Mrs. Linsey, can you think of a really special memory, if you look back over 50 years, what sticks out in your mind as, just, one of the best memories. M. LINSEY: Well, I remember when we were vacationing in Hawaii once, just prior to our 30th wedding anniversary. We went walking down the street, and we stopped in front of a jewelry store, and there was a ring on a revolving cylinder, a circle, rather. And every time the ring would revolve, there were three little things, and I left my ring this morning...

N. LINSEY: I noticed that you left it...

M. LINSEY: ... on it that would shake. And I really liked that ring and he said, "Oh, would you like that?" and I said yes. And so we moved on.

So, we went back to the hotel. It wasn't too long before he said, "I have to go out and get me some shaving lotion. I forgot it." And he went out and bought that ring and gave them my size and they sized it. We were living in Washington, D.C. at the time and, of course, when our anniversary came around he presented it to me. And I thought that was very, very thoughtful of him.

N. LINSEY: It represented -- it was a swinging ring, you call it a swinging ring?

M. LINSEY: Yes.

N. LINSEY: You call it a swinging ring and just, when you shake your hand, it just goes around on three tiers, and they go around and around, and ever since that time, she's been saying this represents our swinging together, you know, for 25 years.

M. LINSEY: 30 years.

N. LINSEY: 30 years at that time.

PHILLIPS: A true swinging couple.

M. LINSEY: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Alright. Bishop Nathaniel Linsey and Mae Linsey, you two are just an absolute beautiful example of what love is all about. Thank you so much.

M. LINSEY: Well, thank you.

PHILLIPS: Thank you for sharing your story.

M. LINSEY: And have a good day.

PHILLIPS: Hey, I sure will. You made my day. Thank you.

M. LINSEY: OK.

N. LINSEY: And when you do marry, remember...

M. LINSEY: She's married, for a year.

N. LINSEY: Oh, you've been married one year?

PHILLIPS: Almost!

N. LINSEY: Almost a year. Alright, just keep doing what you've been doing and keep letting him know that you love him and affirming him and all of those things you did to get him, you continue those things. OK? Don't stop.

PHILLIPS: I promise you that.

N. LINSEY: And tell him the same thing. Tell him to keep loving you and wooing you and nurturing you as he did before, and it'll last for 50 years and longer.

PHILLIPS: Well, I tell you what, if he doesn't, I'll be calling you two.

M. LINSEY: Well, I tell you what, we'll be returning to live in Atlanta next year, so I'll be there if you're in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: Well, you look...

M. LINSEY: And I'll tell you in person.

PHILLIPS: You got it. Look me up.

M. LINSEY: Alright.

PHILLIPS: I'm serious.

M. LINSEY: Alright.

PHILLIPS: Alright, you guys, take care.

M. LINSEY: Thank you. Have a good day.

N. LINSEY: God bless.

PHILLIPS: Oh, thank you, I will.

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