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Love in Antarctica

Every once in awhile you meet extraordinary people! We had that great pleasure recently in Long Beach, California. Our lives will never be the same! We looked in the faces of love and saw an extraordinary marriage! We have seen this look before, but this one was very special!

Jerry and Elena Marty have been married for 39 years. And their life together has been anything but ordinary. You see, Jerry and Elena, these two lovebirds, have actually lived on the 5th largest continent on Earth – Antarctica!

We know, we know, nobody lives in Antarctica except the penguins! Well, guess again. Elena and Jerry lived there! They lived there together for 5 months in the 70’s.

The truth is this – there are people who live and work in Antarctica in the American presence. Most are scientists, US military personnel, or the people who support them.

At the McMurdo Station, for example, some 2500 people work there during the Austral Summer (October through February). The Austral Summer is the warmest part of the year in Antarctica. This is the period when the wildlife are out in full force, including the Penguins.

In fact, December and January are the warmest months in Antarctica. But the truth is, brrrrrrrrr is still the order of the day, even during the Austral Summer. The 5th largest continent is, without a doubt, the coldest place on Earth. Make no mistake about that.

Let us digress for a moment. We have actually interviewed successfully married couples on SIX of the world’s SEVEN continents. Now, we have interviewed successfully married couples who have LIVED on all SEVEN of the world’s continents. And we would dare say, we are the only people on Earth who can lay claim to that fact!

Now, back to Jerry and Elena. Jerry supervised the building of the New South Pole Station. He and his amazing crew completed this incredible project in 2008 after 15 years of work. They honored him not with an Arch of Swords Ceremony, but with an Arch of Tape-Measures! It was by all accounts an emotional culminating tribute culminating his 20 years with the Antarctic Program.

What Jerry, as the Senior Project Representative, and those who were part of the project team did was do the impossible in the coldest place on Earth under the most extreme conditions on Earth. This is no small accomplishment and Jerry is no ordinary man.

Jerry is married to no ordinary woman! Elena is his Rock of Gilbraltor. Shoot, we have seen a photo of this fearless woman moving a downed C-130 Hercules aircraft with a forklift in Antarctica back in the 1970’s. Back then women were not considered part of the norm in Antarctica, unlike now when one-third of the positions in Antarctica are filled by women. How could you not love a woman who accomplished such a feat?

Now to our recent interview of them in their home in Long Beach, California. Let us say up front, we were blown away by their love for each other and by the long-term success of their marriage. Jerry and Elena are very much in love! There is no question about that.

In fact, out of the thousands of successfully married couples we have interviewed around the world, Jerry and Elena are among a handful of couples over these past 30 years who have scored a near-perfect score on our Marriage Interview Protocol. When we interviewed them we were astounded by the quality and success of their marriage. They are a marriage to emulate – to model a great marriage after. Their marriage is truly one for the ages.

One of the most gratifying adventures we have engaged in over the years is to travel to many, many countries on the various continents of the world “In Search of Great Marriages.” We have written books, blogs, and articles about our many discoveries. But getting to know Jerry and Elena has been one of the highlights of our travels and research. They validate everything we have written about, discovered, and highlighted in our writings.

The support they demonstrate for each other is apparent even to the casual observer. You can hear it as they talk about their move back to California just so Elena could be close to their children and grandchildren after all of the years of traveling and working in distant lands. The thought of Jerry commuting to Washington DC for work didn’t even phase them as they made plans to put down stable roots in a place where their extended family could finally be together.

Elena’s artistic talent is highly respected by Jerry, as he brags about the uniquely beautiful jewelry Elena creates with earthy stones and gems. Each masterpiece is a work of art to be worn only by the fortunate ones who are lucky enough to lay claim to Elena’s jewelry. Pphotographs of her artistry are taken to capture the design for all to see. This is a great example of how loving couples support their partners! No wonder their marriage has been so successful.

Their advice to young married couples is this - - always remember why you married your spouse in the first place. Keep the flame alive! The journey for couples in love should be a wonderful experience even with all its twists and turns. Your relationship will change as you move through life (i.e., employment/career changes, children, financial status, where you reside, sex, health, success, failure, education, tragedy, etc). You need to remember that you and your selected partner are in this together, It’s ok to not have all the solutions, and it will not always be a perfect nor easy journey. Your dedication to each other is worth sharing life, through the good and the challenges – that’s why you got married in the first place! Jerry and Elena often say that life is what happens when you have made other plans. We couldn’t have said it any better.

We are proud and pleased to say that Jerry and Elena reflect what we have discovered during our three decades of research about successful marriage and reported in our book, Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2010). If you want to know successfully married couples around the world like Jerry and Elena, read our book. Their marriage is a “perfect score” when it comes to what really matters in a marriage.

By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

Authors of Building a Love That Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book Winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book, and Nautilus Book Awards Winner for Relationships.

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