Love is in the air in Dawson County. Teenagers are planning their first dates. Friends are falling in love. Husbands are buying their wives flowers – or hopefully helping with the chores. It seems as though Cupid’s arrows have struck many a heart in the community.
Recently, the Dawson County News spoke with three very different couples in three very different stages of their relationships to discover the secret to lasting love. After sitting down with engaged couple Callie and Michael, meeting Megan and Paul and their children and talking with marriage veterans John and Judy, perhaps their tips and tricks to navigating the waters of love will finally answer the question: What is it that makes a relationship stand the test of time?
The long time lovers: Judy and John Brandon
John and Judy Brandon will be celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary in April after meeting at the drug store soda fountain where John worked. Judy worked two stores down at a coffee shop and would come in to see John working at the soda fountain every day.
“Before I met her, I was walking down State Street and saw this big picture in one of the store windows of this beautiful woman with long thick, beautiful dark hair and beautiful eyes,” said John.
That woman in the picture was Judy. When he saw her hanging around his soda fountain, it took him awhile to get over his shyness and ask her on a date.
After five months of dating, John knew he wanted Judy to be his wife.
“He said ‘let’s just get married’ and we did,” said Judy.
John couldn’t remember how he proposed back in 1961.
“Maybe over pizza?” he said.
The lovebirds were married in a small ceremony in a Lutheran chapel in Madison, WI and moved to Georgia in 1991 when John retired from the state patrol. They knew instantly that they were meant to be together.
“I was 18 and I just loved him,” said Judy. “Just go by your heart.”
“It was just it. Just her. All I needed was her,” John said.
Judy said back in 1961 it wasn’t important to have a big wedding and wouldn’t do anything differently. She loved having a small ceremony with family and friends.
The romance has lasted long after the wedding bells stopped chiming. Not long after they were married, a wintery blizzard hit Madison, WI and gave John a romantic idea to surprise Judy.
“He danced me down the middle of the street,” said Judy. “It was like diamond dust everywhere.”
But every relationship has its ups and downs, and sometimes spouses get under each other’s skin. John and Judy are no exception.
For Judy, John telling jokes annoys her as she’s heard them all before. Normally he’s a really quiet man, she said, but he can be “very serious when he has to be.”
For John, he said Judy doesn’t like movies.
“She will walk in into the middle of a movie and ask what it’s about and I’m not going to tell her because I’m trying to watch the movie,” he laughed.
Overall the two agreed they don’t get annoyed with each other except over little things. Though Judy maintains they have disagreements like any married couple, they never go to bed mad and always talk through their little disagreements.
“If you want your marriage to work, I was told to learn six words: ‘yes dear,’ ‘my fault’ and ‘I’m sorry,’” laughed John.
Over the years, they’ve learned that sometimes they’ve got to do things they don’t want to do. John helps with chores around the house. He always does the dishes after supper and will vacuum and do laundry if Judy asks.
As for Judy, she went camping with John. After they had been married for a few years, John wanted to take her away on a camping trip. He quickly learned that Judy is not an outdoor person.
“She hated it. She looked at me and said ‘You think this is fun?’ John chuckled. “I found out real quick she is not an outdoors person.”
Nonetheless, she still stuck with that camping trip to make John happy.
Having raised two children together, their son John Michael and daughter Elizabeth Bryant, John and Judy are enjoying retired life in Dawsonville.
When asked for their best marriage advice, the two dispelled their wisdom of nearly 60 years together.
“It’s not 50-50. It’s 100-100,” said John. “Every human being – the glitter doesn’t last forever.”
John advises young men to look for the inner beauty and the character of the person rather than physical beauty. While the physical beauty will fade, the character of the person will last forever. John also believes that a strong marriage takes two people who commit to each other and decide to not allow things to break up the marriage.
“Judy might’ve thought of murder, but never divorce,” he laughed. “We’ve been married a lot of years. She’s a very good woman and it’s been very long suffering to be with me for 57 years. That’s tough on any woman!”
As for Judy, she said to “just keep loving and forgiving.” Her secret to a lasting is marriage is to fully commit.
“When you commit you don’t just commit to the good times. You commit to all times,” said Judy.
They also talked about what they define as a happy married life. John believes a happy married life is two people that are content and satisfied with one another while Judy believes it’s more complicated than that.
“Happy married life begins when you’re young and it grows and the love between you grows and changes,” said Judy. “You become one and you know them. You can finish their sentence and know what they’re going to ask before they ask it.”
For Valentine’s Day, John and Judy plan to spend the day together.
The faithful family: Megan and Paul Dorris
Megan and Paul were eighth grade sweethearts and haven’t been apart since.
“We were friends first in the second grade,” said Megan.
After dating for ten years, Paul took Megan up to the reservoir in Dahlonega and got down on one knee. He knew he was ready. By the bridge in the grassy area, Paul asked Megan to be his wife.
“I told her that I was going to practice the proposal then I actually did it,” smiled Paul.
It completely took Megan by surprise.
“I kind of thought maybe it was coming,” said Megan.
Paul and Megan knew they met “The One” because they just loved being together and make each other happy.
After a small church wedding in Paul’s hometown, the newlyweds packed into a limo and went to a Braves game the next day. Following the game, they hopped on a plane to Jamaica the next day for their honeymoon.
Megan said “centering our marriage on God and just keeping our focus on Him and each other at the same time” is what keeps their relationship strong.
“Once you start having kids, you can’t let them control your life. You’ve still got to make it about each other and your relationship,” said Paul.
As a family of five, Megan and Paul believe it’s important to always make time for date night with each other. With three young sons running around, Megan and Paul make sure to take time as a couple to keep the romance alive.
“She’s home with the kids throughout the week so by the time the weekend comes she needs a little ‘me time,’” said Paul.
“I’m like ‘Take me out!’” laughed Megan.
The couple says they’ve been blessed with wonderful parents and family who will come watch their kids while they go out for a date night. They are so thankful that they have strong relationships with each other’s families and that everyone gets along.
Paul gave some advice to young men for having a good relationship with their in-laws.
“You always hear that ‘she’s going to turn out like her mother’ and you don’t think about it when you’re young but a lot of times that’s the case so if you can’t get along with her mother eventually you may not be able to get along with each other,” said Paul.
Megan said she loves her husband’s faith and how he loves and provides for their family, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t drive her a little crazy sometimes.
Shooting a loving glance to Paul with a little grin, Megan said what he does that annoys her the most.
“Taking your shoes off and leaving them over there in the middle of the floor – or jackets on the chairs,” she said.
When Paul comes home he says he just wants to take his stuff off, but Megan wants it up and put away.
Megan looked at Paul and asked him what small thing she does that annoys him, but Paul – being a smart man, laughed and said “I’m just not going to answer that.”
The secret to making their marriage work has been unselfishness.
Paul believes the root of most arguments in relationships come from being stubborn and selfish. It’s important to apologize, make up and move on.
Being unselfish also means that sometimes Paul and Megan compromise and do things for each other they may not enjoy. Megan, who didn’t like sports at the beginning of the relationship, has learned to enjoy watching games now because Paul likes them. As for Paul, he makes Megan coffee every morning and brings it to her.
For the Dorris family, their best marriage advice to others comes from the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. Having faith at the base for everything, being unselfish and knowing each other’s love language is their recipe for success.
“Continue to get excited about the things in life together,” said Megan.
“Never let the flame die out that you had when you first got together,” said Paul.
The betrothed best friends: Callie Pruett and Michael Garrett Jr.
After a first date where everything seemed to go wrong, Callie and Michael knew they were meant to be. Although they went to school and grew up together, it wasn’t until they started exchanging messages on Twitter in 2013 that Michael asked Callie to be his date to an orchestra concert at the University of Georgia.
While taking a music appreciation class in college, Michael had to attend a musical concert for a grade. It wasn’t exactly an event he was excited for and wasn’t sure Callie would want to go. Sure enough, she said yes and they traveled to Athens.
“We got lost and I didn’t know exactly where the performance art center was and didn’t know where to go,” said Michael.
They had stopped to get food on the way. Because they were also running very late, they had to eat in the car.
“I spilled pizza all over my dress,” said Callie.
She got a huge grease stain on her dress before the formal event. Luckily Michael had a Tide-to-go pen. Unluckily, the pen couldn’t fight the grease and ended up making the stain worse.
They walked into the concert fifteen minutes late, covered in pizza stains and sat in the back as the audience stared back at them.
“I knew from there that ‘this is fun’ because we can be ourselves around each other,” said Michael. “We like to laugh about it now.”
Michael proposed to Callie in a special way last spring. Knowing her favorite holiday is Easter, Michael knew what he was going to do to surprise her.
He proposed during the Sunrise service at Callie’s church.
“As the service was ending he was like ‘hey let’s take a picture’ and it was like 7 a.m. I hadn’t gotten any sleep. My hair’s like in a bun. I’m like ‘why do we need to take a picture right now?’” said Callie.
They were standing by the three crosses outside of the church as the sun was rising and Michael popped the question.
Surrounded by their families, Michael and Callie were able to share what Callie describes as a perfect moment.
“We’ve always had that special connection,” said Callie.
Michael and Callie describe themselves as laidback people and can always have fun together, whether it’s going to a music festival or watching movies at home. They just love being together.
But sharing your life with a person comes with a learning curve, and Michael and Callie are ready to dive in to married life and discover new things about each other.
“I’ve never actually lived with somebody else,” said Michael. “I’m really excited about that.”
Friends and family tell Michael and Callie that they are practically married already. All they need to do now is live together. Callie knows they have their differences and says they won’t be blindsided by each other’s quirks when they live together.
“We’re very open and honest with each other,” said Callie. If there is a problem, both of them are quick to bring it up and resolve it.
For Callie and Michael, their best advice to other couples is to be best friends first.
“We’re best friends always,” said Callie. “I think in a partner it needs to be someone you love. That’s your partner, that’s your husband, but also your best friend.”
It’s also about compromising. For Callie, that means dedicating one of her days off every week to watch NASCAR with Michael during the season. For Michael, that means letting Callie have a day to call the shots. Taking turns and making sure they each have time to do what they want to do is a system that works well for them.
Michael says it’s all about give and take.
“No two people are the same. We’re not by any means – we’re best friends but a lot of times we have different hobbies and like doing different things,” said Michael. It’s important to do things together but also be comfortable with doing things as individuals.
Callie says communication is important and making sure there are open lines of dialogue.
“Picking your battles, deciding what’s important and kind of just going off that,” is what Callie wants other couples to know.
Callie and Michael will be getting married at Lumpkin Campground in May.