Dee Ito and Marshall Arisman

Ages: 65 and 64

Years married: 38

Occupations: Writer; painter, illustrator, and teacher

How did you know he was the one? We met when I was working on a children's book. I liked his illustrations, and he was really funny. I found out he liked his parents a lot, which was important because I liked my family. He was very direct. He was very good-looking, and that always helps. When we got married, there were very few racially mixed couples—I'm Japanese-American and he's Swedish-American—and when we walked down the street, people would look at us. But in a funny way we were oblivious, because we saw ourselves as so much the same: We both came from middle-class families and have one sibling; we both grew up in small towns.

What's made it last? The fact that we allow each other the space to do what we want to do is a major part of it.

Advice? Early on you want this person to know everything about you. You wait for him to recognize that you're in pain. It doesn't take long to figure out that people are not going to figure it out every time, no matter how sensitive they are. You have to ask for the attention you need. Also, you learn not to take everything as criticism; it's information. That means believing the other person loves you. That's no small thing.


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