When Willie laid eyes on Missy, it was love at first sight — however unlikely. He recalls, “She was talking to her then-boyfriend, and it didn’t look like a pleasant conversation.” Perhaps not the best time to ask her out.
Their paths crossed again when Missy came into the student-run TV station at UMass Amherst, where Willie worked as a news director. She was auditioning for a news anchor position and landed the job. The other guy would eventually become old news, but it was nearly a year before sparks officially flew between the colleagues.
Twenty years later, the Sanchez family includes two kids (ages 12 and 15) and two dogs. Willie is a radio and TV producer at a major network in New York, and Melissa is an independent travel consultant in New Jersey, where they live. There have been ups and downs in their 16-year marriage, but the good has always outweighed the bad. Before the Seven Year Switch spouses try switch therapy as a last resort to save their relationships, we asked this committed couple about the secret to a long, loving and happy relationship.
How did you know your partner was the one?
Willie: I spotted her in the university cafeteria before I met her. I was smitten.
Missy: I honestly can’t pinpoint a moment. I think it was when I realized it’s OK to not be with the “cool” guy. Is that mean? I spent so much of my teens and early 20s worrying about what others thought about me. Willie was the first guy I dated that I didn’t care — I loved him for him. Not because he played a sport or was in a frat or was popular, just because of who he was.
What do you love most about your partner?
Missy: How kind and caring he is. He’ll bend over backwards for anyone.
Willie: I love how thoughtful Missy is. And determined. She’s been an über-mom and an entrepreneur who’s grown her business at levels many companies would die for. She’s also very passionate. That last one will come back to bite me, especially when I do something wrong.
Did you experience a 7-year itch?
Willie: I experienced the seven-day itch, the seven-month itch… No, actually, I never experienced the itch unless we were arguing about something. But it’s fleeting, and I know it’s in the heat of battle. I love my wife and my life with her. And the “D word” is never an option for me. I’d rather come up with a workable solution to a problem than just give up.
Missy: After seven years, we had two kids, were living far from family, and were working stressful jobs in news media. I really questioned if it was what I wanted. But I always knew I wanted to be in this marriage. There are still times when I question our location and jobs, but for the most part we’ve managed to stay happy.
How do you let your partner know you care?
Willie: I’m sure there are many more ways that I can do this. There’s a special saying I use on all of our cards: “Te quiero mas de ayer y menos de mañana.” It means “I love you more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.” I mean it. I also try to be aware of spending quality time with her. Being available is a way to show someone you care about them, at least in my view.
Missy: Aside from telling him, I listen to his wants and needs. I make sure I’m there to support him, whether that means cheering from the sidelines when he’s running the New York Marathon, or keeping the family calendar up to date so he knows all of the kids’ activities. It’s very important that he’s included in everything going on with the family.
What does your partner do that makes you feel loved?
Missy: Little things, like washing the dishes or taking the kids to their activities. It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s nice to be able to sit and relax once in a while!
Willie: She does things unexpectedly for me, like pick up something I mentioned in passing. She says, “Let’s go out this weekend to catch a movie together.” [Laughing] She still talks to me.
What do you disagree about most often?
Willie: When I forget to relay a message from someone or do something we discussed. Finances have also been a point of disagreement. I think we finally have a method for expenses that works for us, and so far we’ve been able to weather those micro-storms. I don’t know if she feels the same way, but I tend to have a rosy view on these sorts of things. Maybe it was worse than I’m conveying?
Missy: That he is constantly playing devil’s advocate. It drives me crazy that he can never just agree with me when I’m mad about something.
What’s the best way to end a fight?
Willie: Fights occur because someone’s expectations weren’t met. It’s important to learn her expectations in a scenario, see if they match mine, and come up with a compromise when they don’t.
Missy: Admit when you’re wrong. This is a tough one for me. And remember: when the fight is over, it’s over. Try not to bring it up 10 years later!
Spouses Willie and Missy have been married for 16 years.
Should you go to bed angry?
Missy: Sometimes you’re not ready to apologize or hear an apology. I’m a grudge holder, and sometimes I just need to get over things on my own. That may not happen before bed. It’s OK to need a cooling off period.
Willie: You definitely shouldn’t let anger go past 48 hours, though. That’s when resentment starts to kick in because you haven’t come up with a resolution.
How do you keep the flame alive?
Willie: Do the things you did when you first fell in love. Dinner and movie works because there’s food involved and something to discuss. And every year we go on an anniversary vacation without the kids.
Missy: Nothing is more important than reconnecting. Between kids, dogs, jobs and volunteering, it’s easy to forget you were a couple first. Getting away helps us remember where we started and why we’re still together.
What’s the secret to staying married for over a decade?
Missy: Trust. Don’t be one of those jealous, overbearing spouses. Your partner is allowed to have a life outside of your marriage. You should both have friends that you can spend time with and turn to, but always come back to each other.
Willie: As cliché as it sounds, being open and honest, even when it’s painful.
What do you want to tell newlyweds?
Missy: Don’t give up. There will be times when you want to walk away — don’t! You married this person for a reason and committed to spending your life with them. You can do it, and it will all be worth it.
Willie: Trust. Be vulnerable. Talk. Play. Laugh. Cry. Hold hands. Give compliments. Just plainly, give. Give again. And have fun. It can be a roller coaster with ups and downs, but who doesn’t love a thrill ride?