Bob was a hot salesman sent over to Europe to determine where and how to expand his company's business. He travelled without a pre-determined itinerary, and without lodging reservations. One evening as he was driving in a remote part of Holland he came across an Inn and recognized the name as one that his brother had shown him a brochure for. Bob decided to stay there for the night.
"When I walked in, there was the most beautiful blonde woman I had ever seen," he said.
Bob stayed longer than was necessary, chatting with Katja, and then asked another employee about her. Was she married? Did she have a boyfriend? No, she wasn't married, and no, not a boyfriend that was known about.
Before Bob left, he wrote his address and phone number on his business card. He went and told Katja that he enjoyed talking with her, and asked for her contact information, too. He thought she would not give it to him, but to his happy surprise, she did.
Their first letters crossed in the mail; he would be coming back, and she had already made a reservation for him.
When he came back, he took her out to dinner. The next day, Katja showed him around the countryside, and again Bob took her out to dinner, a nice restaurant where he paid the bill (Katja was a young and poor receptionist at the time). They danced on the tiny dance floor while the band played love songs that were sung in several languages. Katja fell in love with Bob that night.
As Bob traveled Europe for work, he spent every other weekend wooing Katja.
After he came home, they continued to write letters. During our conversation, Bob excused himself and came back with a 7" tall stack of their letters tied with a ribbon.
In 1971, Katja came over for six weeks and Bob's family and friends fell in love with her, too. Katja went home to Holland and got a fiancé visa and came back to marry Bob in 1971.
They went to undergraduate and graduate school together. Bob proudly told me that Katja graduated #1 while was he graduated #3.
When I asked them about one of their biggest problems, Katja shared this story: One day I was so mad at Bob, so mad! I told him I was going to go for a walk. And he said, "Wait, let me get my shoes and I'll come with you." It made me laugh and my anger drained away.
When they don't agree, one or the other gives way. They remember all they went through to find each other, and to get Katja to America. They remember that digging in their heels or having a fight is just not worth it.
Katja does get upset and explode at times, but her upset is at herself, never at Bob. He encourages her to be gentle with herself. She said she's gotten wiser as she's gotten older. "I'm the one that has to pay the rent in my head," she said.
The issue they've had to deal with that has been most difficult is that Katja has been ill these past few years. Katja got very depressed during her illness and saw a psychiatrist. It gave her a completely changed view of depression. She now knows not to tell someone to "get over it," but just to listen with compassion. She was not able to keep her job, as her illness prevented her from doing the required tasks.
Katja is at last on the mend. However, she is still taking pain medication and not able to drive.
Bob takes great care of her. Being a care-giver for a few years can be exhausting. But Bob looks healthy and happy, and he has a great attitude. He says he took his vows seriously, and still does. He tells Katja he's absolutely nuts about her.
Bob brings Katja breakfast in bed every day (he teases her "for working it," but says he truly enjoys doing it). Then they spend time talking and planning the day. In the evening they have their "Golden Hour" before dinner: a glass of wine and quiet time to talk.
Now that she's well enough again, Katja is focused on her passions: gardening, and cooking. Katja is a very good cook, and makes healthy, organic meals, served by candlelight every night.
Katja and Bob's Tips for Other Couples Are:
- Give unexpected kisses and touch
- Take care of one another
- Under-spend: then money won't become an issue
- Have a date time: coffee, a walk, especially if you have children, since kids end up taking 95% of your energy
- Eat by candlelight, use your good silver
- Read to one another
- Keep learning together, e.g., "Great Courses" on DVD
- Keep your culture and integrate as an American
- Be flexible; enjoy the surprise. Don't get upset when things change.