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How to stay with your partner for 60 years

Eric Marcoux and Eugene Woodworth in Chicago, 1955. Photo by Jo Banks. 

Eric Marcoux and Eugene Woodworth will celebrate their 60th anniversary as a couple this June, and to inspire the Grindr generation, which thinks a long-term relationship is that time spent smoking a cigarette between round one and two, they’ve talked to The Oregonian about their Northwest love story.

On how they met:

Marcoux: I’d just come from the 12th century. I was in a Trappist monastery when I was very very young. (I) went into a restaurant and ran into a friend, and he was sitting with someone. I was invited by my friend Nathan to come to a party that evening. And I said, “No, no, no, I’m going to a movie with friends.” I went and sat down. I had what I swear was a paranormal experience. I subjectively felt like something put its hands under my armpits and lifted me and marched me back. I’m looking at Nathan and saying, “I’ve decided to come to your party. And won’t you introduce me to your friend?” I’d never been so forward in my whole life.

Woodworth: I came from a ballet background, professional. I was working for three small companies and had my own as well, and I started to get good reviews. I was actually having lunch with a friend, and we were sitting chatting. All of a sudden a figure appeared at my shoulder. My body went cold. I was feeling electric shock. I couldn’t move. … I barely got started talking again, and the same thing happened. I heard (Eric) say, “Well, why don’t you introduce me to your friend?” And so I turned and shook hands with him and at that point I said, “I’ve got to quit ballet. Overnight stays and three weeks at a time is not going to work. I’ve got to get a regular job. I’m going to have a family.” We made arrangements to meet that night, at the party. Later we went out for a snack at a little restaurant. And as we walked in, both the cashier and the waitress said, “Oh! You’re twins, aren’t you? Twins!” So from there on, for the rest of our lives, we’ve been twins and/or brothers. 


On keeping the spirit of their love alive: 

Marcoux: We renew our wedding vows once a month as part of our spiritual practice. And so going through the pictures (of ourselves through the years) gives us a chance to own our youth, our middle age, and that we’re getting very old now.


 On legal marriage:

Marcoux: (Marriage is) a personal designation. We had a dear friend who was a rogue Franciscan. And he married us. Many years later, when Eugene and I were getting close to our 40th anniversary, sitting with the two abbots at Dharma Rain Zen Center, and we said, “We wish we could have a Buddhist wedding.” And the one abbot said to her husband, “Well, we really haven’t done anything for the gay community. So why don’t we give you a space and a ceremony?” So, ironically, we’ve had two religious weddings, and not any civil union. We can’t afford the civil union. Our attorney said, “Often when people come to me at your age I advise them to get divorced.” When you have such minimal resources, if one of you has a devastating disease, then you have to spend all the way down in order to qualify for Medicaid. Whereas if you’re divorced or single, the burden is seriously reduced. I would love to say, “Let’s run over to Washington and do it!” But pragmatically, not. It wouldn’t change the internal chemistry, alchemy, that we live with. But boy, I want to live long enough to see this happen in Oregon. Because I’ve become so aware of the humanizing and civilizing dimensions of being in a publicly recognized relationship.

On advice for other couples:

Woodworth: The main thing that I come back to is commitment. You have to decide from the very beginning whether it’s going to be a committed relationship for a long period or if it’s just going to be as long as it lasts. Which is what most people do. They fall in love with lust instead of love. And they think that when the sex starts getting bad, that’s the end of the relationship. That’s the beginning of the relationship! That’s when you start working on it. 

Eugene Woodworth and Eric Marcoux.

Check out the full interview on Marcoux and Woodworth’s 60-year love story here.

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