Kathy and Seth Emmons have been married 46 years, although Kathy was sure it’s 47.
“I kept saying it was 47 years until one of our friends, who was at our wedding, said, ‘No Kathy, it’s only 46. It was 1969.’ I said, ‘Well, one of those years felt like two,’” said Kathy Emmons.
The baby-boomer couple, who met and began dating in high school, celebrated their 46th anniversary on June 21 this year. Seth is 66 and grew up in Kennebunk, while Kathy, 64, is from Kennebunkport. They live in the house Seth grew up in and have three children and six grandchildren, all of whom live in the area.
“We were engaged for a year before we got married one week after I graduated from high school,” said Kathy Emmons. “There were three couples that got married around the same time – one before us and one after. The other two couples divorced. Guess it was good to be in the middle.”
The couple’s ceremony was at Christ Church in Kennebunk. The event ended up being smaller than planned. Kathy’s Emmons cousin was killed in Vietnam two days before the wedding.
“My aunt wanted us to go on with it. We did but it was a quiet, kind of somber wedding. We canceled the band scheduled to play. It was a hard time,” she said.
Following the wedding, they set off for Bar Harbor for their honeymoon. While they could have stayed a week, the trip was only a few days long. Emmons said she and her husband were “anxious to get back home and set up our apartment.”
They were also anxious to get back to work at Brown Street Florist, a business owned by Seth Emmons’ parents. Kathy Emmons started working at the florist when she was dating Seth. She was 16 at the time.
“Seth’s mom needed help at Easter so I went in and just stayed,” said Emmons. “I worked after school and on weekends. I loved it.”
The young couple bought the family business in the early 1970s and ran it until they semi-retired in 2003. Emmons continues to work with flowers for special events through Petals, a shop she opened in 2008. She also has a part-time job outside of her shop. Her husband opened his own business, as well, and spends his time repairing small engines.
A lot has changed in the world in the last 46 years, including the couple’s relationship. After they were married, they settled into traditional roles.
“It was a different time period when we married in 1969. I was fresh out of high school,” said Emmons. “Seth made all the decisions, paid the bills and was in charge then. I put up with it for a year or two but then said enough.”
“I used to be the man,” Seth Emmons said.
Emmons said she is more outgoing her husband, who is “happy to stay at home.” During the early years, Emmons said, they learned to work with each other to figure out what would work best for each, which was important as they also ran a business together.
“We worked together for so long,” said Emmons. “It’s not always the best thing in the world to try. Our outlook was often different. I was more business minded and he enjoyed being in the greenhouse and growing geraniums. We had different ideas about the business.”
Emmons said the trick to working together is to “pick your battles.”
“We’d battle lots of times and it was very hard. There was head butting but we both conceded at times,” she said. “But we always tried hard not to talk about business when we got home at night.”
Emmons said the biggest change in the couple’s relationship occurred 12 or 13 years ago.
“I told Seth I’d had enough of cooking – now it’s your turn,” she said. “I never really enjoyed it. Seth said, ‘What am I to do?” I said, ‘Well, you can learn to cook or we can eat out a lot.’ He’s become a great cook. Changes take some getting used to, but you can.”
The couple said their relationship has improved now that they’re not working together on a day-to-day basis.
“I have my own business and he has his. We help each other out but don’t interfere,” said Kathy. “It’s hard for a couple to work side by side. You have to be of a real like mind for it to work.”
With just a few years to go before reaching the half-century mark, did they think they’d make it this far?
Emmons said she hadn’t really thought about it.
“I never thought so far ahead about being married 10, 20, 30 or more years. But so many people told us to our faces, ‘You’ll never make it,’ it almost became a challenge,” she said. “Not that it is the reason we’ve stayed together but it made us more determined.”
For Kathy Emmons, the time has flown by.
“I can’t believe it’s been so many years. It went by so fast. We still have our good and bad days but we’re in a better routine without the stress of a full-time business and all the hours we were working. Our life together is better,” said Emmons. “The last thing I say to a bride when all the flowers are delivered and set is, ‘Whatever you do, relax and enjoy it. The day will go by so fast and before you know it it’s gone. So enjoy the moments.’”
When asked if there is a “secret” to staying married so long, Emmons said it’s all about sticking with it.
“It’s stubbornness, I guess. I’m not a quitter. I’m sure there are times both he and I may have wanted to but we didn’t,” she said. “When I make a commitment, I stick to it. It takes work, and there will be hard times, but work through those times together.”
Growing up together, while not growing apart in the process, was another important aspect for the couple.
“We’ve had our separate interests. We don’t need to be attached at the hip. I am my own person, as he is. We do things together but we have our own things we enjoy,” said Emmons. “It all comes back to being on the same page and sharing similar viewpoints.”
The couple’s parents also set a good example, according to Emmons, whose mother and father were married for 68 years and had what she called a “special and unique close relationship.”
“I always envied that,” she said. “Seth’s parents were married a long time, too, before they passed away,”
But the bottom line for any successful relationship is working stuff out – and it helps to like the other person.
“Every day is not fun. And there may be a string of days that run together that aren’t fun, but work hard and don’t hold a grudge. You can say ‘oh poor me’ and complain, or just move on. It is what you make it,” said Emmons. “I first liked Seth because we always had a good time together. He loves to aggravate and tease, which was fun but then not as much as time went on. He has a loud, booming voice that scares people a bit, but he’s a nice guy. I never have to worry. He treats people well. And sometimes I still do like him aggravating me.”
Kathy and Seth Emmons were married on June 21, 1969, just a week after Kathy graduated from Kennebunk High School. Photos courtesy of Kathy EmmonsIn 1994 Kathy and Seth Emmons celebrated their 25th anniversary with family and friends.Kathy and Seth Emmons were married on June 21, 1969, just a week after Kathy graduated from Kennebunk High School. Photos courtesy of Kathy Emmons