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8 Powerful lessons from Rosalynn Carter’s long marriage

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter

Ann Ronan Picture Library | Photo12 | AFP

Cerith Gardiner - published on 11/20/23

With the death of President Jimmy Carter's wife, here are some pointers we could learn from their inspiring union.

When Rosalynn Carter died at the grand old age of 96 on Sunday, November 19, it ended an incredible 77-year marriage to the former president Jimmy Carter, himself an impressive 99 years of age.

While much has been in the news about the former first lady’s advocacy for mental health and humanitarian work, it is interesting to reflect on another of her wonderful achievements: Her inspiring marriage to the 39th president of the United States that brought the couple decades of love, companionship, four children, and 21 grandchildren.

Embrace the sacrifices

Before meeting Carter, Rosalynn had planned on studying interior design at Georgia State College for Women. However, when the pair decided to marry, Rosalynn put all her efforts into supporting her military husband, and eventually raising their four children.

Her ability to change plans for the good of the couple was a sign of things to come, when as First Lady, she ensured her husband served his country by focusing on his needs and that of the country’s. In fact, she seized the opportunity to work alongside him while he was in office, attending cabinet meetings, and trying to help those in need. Wives and husbands alike can learn from Rosalyn Carter’s example of selfless love.

Maintain independence

Although early on in the marriage Rosalynn was a devoted housewife, she also enjoyed raising her children while her husband was away serving in the navy. This ability to thrive while apart continued to work for the couple throughout their long marriage.

Befriend the in-laws

Rosalynn developed relationships with all of her husband’s family, however, she was particularly close to his sister, to whom she passed on dresses that no longer fit her. While it might be tricky to forge firm friendships with all the in-laws, having at least one close relationship among them is something that can only help build bonds between families.

Find a common passion

The Carters combined their faith and language skills by reading to each other the Bible in Spanish every night. Interestingly the couple also had fun by riding two and half miles on a three-wheel electric scooter each day. And of course, they worked hard on the projects that were close to their hearts, such as providing shelter for the displaced in Haiti.

Don’t let arguments fester

The Carters shared that they had one of their important rules to a successful marriage was to never let anger ruin a good night’s sleep. The pair would ensure that they went to be on good terms, even if it wasn’t always easy:

“We follow [this rule] pretty meticulously, sometimes with great difficulty,” explained Carter to Bill and Melinda Gates, as shared by Make It. “We have 21 grandchildren and four children so we have a lot of arguments about our family. But we try to get over that argument before we go to sleep.”

Be a voice of reason

One of Rosalynn’s roles was to share with her husband when she thought he was not doing a good job. In fact, according to WWD, while in office — and no doubt until her dying day — Carter encouraged his wife to “sit him down and get upset,” if she thought he wasn’t doing a good job.

Give each other space

Another golden rule the Carters shared was to give each other space. “She has a lot of interests that I don’t share and I have a lot of interests that she doesn’t share,” explained the former president to Bill and Melinda Gates.

Support each other

If there were one final lesson to draw from this inspiring union, it would be to support each other through all of life’s challenges. Whether at work, through illness, or raising a family, if you can lean on each other, your relationship can only thrive.

FaithFamilyMarriagePresident Carter
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