The message James V. Page posted on Facebook on his wife’s 50th birthday said in part: We have been in the U.S. Navy together; homeless together; broke with no money or food together; bought our first home together, watched all five of our children get their college degree’s together; Gave up on each other together; Got marriage counseling together And decided that we should give it another try together…
The Pages don’t need Hollywood or Hallmark to tell them about real love. During almost 28 years of marriage, they have been up and down—and up again—all the while deciding to never let go of one another’s hand.
“You get out of sync over the years,” said Raquel. “It hasn’t been 365 days of rainbows. In a marriage there are times when you want to throw in the towel. But you have to take your pride and ego out of it. I had a very good friend who said, ‘You have to decide: Are you happier with him or without him?’ I asked myself that question when things got rough. And the answer was always: with him.”
They met in 1984 while both were in the Navy in Washington, D.C. She was 20; he was 23. When she saw him she told herself that he was the man she was going to marry.
“It was really love at first sight for me,” said Raquel.
She was new to the city so James asked if he could show her around.
After the tour, he said, “I made her a spaghetti dinner with my New Orleans spin on it. I was a perfect gentleman.”
What was it that attracted him to her?
“I think it was her sense of commitment,” James offered. “The world moves toward someone who has made up their mind.”
He says once his wife told herself that he was the one for her, “she could not see anything wrong with me or with what was happening around her.”
And James knows he tried her patience.
“My car broke down. I didn’t pay bills on time; I got parking tickets because I would park anywhere. I wasn’t punctual when I went to work. But she made up her mind I was the man for her and she stuck by me through thick and thin.”
For Raquel, an unexplainable attraction developed into a deeper admiration and respect.
“The thing that attracted me to him—and still does even to this day–is his courage about life. I’ve always been laid back, played it safe, never colored outside the lines. He has such a positive outlook. It was like the glue in the relationship.”
They had their first child before getting married.
“We wanted to make sure we married to stay together,” said James.
Their daughter was two when they got married. They had three more children together. James already had a daughter before meeting Raquel, a child Raquel refuses to call “step” child. “She is my daughter too,” said Raquel.
The couple never sat down to plan the number of children they would have.
“As we grew, our hearts grew,” said James. “It just seemed each child came at a perfect time and we were able to grow to another level in our marriage.”
But at times James’s carefree attitude about life caused Raquel a great deal of stress. At one point, when a deal on a house fell through, the family was homeless for about three months, living with friends at one point.
“When we didn’t have any place to live my wife asked ‘What are we going to do?’ I said, ‘We’re going on a vacation,’’ recalled James. “We went to the beach for a week. Before leaving, we put in an application for a house and it was approved.”
The family bought a house in Arlington, Va., where they still live today. Their financial woes continued, not helped at all by James’s lack of planning and saving. He was a hard worker, often holding four jobs. Yet, he made abrupt decisions alone without conferring with Raquel.
“It was difficult for me to shed a lot of my old habits and grow and become a father to my children,” James admitted. “My focus was being able to afford a certain lifestyle…”
Finally, there was an incident that just pushed Raquel over the edge and she made up her mind to leave James.
He quit his full time job without telling her, and then while he was playing basketball he broke his Achilles and spent a night in emergency surgery. That morning, Raquel, busy getting the children ready for school, assumed James was working—until she got to work and her boss told her he had called.
Raquel was searching for her luggage when James came home and finally confessed, “Oh, I quit my job. I’m starting my own business.”
Said Raquel, “I told him, ‘People don’t do this without checking with their spouses.’”
James had decided to start a business selling copy machines and he didn’t let a broken Achilles and a cast stop him. He knocked on so many doors and made so many “cold calls” that he wore a hole into the bottom of his cast. Meanwhile, a friend told him about Landmark Forum, an intensive three-day, self-development program, and James attended. What he learned shifted his thinking and pointed to areas where he needed to change, a process James committed to.
He desperately wanted Raquel to attend the program too. James recalled, “I said, ‘I love you and if you want to leave I’ll give you a divorce. But before you leave I paid for you to go to this class.’”
Raquel went. The course plus some marriage counseling put the two back on track.
“You can’t stay the same,” said Raquel. “We knew we hadn’t met our potential, individually, as a family or as a couple. I noticed he was making better decisions, involving me in them. It was a huge, huge turning point.”
“It changed us to just being better people. A whole new world opened up,” said James.
Today, James still has his own business, a document management company in Washington, D.C. Raquel works in the payroll department of a Washington major law firm. Their youngest child is in college. The other four children have already received college degrees. They have three grandchildren.
“They have never given up on each other,” said the oldest child they have together, their daughter Leilani, 28. “They’ve become better friends and a better couple as a result of it. I’ve been married two years and with my husband for nine years. I got my commitment to my relationship from the example of my parents.”
“What has kept us together is hope,” said James. “I would say knowing that you haven’t reached your limit. Each of us individually hasn’t reached our limit. We still feel a lot of fire and ambition in what we can do individually—and together.”
“I’m actually still in love with my husband and I’m still attracted to him,” said Raquel. “Now, it’s not just physical, it’s what he’s about and how he is with the family and people. He has helped me grow, helped me find my own confidence and courage. He’s truly my best friend.
“Even in almost 28 years of marriage my stomach still flutters when I see him.”