When you first hear that Arthur Christiansen and his wife Sheila went to prom together, you might think ‘Wow how cute, they were high school sweethearts!’ Only it wasn’t quite that simple.
“I was with another girl and Sheila was with her boyfriend, yet we doubled together,” said Arthur “Later on, we got to know each other a little better, she pulled away from her boyfriend.”
Despite the slightly dramatic beginning, Arthur and Sheila have maintained a simple, loving relationship for more than 50 years.
“When you look back on it, you see it as an accomplishment,” said Sheila. “But when you’re living it, you just see it as your life and this is what you wanted.”
The couple married in 1967 when they were both just 19 years old. But mentally, they say they felt a lot older.
“When we got married, kids were dying in Vietnam at 19 years old just right out of high school,” said Arthur. “I think people were growing up a little quicker than they are today.”
Not to mention, Arthur and his younger brother lost their mother at a young age, and then their father died in their teen years.
“He and his brother were basically living on their own,” said Sheila. “He just seemed like for his age, a very strong person to be able to do that to live and get through that.”
So after a little more than a year of dating, the pair decided to get married. But they don’t remember a grand proposal or even an engagement ring. Just a simple understanding that they had found “the one.”
“It was always just assumed we were going to get married and that was it,” said Sheila.
After a church ceremony, they celebrated with a quick reception in the church basement with family and friends, before heading off on their honeymoon.
On their first night as Mr. and Mrs. Christiansen, they shared a bottle of champagne by a lake, while roasting hot dogs on a fire.
“It was nice for us,” said Arthur.
Their first eight years of marriage were spent focusing on careers and a brief stint in the Army after Arthur was drafted.
They also built a house, where they still currently live in Illinois. And at first, they weren’t sure they’d make good parents. But then came Erin, their only daughter.
It’s clear how much Erin means to them, her photo sits in every room of their house. Most years, Sheila and Art travel to Tucson, Ariz. where Erin lives, to help her with her well-known Halloween party.
And Erin planned the perfect anniversary party to celebrate her parents’ lasting marriage.
“I don’t think there’s a magic formula. If there was, boy you could make a lot of money off that one,” said Sheila. “But you do have to just sit down and talk with one another. It is a give and a take process. It can’t always be what I want, it can’t always be what he wants.”
Arthur said they knew going in to expect highs and lows but they always worked together to get through the rough times.
And Sheila says she never took her husband for granted.
“Give acknowledgement and praise and respect,” she said. “Say thank you often for what your spouse does and say ‘I love you.'”