''I wish younger folks today would take a closer look at themselves and ask, 'Where do I want to go from here?,' '' says the Rev. Rafe Kelly, who has been married to his wife, Allien, for 56 years.
He believes couples thinking about marriage should talk about their expectations before they get married and find out whether or not they want the same things from life. Some basic agreements established from the start make it easier to work out problems later, he says.
Allien Kelly recalls the beginning of their own marriage. She first heard about her husband-to-be from his mother: ''She must have told him about me too, because he kept running after me until he met me. I liked him and I guess he liked me, because in three months time we were married,'' she says, smiling. Allien was 15 and Rafe was 21 when they were married by a justice of the peace in Lee County, S.C., in 1927.
More seriously, she says: ''I married for love. I didn't marry for what he had - I loved him. When we went through rough times we were always able to talk things out.''
Trust and love, she says, are key qualities in a happy marriage. She also believes married couples should have some common interests. She and her husband, for example, each like to entertain. They like to fish together, and both enjoy their church.
Twelve years after they were married, Mrs. Kelly became interested in religion and joined the local Baptist church. A year later her husband became active in their church as well and later became a minister. With their son (who now lives in Seattle), the Kellys eventually moved north, lived in Connecticut for a time, and then settled in Boston, where they've lived for 38 years.
The Kellys have worked together with the congregation to build a prosperous ministry. ''We've put a lot of work into life. We work with our hands, we work with our minds,'' says Mr. Kelly. ''But we also go fishing on our days off.''
He says some couples who come to him with marriage problems have allowed minor issues grow out of proportion. Marriage partners, said Mr. Kelly, have to learn to respect each other and do their share. If they ''want to make a go of life,'' it's up to both the husband and the wife to adjust to each other as they go along.
''The grass is always greener just outside the pasture. It can be just as green inside if couples just let the grass grow,'' he says.
Mr. Kelly believes the primary reasons happily married people stay together is that they love, they care, and they want to make it work: ''There are so many ways to get out of a marriage. The one way to stay together is with a perfectly made-up mind.''