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Marriage

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Twenty years ago this week, my wife and I got married.

Over the course of the next two decades, we have gone through numerous changes and challenges together, providing a united front for our children, hosting relatives during birthday parties and celebrating landmark occasions.

As I think about the many roles we’ve played in each other’s lives I am grateful for my wife, the teacher. In addition to taking time to help educate our children, she has also been an extraordinary educator for me.

Starting with something easy, she taught me to relax. Before I met her, I felt the need to move, almost all the time. Sitting on a beach, a bed or a rock at the top of the mountain seemed like a waste of time. Over the years, taking a moment to soak in the sun, to observe the trees and birds around us, or to talk and laugh about the events of the day have become increasingly enjoyable ways to spend time and connect.

While my wife has taught me the fine art of relaxing, she has also demonstrated an incredible work ethic, balancing between the needs of our family and the demands of her job. She finds time to respond to work emails, to read work material and to answer important calls, all while supporting our children at everything from sports scrimmages to concerts to graduations.

Neither of us is particularly fond of shopping. She has, however, demonstrated how to speed-shop in a store. She has a gift not only for finding what she or any member of our family needs — a black shirt for a coming concert, a white dress for a party or specific socks that are cool enough for school — but also doing it in the most efficient manner, enabling the four of us to race back to the car and on to other activities.

She has also taught me how to laugh. Of course I laughed before I met her, but the laughter wasn’t as frequent and it didn’t continue to help cement my relationship to someone as well as it does with my wife. The absurd surrounds us, if you know what to look for and how to find it.

Of course, I don’t necessarily cherish every lesson the same way. You see, my wife is a cat person, a trait she shares with her mother and siblings. When my wife was pregnant and during the months when she breastfed, I learned the fine art of scooping cat litter and, once a week, changing the pan. I learned how to do this unpleasant but necessary maintenance task as quickly as possible, leaving me with only a slight scent of cat litter on my clothes. Our young children enjoyed watching me expectorate for a full minute after the process ended.

She also taught me the sheer joy of walking the Earth with someone. Before I met her, I was an avid walker, trekking up and down West Meadow Beach, walking around neighborhoods in Manhattan and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Ever since then, we have covered thousands of miles in all types of terrain as we share our observations of everything from nature to the events of the day or week. Walking together in stride, I have felt a part of something larger and more meaningful than my own existence.

Ultimately, however, my wife taught me how to turn my dreams into a reality. When I was 13, I read about the Galapagos Islands. When I heard about how all the marine and island life ignores people, I knew I had to visit. Spurred on by my wife, we planned this journey, which in 2013 far exceeded my lofty expectations, just as each year does with the woman I married two decades ago.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

My parents married on July 4, 1925. It might seem counterintuitive for them to join each other on Independence Day, but back then to marry meant independence from one’s nuclear family. They were now off on their own, together ready to start a new branch of the family. And they began to have children. They were doing what had been done for only a few centuries before them, marriage being a fairly recent construct in humankind’s history.

Given statistics today, almost a century later, what they did seems almost quaint. Tucked into the back pages of The Wall Street Journal’s Business & Finance section, amid such stories about carmaker Tesla’s quarterly earnings and predictions about the future of tech stocks, is an article that would amaze my parents but speaks to our times: “Despite high costs, more women are interested in single motherhood,” by Veronica Dagher.

Not only are couples no longer feeling the need to marry before they have children. In today’s society, some women don’t need to be part of a couple before they embrace motherhood. Increasing wages for women create economic independence, and the share of women earning top salaries in high positions exploded 500 percent between 2008 and 2012. Women have gone from 1.9 percent among the top 0.1 percent of highest earners to 10.5 percent.

In 2017, according to the WSJ article, four in 10 births were to either solo mothers or mothers living with nonmarital partners. Fifty years ago, the number was one in 10. That means these four out of every 10 children are being raised without a father. That has got to have profound effect on those children. 

According to California Cryobank, a major sperm bank in the United States, about one-third of its clients are single mothers by choice. Further, the number has increased by 3 to 5 percent in the last five years. Rosanna Hertz, a Wellesley College professor, who wrote the book, “Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women are Choosing Parenthood Without Marriage and Creating the New American Family” (2006), has found that most of those mothers are college educated and earn roughly double the national household median of $110,000. But with rising salaries, not all single mothers are high-wage earners. Some have middle-class backgrounds and may even have more than one child.

What’s puzzling about this picture? Are we witnessing men being thrown away? I pray not. To paraphrase “South Pacific,” there is nothing like a man.

It’s understandable that single mothers may be single because they never found the right person to marry. Or they may be divorced or separated. Or widowed. Or they may have chosen not to marry. All of those reasons have to do with themselves. But according to Hertz, “there has been a notable increase in the number of women opting for this family structure in the 13 years” since she wrote her book. Since it takes both sexes to make a child, does a woman in good conscience have the right to knowingly deprive a child of a father because of an overwhelming maternal desire? Is it selfish or unselfish to procreate without a mate? Does boundless and unconditional love compensate?

There is a support group that deals with such issues. Called Single Mothers by Choice, it considers the emotional, financial, psychological and practical aspects of becoming a single mother. It also provides others in the same situation to talk with. To choose single motherhood is a hard and, incidentally, an expensive route. That was the thrust of the WSJ article. Right from the first step, there is no one with whom to share costs. Initial costs can range from several thousand dollars to six figures, and insurance is spotty.

It is certainly true that life does not always work out the way one would like. In fact, it almost never does. Too many bends to see around, too many roads not taken, too many disappointments. But I would just like to add a last thought from “The King and I”: Most men “can be wonderful.” 

The Dalys smile looking back on 60 years of marriage

Bill and Angie Daly with their wedding photo. Photo by Donna Newman

Angie and Bill Daly are months away from celebrating 60 years of married bliss. Well, maybe it wasn’t all bliss, Angie said, but they must know how marriage survives, because they are still happily together.

The two met at a church dance in Brooklyn in 1956. Angie’s brother Vin knew Bill from their days together at the Vincentian seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. So when they encountered each other at the coat check, Bill noticed Vin’s armful of coats.

“Where’re you going with all those coats?” Bill asked. To which Vin explained he brought seven girls to the dance. “I said, you’re just the guy I want to talk to.”

Angie was the first girl he asked to dance.

“I was attracted to guys who were fair with blue eyes,” Angie said. “It was those blue eyes. And I thought he was suave.”

At the end of the evening, Bill asked Angie if he could drive her home.

“I thought everything about her was terrific,” Bill said. “She was so bright and cheerful and outgoing — and cute.”

She said yes, but only if some of the other girls could come along. So they piled into his yellow Olds 98 convertible and on the way home, the car broke down.

“It just died,” Angie said. They were alongside a big cemetery. It was around midnight; no houses or stores were nearby. It started to snow. Angie and Bill left the others in the car and went to find help.

They finally reached some stores, but only the bar and grill was open. They went in and called Vin, who had been home for some time, got dressed, picked them up, drove all the girls home and dropped Bill off at the train station.

“So the first night we met, we had problems,” Angie said.

They got engaged in 1957, married in 1958, and the babies started coming in 1959. By 1969, the couple had four sons and two daughters. Bill taught algebra and business at John Adams High School in Queens. The family lived in Brentwood. He moved into sales with State Farm insurance company and operated his own agency for 28 years. The pair moved to Smithtown, where they resided for 25 years before moving to Jefferson’s Ferry in South Setauket a little more than four years ago.

They still enjoy spending time together.

“We have a lot in common: walking, dancing, visiting friends. We’re on the same page,” Angie said, as she turned to Bill to says “Is that a good answer?”

“Yes,” he replied, adding, “listening to a little music … we try to outdo each other in kindness.”

Asked what she thought were the main factors in a good marriage, Angie said she thought that having animals helped a lot.

“Our loving, therapeutic animals kept us together,” she said, adding that she believes they had a calming influence and can reset your feelings when emotions occasionally get out of hand.

And, of course, there is their faith.

“I remember in elementary school the nuns saying ‘marriage is not just a man and a woman. It’s God, man and woman,’” she said. “And I think we both felt that. We always forgave.”

On Valentine’s Day, as Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia officiated the annual Marriage Marathon, Shantell Bennett Williams and Andre Shakeem Williams have their first kiss as man and wife. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Love was in the air at Huntington Town Hall this past weekend as couples filed in all day for a marriage marathon.

For the past 21 years, Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia has been hosting this event on Valentine’s Day, where she performs marriage ceremonies and vow renewals for couples who are also treated to a small celebration with gifts, desserts and flowers donated from local vendors.

“In 1995, I thought it would be romantic to begin a Valentine’s Day marriage ceremony marathon,” Raia said in a statement. “It is a privilege and a pleasure for me to unite these couples and to share in their happiness as they embark on their new lives together.”

The ceremony has gained popularity over the years, and this year one couple came all the way from Brooklyn and Westbury to say, “I do.”

Andre Shakeem Williams, from Westbury, said he came to Town Hall to do some paperwork when he saw the flyer for this event.

“He came home with the flyer and said, ‘Would you be interested in this?’ and I said ‘Sure, let’s do it,’ and here we are,” Shantell Bennett Williams, of Brooklyn, said after the ceremony. “We said ‘We’ll do something small now, and then something big later.’”

Local couple Lisa Locker Marshall and John Paul Marshall came from East Northport, where they met more than 20 years ago in junior high.

“We didn’t want to wait,” Marshall said. “We’re not big flashy kind of people, so this was right up our alley.”

Thirty-one vendors from throughout the Huntington area contributed to the event.

Jo-Ann Raia holds a map from the 1880s in the archives. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

There has been a steady hand at the helm of Huntington Town Hall for the past 30 plus years.

Jo-Ann Raia, Huntington Town clerk, was elected for the first time in 1981, and ever since then, she has not stopped bringing positive improvements to the town.

Raia has been a Huntington resident since 1958, but spent summers on the Island as child. She has worked under five supervisors and has served as secretary to the town board and board of trustees, among many other duties.

She has devoted much of her time in office to creating a state of the art facility for Huntington’s archives, and a successful records management program.

Raia said when town government moved into what is now Town Hall, in 1979, the archives were being stored in the old gymnasium, as the building used to be a high school.

“I was told that these were my records, as I am the legal custodian for Huntington,” she said in a phone interview. “I went to as many seminars as I could [on record keeping], I lobbied the state for funding and received state grants.”

She said the road was not easy to get a proper archive system in place, as she had to convince many people to give her the funds and resources required.

 Jo-Ann Raia displays one of the many old town records inside the town archive room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.
Jo-Ann Raia displays one of the many old town records inside the town archive room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

“When the town spends money on a baseball field, everyone can see it, but to put money into an area that’s restricted and no one will see it is a different story,” she said. “That’s why I had to convince and beg.”

The archives officially opened in October 1991 and ever since then, researchers and students from throughout Long Island have visited.

Through learning so much for the Huntington archives, Raia herself became well-versed in the topic, and has since spoke at conferences and panels on records management.

“We were the pioneers, and now [Huntington archives] runs like clockwork,” she said.

Some of the items in the archives that stand out to Raia are the Revolutionary War claims, the manumission of slaves and the Duke’s Laws.

Raia said she refers to the Revolutionary War claims as an I.O.U. book, with records of all of the things British soldiers borrowed from colonials living in Huntington in the mid 1770s, like oxen and wagons.

The manumission of slaves is a record of all the slaves freed from a former town supervisor who lived on Park Avenue in Huntington, and according to Raia, used to have African Americans enter through his back door as slaves, and leave through his front door as free citizens.

The Duke’s Laws, published in 1665, covered all the laws of colonial life, like no traveling on Sunday. Raia said Huntington is one of the few local governments to still have an original copy of them.

Aside from her many other duties as town clerk, Raia particularly enjoys the marriage marathon she performs every Valentine’s Day, where she marries multiple couples in a row throughout a day’s time.

In 1989, Raia was appointed marriage officer, and starting in 1995, decided to create a special event as marriage officer.

“I wanted to make it something special, so I researched other ceremonies, and found a special poem that I now recite that has sort of become my trademark,” she said.

The event has blossomed over the years, with merchants from all over town donating baked goods, flowers and gifts for the event. Raia personally donates all the paper goods and decorations.

Raia has presided over large and small ceremonies, and has even seen a ceremonial pick and axe procession performed by a local fire department.

“I never know what I’m going to see,” she said.

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By Jonathan S. Kuttin

Soon after the wedding is over — and the chaos of planning has subsided — many newlyweds start asking themselves questions related to their financial situation. Should we buy a home? Should we merge accounts? Who pays the electric bill? How much should we be saving for a rainy day? Can we afford to take a trip? It’s smart for newlyweds to take some time to focus on establishing their new financial lives together.

What are the pros and cons of merging finances? How you go about commingling finances is something that all new couples should carefully consider. Some couples merge everything, others prefer to keep things separate, and some choose a combination of the two. The most important factor is that both spouses feel comfortable with the arrangement and that you have a process set up to ensure you pay your bills on time and maximize your finances.

Start by having a conversation about money habits and styles. How have you handled money in the past? Is one of you a spender and the other a saver? If two individuals have very different ways of managing money, keeping some accounts separate and preserving some independence can be a way to maintain a healthy relationship while protecting your joint financial wellness. If you’re on the same page — both savers, for example — togetherness in all things financial can create some efficiency.

In addition to careful budgeting, a good compromise is to have one checking account in which a couple deposits their income and then a separate account for each holding an agreed-upon amount that comes from the shared pool that each spouse can spend as he or she wishes — no questions asked. It’s also important that the couple agree on how much money they will save together and to establish an auto-transfer from the shared pool so that saving is easy and automatic.

Equally critical is for couples who are blending their finances to consider different “what-if” scenarios. Discuss how much each partner would be comfortable spending on things like new furniture, or how they would financially approach an unexpected situation such as a relocation.

How can you ensure you don’t go over budget? Having one joint household budget makes it easier to monitor spending and stay on track. First, create a monthly and annual budget, taking into consideration your income, monthly fixed expenses (like rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance and basics like groceries) and your savings goals. Then determine how much you can afford for discretionary expenses (like clothing, travel and entertainment). If one person is “in charge” of the budget or finances, it is important for the other person to communicate about his or her unplanned purchases. But, even the best laid plans can go astray — be sure to have overdraft protection in place to cover any purchases that fall through the cracks.

Who does what? Communicate openly and often about your money. Financial disagreements or misunderstandings can fester, so making sure you keep the lines of communication open is important. Have a clear process for who does what and when. One individual may have more of a propensity or interest in financial management; if that’s the case and both spouses support that arrangement, it may be the best for your family — but make sure that both parties are informed about their financial situation. It can be helpful to have a set time each month to pay bills, do record keeping, and discuss overall financial issues. Consulting with a financial advisor early in your relationship is another way to create a mutually agreeable plan and to have regular sessions to track your progress toward financial goals and talk about money.

Jonathan S. Kuttin, CRPC®, AAMS®, RFC®, CRPS®, CAS®, AWMA®, CMFC® is a Private Wealth Advisor specializing in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for 19 years.