New Series: Insights from Couples Married More Than 50 Years

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
Art and Marilyn Goldberg attribute their almost 57 years of happy marriage to common interests, prioritizing family and focusing on what’s important. They built their dream house in Orinda, where they live with their beloved dog, Brooklyn.

    To talk with Marilyn and Art Goldberg about their almost 57 years of marriage is to embark on tales of serendipity, creativity and adventure. They’ve learned the world is smaller than one would think, and a successful union is built on common interests, prioritizing family and focusing on what’s important. They’ve traveled the world, meeting people with whom they have hometown connections and their creative talents have instigated invitations of all sorts.
    One story of serendipity takes place in Italy, when they were in the courtyard of a small Tuscan vineyard. The lively manager, Gino, sidled up to Marilyn and told her he knew all about American women because he married one from Princeton, New Jersey.
    Intrigued, Art and Marilyn expressed interest in meeting her. Gino crossed the courtyard to her window and serenaded, “I’m in the mood for love.” Katherine stuck out her gold mane, Rapunzel style and agreed to meet the Goldbergs. Before long, they learned Katherine’s father had been Marilyn’s OBGYN in Princeton and one of Art’s relatives had been Katherine’s favorite teacher in high school.
    The Goldbergs have many such stories, but they all began at Brooklyn College, NY when Art’s brother, who was also Marilyn’s math professor, introduced them in 1963.
    They became better acquainted at the Brooklyn College County Fair where Marilyn was employing her decorating skills on backdrops and Art was managing the event. They started dating and Marilyn was immediately drawn to Art’s large family.
    “His father had eight siblings and it was delightful to spend time with all those aunts and uncles,” she said. Trips upstate for picnics accelerated the romance and the two were married June 26, 1966.
    After marriage, Art launched a career with IBM and Marilyn began a teaching career. Art’s extensive knowledge of math and physics helped him become an expert on computers in higher education, taking the Goldbergs to Princeton University.
    The family grew with the arrival of three daughters, Jennifer, Julie and Jillian. “I didn’t look up until I was 40,” said Marilyn of that busy time.
    When Art had an opportunity to move into finance, the family moved to Buffalo, NY and eventually to Connecticut.
    In Connecticut, Marilyn shifted careers to interior design, prompted when their daughters were reaching Bat Mitzvah-age. There wasn’t a temple, so the Goldbergs built one.
    “It took two years, but there was that moment when we finally had the Bat Mitzvah and we were surrounded by our friends and we stopped and admired the beautiful facility,” said Marilyn.
    As Marilyn’s career in interior design was taking off, Art seized an opportunity with a start-up in Silicon Valley, which led to two years of flying back and forth between coasts. This was one of the most difficult periods of their marriage.
    “Living on opposite coasts and commuting across the country was challenging, but we made it work,” said Art. “Making the effort to be together as often as possible and talking everyday helped to minimize the difficulty.
    “I think the most difficult times for any married couple is when financial stress is loaded on top of everything else that is going on. Having three daughters in college and supporting two households –when we were living separately – provided that level of stress for us. Somehow, we made it through those difficulties and were able to reemerge on the other side.”
    The Goldbergs were relieved when they were able to reunite and live in one place. They designed and built a home in Los Altos Hills, settling permanently in California. Four years ago, at the urging of their daughters, they discovered Orinda. “Once we saw this area we fell in love,” said Marilyn.
    They combined their skills once again to design their house, to include the stained glass they made for the living room. This is a skill they’ve honed since Marilyn gave Art a stained-glass class as a gift when they were first married.
    “Having common interests is essential to a friendship, but particularly to a friendship as intimate as a marriage,” said Art. “You never stop working it; we are always reminding ourselves to focus on what’s important.”

Amy Moellering can be reached at

(Courtesy of Art Goldberg)
Art and Marilyn Goldberg on their wedding day, June 26, 1966.

Advice for Young Couples

    First, don’t sweat the small stuff. Focus on the important things in your life and don’t let the small day-to-day issues – and there will be many – drag you down.
    Second, live your life together, building shared experiences and a trove of happy memories. The more shared history you build together, the stronger the base you will have to support you as a couple. If each focuses on the things that make your mate happy, it will inevitably lead to your own happiness and success as a couple.

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