22 years of marriage all about “love and laughter”

A WHIRLWIND romance proved the winning foundation for Mark and Heidi Westbrook, who have now been married for 22 years.

According to the pair, the key to their long and happy relationship has been laughter, compromise and forgiveness.

Mark first met Heidi while working on a youth program alongside her mother; on the last night an 18-year-old Heidi attended the banquet, they were introduced, and that was it.

Mark kept in touch with Heidi’s mother, both youth workers, and two years later was invited to a billy kart derby she was hosting in Kingaroy.

Heidi lived in Brisbane at the time and decided to head home that weekend.

“The rest was history,” Heidi said.

“We started courting pretty much straight away, he took me on a date up to Mt Cootha and that was pretty much that. That was the November of 1997, he went to New Guinea in December for a month long mission trip, and in March we were engaged. By September we were married.”

According to Mark, in accordance with their faiths, marriage was a priority.

“I think we spent a lot of time in those ten months before we got married just working on our friendship, we got to know each other without that physical intimacy and built something strong,” he said.

“Whereas today, I think a lot of people jump straight into intimacy and they don’t really know who the other person is. They might be good at sex, but they might not be a good or even just the right person.”

Now the parents of four children, Heidi and Mark say family is a big part of their marriage.

“Nothing really changed for us when the kids came on board. We were a family once we got married, and then the kids became part of that,” Heidi said.

“We were both pastors back then and doing youth events and did a lot of water skiing and we never really changed what we were doing.”

Their marriage has not been without hard work, and both admit the rising rate of divorce saddens them.

“A relationship is like a garden, you need to pull the weeds out and make it work,” Mark said.

“We’ve been to marriage counselling because we wanted to know how we could do this, our marriage, better? You have to invest in your relationships.”

With 22 years of marriage down, the couple said their advice to young lovers is simple: “Forgive, make sure there is always lots of laughter, and don’t sweat the small stuff”.