A tiny tattoo in the shape of the Gebo rune appears on Marjie and Dennis Ryan’s left ring fingers to symbolize their love and commitment to one another. It’s not a traditional wedding band, but it carries significance for the couple, who began dating after nine-and-a-half years of friendship.
“The Gebo rune symbolizes the gift you give in order to receive,” explained Marjie, an artist who just finished painting the 6-foot-high St. Joseph mural in the St. Joseph neighborhood.
Marjie and Dennis opted for tattoos instead of gold wedding bands because as Marjie said, “It seems like a lot of times people try on marriages to see how it works. That’s just dating. That’s not marriage. When you have a ring that you can’t take off, you don’t (ask yourself) every day, ‘Should I stay married?’ You are. (This tattoo is) a symbol of marriage. It’s always with you.”
Another aspect of Marjie and Dennis’s relationship that has always been with them is volleyball. We sat down with them right before they played in their Thursday night volleyball league at Baxter Jack’s to learn about their history and how their friendship turned into love.
How did you meet?
The Ryans have spent years playing volleyball together, whether at Ohio Valley Volleyball Center, Crescent Hill or Baxter Jack’s – their home away from home. And it was the volleyball court that brought the two together as friends, and finally as a couple.
“We played volleyball together, but we weren’t dating at that time,” Dennis said. “I finally got up the courage to ask her out during the (season) under one condition – we couldn’t date until after volleyball.”
“Can I give her the inside story?” Marjie asked jokingly. “He was engaged, and I was dating his friend and we were friends for years – nine-and-a-half years – before we started dating. But when those relationships didn’t work out, it still took several years to be able to look at each other as a romantic possibility because when you’ve been friends for too long, you don’t want to mess with it.”
How did he propose?
Dennis chose to propose to Marjie while the two were on vacation in a chateau in Tennessee.
“That was fancy for us,” Dennis said. “And I got down on one knee like the tradition.”
“We didn’t make a big deal out of the proposal,” Marjie continued. “Actually the scary part for me was moving in together. To me, that’s when we got married.”
How do you divide up household chores?
When it comes to cooking and cleaning, it’s a fair divide between the Ryans, though their roles in the household are a little against the norm.
“I’m more willing to mow the lawn and he’s more willing to do the dishes,” Marjie said with a laugh. “But he does the lawn at the new house (we’re moving into) since I’ve been doing murals.”
“I do my own laundry, and she does hers,” Dennis said. “But if she wants me to do hers, I don’t mind.”
“He scrubs the floor, I get the corners,” Marjie added. “We have different styles but it works out.”
Where do you like to go when you’re out ‘n’ about?
“We go out to dinner on occasion,” Dennis said. “And we spend enough time here (at Baxter Jacks. We’re here Thursday and Friday. Marjie subs a lot on Wednesdays and Fridays and plays on Tuesdays and Sundays.”
“We go to the Groundhog’s Day party together every year,” Dennis said. “Every Feb. 2, my brother has a Groundhog’s Day party.”
“It’s the least competitive holiday for everybody’s time, so his brother throws a big bash,” Marjie continued. “It’s the one day a year Dennis will dance.”
What is some advice you would offer couples – new or old – who desire to walk through life in tandem?
“Don’t rush into it,” Marjie said. “It seems like the ones who go into it real fast come out of it real fast.”
Dennis’ advice: “We’re older parents. I don’t know if that makes us wiser. I don’t recommend it for everybody, but it’s worked for us.”
“Communication is good,” Marjie said. “It’s hard but it’s good.”
Dennis’ advice: “Do what’s right. Try to make everybody happy. If I have to bend, I’ll bend.”
“Compromise is an ugly word, but I guess it’s necessary,” Marjie added. “You’ve got to meet in the middle.”
“Don’t say things you’ll regret,” Marjie advised. “And don’t get married around Derby time! It’s too competitive. You get lost in the shuffle.”
April 30, 2003
Jacquline (adopted daughter from Dennis’ previous marriage) and Anika, 7.
For the last 20 years, Dennis has managed a hardware store. He’s currently a stay-at-home dad. Marjie is a professional artist.
Cats or Cards:
Marjie: neither. “I go to the parties and I wear black and white stripes,” she said. As for Dennis, “When they play each other, Cards all the way!”
About the Author (Author Profile)
Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).