What does it take to create a long-lasting marriage?
It’s no secret that today’s divorce rate is higher than ever before, with approximately 33% of couples getting divorced in the UK and almost 50% in the US. With this in mind, we sat down with a local elderly couple, Rodger (R) and Penny (P), to find out just what it takes to create a long-lasting marriage.
How long have you been married?
R: We were married in 1966, so about 55 years now. We have three children, one born in ’68, one in ’70, and one just at the beginning of ’74.
How did you meet?
R: A good friend and I decided to go to the intervarsity club together. He met his future wife there and I also met Penny there. The intervarsity club was a social club for people who had been to university, up in Manchester. We met once a week or something, and we went to theatres and cinemas and skating, anything we wanted to. And I fell for this young lady-
P: Who was going out with someone else at the time (laughs).
R: It took some time to persuade her that I was the right guy for her! We met up fairly frequently really, and eventually decided that we would be together as a couple. A year later we got married.
What advice would you give young people looking for love today?
P: There was a song on the radio and the singer was saying ‘So many people are not in turn looking for love, so I’ll move along the line’. She was singing about how people would spend the evening with her and then tell her they didn’t have time for a relationship. But somebody else out there was looking for what she was looking for; a lasting love. So, I think it is true, patience is probably your best virtue.
R: Nowadays there are some people that aren’t wanting to get married at all. They want to stay free to play the field, which I think is sad, because it’s not conducive to a long-term relationship. It’s more difficult now than our day, when there was a club there and you met lots of different people.
P: Lots of people met their partner at work in our day, and I think it’s frowned upon now. So, where do you meet people? It has to be online, and I think that that can be quite problematic, because the persona that you want to project is the thing that you want to be, but it’s not necessarily what you are. And people need to love each other for what they really are.
What is the secret to a happy marriage?
R: You’ve got to listen a lot, that’s what I’ve learnt over life. Things don’t come easily, and you have to start to understand what the other person is thinking, rather than what you want. The importance is to have a common goal, to be able to compromise and do things that you wouldn’t really like to do because you want the other partner to be happy. We’ve been retired now for 22 years, and we’ve had a very happy time together.
P: I think you’ve both got to talk about what you both expect from the marriage, because your expectations could be totally different. You also have to accept to that life throws a lot of stuff at you that you would prefer it didn’t. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
R: There’s a lot of downs, and there’s a lot of ups. And you have to handle both.
Why do you think the divorce rate today is higher than before?
R: That’s a very difficult question to answer, really. So much has happened in our lifetime since we got married, like having the pill and accepting that you can have relations before marriage. People are now having children without being married, and that was pretty frowned upon in our time. So, there are more different options nowadays.
P: Do you remember when people would actually say, ‘I don’t go out with married men’? If he’s married, that’s it, you walk away before you get involved. Equally, if a man finds somebody and she is married, he should walk away. And that’s a big change that we have seen in our lifetime, isn’t it? There was an expectation in our days that you didn’t divorce, that family loyalty was always more the most important thing.
R: But also, people do change, and we’ve seen some friends get divorced. It’s not much fun staying in a marriage where you are totally unhappy.
How can people make long distance relationships work?
R: We were living near London and I got moved up to near Manchester by the company I was working for. Because of the children, and where they were in their education, we decided that I would go and live up there for a year and come down at weekends. And that was very difficult. When we started, we always had an argument when we met. This went on for a few weeks, until we realised that things were happening that we could put right. So we sat down and talked about it, and said okay, what can we do? And we managed to get to a compromise of some sort.
P: We got round to laughing about it: ‘Shall we have the argument now, or shall we wait until Saturday?’ (laughs) It takes the sting out of it. And then you just sit down together and find something to do together.
What has been your best experience together?
R: I think our last twenty years. Because we both worked hard at our jobs, and we had our children to look after, and our grandchildren growing up and all the rest of it. There were good days, but since we’ve retired of course, we’ve had really time to learn a lot more about each other in a way. And enjoyed the journey.
P: This is true, yes. Also, once you retire, you have time for the grandchildren which is a joy. Because they’re not your responsibility in the same way that the parenting was.
R: And we can spoil them. (laughs)
What has been your worst experience together?
R: Probably when I was away, when we weren’t together, for a year.
P: When somebody’s ill, it can be very hard. I had an operation at 30 or 31, and it took a year to recover. It was only a worst experience because we couldn’t do any of the normal things, and we really struggled for a while. I think illness or being out of work are the biggest challenges for couples.
Have you ever fallen out of love?
P: No. I don’t think you ever do fall out of love with the person that you really have as a soulmate. What you do find is that you get very busy and when the kids get past age 9, it’s not that you lose each other for a bit, but you have to put the children first. And then, if you’re lucky, you rediscover the person that you fell in love with, which is quite useful (laughs).
What is your best advice for raising children and keeping the romance alive?
R: You have to make time for yourselves, as well as for the children, that’s for sure.
P: I think there are a dozen different ways of raising children – it must come from the heart, but I think the most important is to love and encourage. Every day, you tell them something good about themselves. And tell your husband something good about himself (laughs). I can remember a teacher at school said to us very firmly, ‘You know girls, if you want your man to be wonderful, you have to tell him that he’s wonderful. And he will become wonderful.’
So, there you have it, dear readers, marriage advice from seasoned pros –The Gryphon wishes you good luck with all your romantic endeavours! May we all find the love we deserve.
Header Image Credit: Pixabay