Saturday, 23 June 2012

How to have a long happy marriage

Last week my grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.  I hadn't really thought about how rare it is for marriages to last so long until I tried to find a card to send them to celebrate: apparently most retailers stop anniversary cards at 60 years. 

I've only been married 4 months so 65 years seems like an incredible achievement.  Having got married aged 29 I would have to live to 94 and my husband to 100 to reach the same landmark event.  I know we are all living longer, but that still feels unlikely. 

I have no memory of my parents being together as they divorced when I was too young to remember and my husband's parents split up while he was in single figures.  If I'm going to gain wisdom about how to make a marriage last I thought my grandparents would be good people to ask.

My Grandparents Story

My grandparents have known each other nearly all their lives. They grew up a few roads apart in Pimlico, London and played together as children. Despite a few years age gap they were in the same class at primary school , but Nana said she never thought she would marry him.

After primary school they went to different schools then moved out of London for a while. When they were teenagers they both came back to London. My future Grandad was in the Scouts and Nana was in the Guides then the Rangers. Through these activities they used to see each other at Church and they became part of a group of friends who regularly met up at dances held on Saturday nights.

At 18 Grandad joined the army and left London again.  This time he stayed in touch with Nana and they wrote letters to each other.  "I wont tell you how many letters we sent" said my grandad, partly because it was a lot, but also because he can't remember.  They used to number each letter and there were hundreds.  While writing love blossomed.

My Grandad was stationed in Italy and then Austria ("they were first into Vienna after the war, before the Russians", that matters apparently). When he came home on leave their romance developed further, but he was soon off again.  This time he headed to Palestine to keep the peace. More letters were written including a letter to Nana's father asking for permission to get married.

Nana arranged the wedding for June 14th 1947 when he should have been home, but he never arrived.

Nana went to visit her would be mother in law on the Saturday the wedding had been planned for.  She was miserable: wondering where her fiancĂ©e was and why he hadn't been in touch. When she knocked on the door my grandad opened it having just arrived home.  He was supposed to have sent a telegram telling her about the delay, but Nana is still waiting for it to arrive.

Everything was ready so they decided they would get married the following Saturday.  They went to tell Nana's parents what was happening and her Dad had to quickly write to everyone to make sure they could come. Most of their relatives didn't have telephones and didn't live close enough to visit in person. Some how they all made it.

They had a small reception at home and then left by coach for their honeymoon. In Ipswich.

My grandparents wedding day

I asked Nana what the secret was to a long marriage, and she laughed then said "Give and take I think, give and take, I don't know really... put up with each others foibles".

The telephone was passed to Grandad and he said: "Tolerance", "turn the other cheek" and "shut your mouth". Hearing protests (and laughter) from Nana I said I didn't want to get him in trouble on their anniversary and he laughed saying: "oh I'm always in trouble".  He ended the conversation saying "look out for each other, that's the main thing".  

Listening to my grandparents I would say their 65 years of marriage are based on: love, friendship and humour. There is something beautiful knowing they continue to laugh and enjoy each others company after all this time. 

May we all be so lucky.

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