Falling in love is a good place to start, but how can you make it last over the long haul?
On Valentine’s Day, five couples who have been together for over 50 years tell us the secrets to a long and happy marriage – and while each partnership is different, there are some common themes.
Whether they fell for each other over milk churns or pork chops, or woke up to their feelings after a slap in the face, the threads running through most of our long-term love stories include kindness, tolerance – and a whole lot of laughter. ..
Charles and Anne – wed 57 years
A simple notion has underpinned the long marriage of Anne Goody, 77, and husband Charles, 81. She says: “I take none of his nonsense and he takes none of mine.”
They met at a dance in Dunmow, Essex, in 1960 when Anne was 16.
“It was love at first sight,” says Charles. “Anne was pretty, she had great legs and she was a good dancer.
“I asked if I could keep in touch, then borrowed Dad’s car to drive 30 miles to Epping to see her. Early dates were in a pub with a glass of shandy between us because we had no money.”
Anne, who earned £12 a week as a seamstress, worked overtime to help pay for their wedding in Epping. She says: “I think the secret to lasting love is to find real love in the first place.
“Marriage, children and decades change you. But if you have real love it’ll get you through. And I have never doubted my love for Charles.”
The pair, who live in an Inspired Villages retirement development in Great Alne Park, Warks, say there have been bumps in their long road.
“Anne can be quite volatile,” adds Charles, a retired engineer and company director.
“When we were dating I dared her to slap my face, and she did. So I learned to keep my head down and just say, ‘Yes, dear’.
“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If I’m trying on new clothes, Anne will say, ‘You’re not having that’ and I take them off. But when it comes to finances, that’s left to me.”
Anne says: “Charles worked a lot and didn’t believe me when I said staying home and bringing up teenagers was hell. But neither of us wanted to throw the towel in at the first hurdle.
“We are both ambitious, love being active and going on cruises.
“We’re in a peaceful phase of life. And I’m less volatile now. I only slapped his face on him all those years ago because he was very cheeky.
Charles and Mary – wed 65 years
After Charlie Roe’s childhood London house was bombed in the Blitz, he was evacuated to Devon.
Working on a farm there, he was captivated by Mary who emptied the milk churns each day.
They married on April 21, 1956, near Orpington in Kent.
Mary, 90, who went on to become a nurse, says: “To find a good partner, make sure they are reliable, likeable and most importantly kind.
“They have to have a good character. I love Charlie’s kindness and his stability. I can always rely on him.”
Charlie, 91, who spent the rest of his career as a farm worker, adds his own advice: “Plan your future with your partner, always work hard at your relationship, and have shared interests.”
The couple, who moved together into a Care UK home in Chichester, West Sussex, last month – have three children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
On Valentine’s Day they will be treated to a candlelit champagne dinner cooked by the care home’s head chef.
John and Doreen – wed 61 years
John and Doreen Pitt first met at primary school in West Ham, East London. They saw each other years later at a birthday party and have been together since.
Doreen, 80, says: “We didn’t dance at the party – which is a good job because John has two left feet. But he had a self-deprecating humor that made me laugh and he still does.
John, 82, says: “After our first date at London Zoo, I took Doreen to a cafe in Soho and impressed her by ordering pork chops.”
The couple, who now have a Churchill Retirement Living home in Cheltenham, Glos, married in 1961 and welcomed a son, daughter and five grandchildren into their lives.
They describe their relationship as “not flowery”.
Doreen says: “John says romantic things, but not in an old charmer way – more of a rough diamond way.
“We roll up laughing together. John looks after me. He knows just how I like my cup of tea and exactly when I need one.
“He was wonderful to my parents and called my mum ‘Old Girl’ which made her laugh. And he has been a fantastic father.”
John, who worked for BT, says: “When Doreen’s not here the house feels so empty.
“That’s not to say we want to be in each other’s company every minute. But even when I’m in the next room reading my newspaper, it’s a comfort to know she’s in the next room.
“We’d be lost without each other. She’s a lovely person-but I wouldn’t say that to her face.
“I had an aneurism a few years ago and when I woke up in intensive care, Doreen’s face was the first I saw. I ca n’t describe how joyous that she felt.
Jack and Grace – wed 74 years
Jack and Grace Priestly met while both serving in the Royal Navy in Plymouth in 1947 and married one year later at St Hilda’s Church in Leeds.
The couple have a daughter, Susan, 73, and a grandson David.
Grace, 98, says: “In 1947 when I left the Wrens I moved into Jack’s house with his parents instead of going home. I’d fall in love with him because he’s so kind and funny.
“I can’t describe how I knew he was the one for me. I just knew.” Jack, 99, says: “What do I love most about Grace? Everything – she’s Grace.”
Grace, who went on to become an office clerk for British Gas, and Jack, who worked in insurance, have planned a Valentine’s stay-home treat at Bupa Care Home Ashley House in Cirencester, Glos.
Grace says: “We used to go to the theater all the time, so the home is setting up a little theater trip in the lounge just for us after our Valentine’s supper. I can’t wait.”
Bryan and Angela – wed 60 years
Bryan and Angela Shelley found love at a seemingly unromantic atomic energy conference.
Angela, 87, who was a marine zoologist, says: “I was the only female in a group of 30 men there. Bryan turned up, beats as usual.”
After the conference, Bryan returned to his London home and Angela to hers at the opposite end of the country in Cumbria.
But they saw each other most weekends and Bryan, who was a project design engineer, proposed by phone. They married six months after their first meeting, in November 1961.
The couple, who now live in Bupa’s Ashby Court care home in Ashby De La Zouch, Leics, have four children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Angela says: “The secret to lasting love is tolerance. It might be old-fashioned but it’s important to stand by the vows you made.”
Bryan adds: “We have always been compatible. We never argue… but do exchange differences of opinion.”