The key to a 70-year marriage? Laughing and keeping schtum

Cynthia and Bernard Isow have just celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary


Bernard and Cynthia Isow celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary (Photo: courtesy of Isow family)

Apparently calling your husband-to-be an idiot after your first kiss is the secret to maintaining a marriage for 70 years.

Totteridge residents Cynthia, 90, and Bernard Isow, 92, celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary recently.

They first met around 1950 at a dance. “In those days, all the young Jewish boys and girls used to go to dancing clubs,” Cynthia said, “and it was at one of these dances that we sort of spotted each other.”

It wasn’t until Cynthia and her girlfriends, along with Bernard and his friends, happened to go holidaying in Cliftonville at the same time that the pair really hit it off.

“The first time he took me out, he had a nice car in those days,” Cynthia recalled. “We went for a drive, and, to my shock, he kissed me. Then, even more to my horror, he said he loved me. I said, ‘What? You’re an idiot.’”

It was at this point during our conversation over the phone that the first grumblings of discontent became audible from elsewhere in the room.

“Bernard, shush,” she said “Please don’t keep talking, I’ll give the phone over soon.”

“Anyway,” she continued, “That was it. We went out for three-and-a-half years, married at 19, honeymooned at 20. Together ever since.”

Despite being “together 24/7” since the age of 50, when Bernard retired from his career importing sewing machines, Cynthia admits the pair don’t share very many hobbies.

“He loves the football”, Cynthia said, “and I read.”

“Bloody England,” Bernard muttered darkly in the background.

“The most important thing you have to have in a relationship is a sense of humour and fun,” Cynthia said. “You must laugh at most things. We do that, or we try to.”

“Every relationship is different, but all involve a bit of give and take. If you’re lucky, you’ll get together with someone who you really understand, and who understands you. When you meet the right one, you just know.

“And, with certain husbands, if you’re a clever lady you’ll keep your mouth shut and get on with it,” Cynthia said matter-of-factly.

The couple celebrated their 70th anniversary with tea at their daughter’s house in the company of those friends who are still able to travel, and family, including their two children, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, before going to dinner at Cynthia’s favourite restaurant, Scott’s, in Mayfair.

“When you get to this ripe age, all you really want to see is your children happy and your grandchildren happy, that’s all. And they are, so we’re very lucky,” Cynthia said.

Bernard, finally holding the phone, added: “I’ve never known such love and affection as was present at that party.

“All of our friends – well, those still upright anyway – and our family. Everyone was happy, full of life and affection.”

As to what advice he can offer younger people, or qualities to look for in a partner, Bernard quipped: “The trick is that she’s the boss, but she lets me act like I am.”

Some pushback or mumbling frustration on this point, this time higher pitched, was heard again from somewhere in the background.

Bernard continued: “Habits don’t really change, so find someone who loves yours, and someone who you can be proud of, and you’ll do okay.”

He then added quickly, somewhat more quietly: “My wife is the most marvellous wife and mother. She filled her life with her family, and my life with her. Cynthia is an incredible woman, and I’m an incredibly lucky man.”

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