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Luck, harmony and love - what's the secret of a long-lasting marriage?

It’s Valentine’s Day and that seemed the perfect time to ask 'What makes a marriage last?' We sent Rosa Doherty to speak to three couples who have all been married for over 65 years

    Stella and Trevor now
    Stella and Trevor now

    Hans, 88 & Rosalind Fleck, 89, have been married for 68 years. The couple moved into Nightingale House care home four years ago, so that Rosalind, who has dementia, could get the support she needs.

    Hans affectionately reaches for his wife’s hand as he credits their success to having things in common, such as going to art school, and training as architects together for 10 years.

    So, what is the secret to a long and healthy marriage?

    Hans: “Luck. Simply luck, because who do you meet that you just gel with? We went to part- time art school and we both went to different firms of architects, so we were in the same spheres all our lives.

    “It either works or it doesn’t, it isn’t magic. If it doesn’t work you end up where most people end up and that is apart.”

    What made you fall in love?

    Hans: “It is a good question, I don’t think I can answer it, not that I wouldn’t like to but you either take to someone by instinct or that is it.

    “I think the best proof of our love is being here together. I have always lived my life amongst fact not fantasy.”

    What do you think your wife liked about you?

    Hans: “I’ve never thought about it and, we have never really talked about it. We have been very lucky to find each other.”

    Were you romantic as a couple?

    Hans: “No. We were perfectly happy and practical. Once we had family we were just a normal couple.”

    Trevor, 94 and Stella Frank, 92, met in the east end of London and have been married 72 years. Despite her dementia, Stella comes to life when asked about what it was that attracted her to her husband.

    What is the secret to a long and healthy marriage?

    Trevor: “We were married in our 20s and we are from a generation where that was the norm, unlike today.

    “It was almost frowned upon to do anything else. But we were committed to each other and must have been in harmony. But I think a lot of it is pot luck.”

    Stella: “It is such a simple question, but the answer is  - not many people would bother, we have.”

    What made you fall in love?

    Stella: “He was only 12 at the time.”

    Trevor: “We were both members of a youth club in the east end. And in those days there were proper dances not like the contortions you have now. We started courting. But then the war came and we were separated.

    “I did my fly training in Canada and she would write to me, she had other boyfriends of course, but she ended up with me.”

    Stella: “He was always the one to watch.”

    What do you like about each other?

    Stella: “He is always there and useful he makes it a very good place to be in the world.”

    Trevor: “She was good looking and it was the war time, if you were going off and you had a girlfriend you felt committed.

    “I finished my training in Canada and I was being shipped out to the Far East, so we got married because we didn’t know if I was coming back.

    “I don’t know if that is the formula for a good marriage, do it and go off for a year or two and come back to see what it is all about.

    “When I came back we started our family. We have had a very happy life.”

    Carla, 89, & Bernard Sandler, 98 have been residents at the care home since January, 2016, and married for 68 years. They moved in to help support Bernard, who has dementia.

    Carla, a former teacher, who always loved the theatre, said a healthy sex life helped keep her marriage to Bernard, a former gynaecologist, alive.

    What is the secret to a long and healthy marriage?

    Carla: “It is a good question. It is down to the individuals to see if they hit it off or not. The divorce rate at that time was not as common as it is today.

    “We were both very young when we got married and then soon after we had our family. For us it worked but it was the done thing.

    “It is a huge step to leave your home and move to an institution but that is of course what happens to everyone. You cope or you don’t cope. We don’t see each other as much now, when you get old and your mind wonders and your memory goes, it is part of what happens.

    What made you fall in love?

    Carla: “I didn’t really think much about it.”

    Bernard: “What do you mean? I was beautiful.”

    Carla: “We have been together ever since.”

    What do you like about each other?

    Bernard: “I’ve often wondered what you liked about me? She was a great girl, the best. I love everything about her.

    Carla: “It is just as well he said that. I think we have the same sense of humour and we did a lot of singing, dancing, and all in all we had a happy sex life so it was ok.

    Are you romantic?

    Carla: “We never bothered about Valentine’s day. It is just a made-up day. But before we were married and when we were newly married we did romantic things together a lot. We had a short honeymoon in the Sharon hotel in Israel and that was lovely.”


     

     

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