Real love’s in the air, believe it or not
Published: February 14, 2006 | 3521st good news item since 2003
We’re marrying more than ever and are going the whole distance. So what’s changing for couples?
“She had on a white blouse, a blue skirt — and legs. Wow! And legs,” John Rocchio recalls of the first time he saw his then-to-be wife Emilia Antonelli in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1922. “So I says to myself, ‘I need to meet that broad.’”
And so he did. They fell in love, got married and still live happily together after 82 years.
It is an astounding achievement and one that apparently makes John, 101, and Emilia, 100, the Guinness Book of Records’ longest-married couple in the world.
With World Marriage Day celebrated February 12 and St Valentine’s on February 14, we explore whether John and Emilia’s feat can be repeated by this generation.
In recent years, the debate about the sacredness of marriage has been hotly contested. There was moral outrage among the church community last week after a Birmingham radio station married a couple who had only met over the telephone on a call-in show.
Marriage is increasingly being used as an economic tool and is most under scrutiny when immigration is involved.
With multi-layered pre-nuptial agreements the order of the day, are marriages really intended to last? And with the UK having one of the highest divorce rates in the world, the question is becoming: is marriage being utilised as a temporary escape from reality?
Whether at the registry office or at the church altar, couples continue to promise to stay together ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health while they both shall live’.
These couples have as their goal companionship, love and tranquillity. Achieving it, though, is not simple or easy, and many do not succeed.
In the UK, marriages that end in divorce are at an all-time high. Even couples that last beyond the honeymoon stages, before the challenges of everyday living set in, may become bored, mutually unfulfilled and ultimately driven apart.
Couples in their mid-20s are at the highest risk of separation blues. Breakdown in communication, difficulty discussing emotionally-charged issues such as finances or child-rearing practices and the challenge of effectively resolving divisive issues are all factors that can sour a potentially gratifying marriage.
Statistics suggesting modern marriages no longer last more than a decade imply that newlyweds today are doing something wrong compared to their older counterparts who have successfully tied the knot for more than half a century.
Francis and Alice Langlais from Enfield, north London, have been married for 53 years. They attribute the success of their long partnership to having a strong faith in God and knowing how to compromise – the famous three words: ‘give and take’.
“Give and take is hard to do because sometimes you are right but you compromise for peace. It takes two to argue, as well as to tango.
“Marriages don’t last because many couples don’t have God in their relationship. Having faith in God results in having faith in your marriage.
“Modern couples turn to their friends for advice and seek council from people who may not have their best interest when in truth they should turn to God.”
The Langlais couple exchanged vows on June 3, 1952 after falling in love the year before. “Alice and I fell in love in 1951 after meeting each other in the choir at Christmas. I had a lovely voice and I used to play the guitar,” recalls Francis, 78.
Alice, 74, gushingly echoed her husband’s sentiments: “We were in love – that’s all we knew. We did not have the pressure that many modern couples have today because we had our parents’ support and we did not have unrealistic expectations for one another.”
Many marriage counsellors reiterate that marital discord may occur simply because the couple came together for the wrong reasons or because they approached marriage with unrealistic expectations. Going into a marriage with eyes wide open is the first initiative toward the long-term success of the union.
“Every ten years we accomplish together is a blessing. The fist decade we shared we had a huge party and we also had a big celebration for our golden anniversary. We love growing old together and would not change it for the world. We especially love seeing our children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren grow and develop,” the couple said.
Relationship counsellor and author Paula Hall believes that acceptance is the ultimate formula for successful marriages. “There are two key things to master if you want to have a long lasting marriage. The first is acceptance – we are all different and unique and you’re not going to find your carbon copy and the second thing couples must learn is to communicate in order to get over those differences.”
Philip and Letitia Morris, 58 and 55 respectively, tied the knot in 1972 and have been successfully married for 33 years. Together they share four children, three grandchildren and two foster-sons.
Once again, the same three words are mentioned in order to keep a blissful marriage. “The secret of marriage is ‘give and take’ along with having the ability to accept the person that you are with, please the person and respect their wishes.
“Many marriages end in divorce due to a lack of preparation. If couples prepare for the unexpected the unexpected will not catch them off guard and if you have high or unrealistic expectations and they are not fulfiled you will become disappointed.”
Hall told The Voice that her research found that couples often break up due to lack of communication.
“The art of good communication is being able to express yourself honestly and clearly, being able to own your feelings.
“You must also be a good listener – being able to read between the lines, hear what people are feeling as well as what they are saying,” Hall said.