Secrets of a successful marriage

John and Mary McCormack on their wedding day: Sep 1960

With half of all marriages ending in divorce, what are the secrets of a long-lasting marriage? We spoke to three couples who have more than 120 years of marriage between them to try to find out. 


'Never go to sleep on an argument'

Margaret and Michael Longdon - both 63 - live in Mansfield, have been married 39 years and known each other for more than 45.

Margaret and Michael Landgon

'We met at a Boxing Day dance and I fell in love with Margaret immediately,' recalls Michael. 'I loved Michael’s cheeky grin and sparkling eyes and he still has them today, although I could cheerfully hit him round the head with a frying pan a lot of the time,' laughs Margaret.

But they didn't jump straight into marriage. 'We courted for 7 years before moving in together,' says Margaret. 'We didn’t dare live together earlier – it just wasn’t the done thing in those days.'

One thing Margaret and Michael agree on is having separate and shared interests. 'We spend most weekends together, but tend to do our own things during the week,' says Margaret, 'I still work, while Michael is involved with the Rotary, Age UK in Nottingham, St John’s Ambulance and he’s a church warden, too.'

So just what do they think are the secrets of success? 'I think we just blend together very well and provide a good balance,' suggests Margaret. 'We’ve never kept any secrets from each other, and never go to sleep on an argument. We disagree on things, but when we do, we just accept it and move on.'

'I’d never swap Michael for anyone…' says Margaret. 'She’d give me away though,’ jokes Michael. 'I think the most important thing is a sense of humour – I like to bring a bit of laughter into most things.' 

Michaels admits they're lucky, but that they've worked at it. 'I'm a devout person and a lot of things in society have broken down, so I'm proud that we’ve had a good life together.  We’re very well suited and happy together.' And you can't say fairer than that.  

'It's about give and take and trust'

Ann and Mushtaq ValiAnn Vali, 64, and her husband Mushtaq, 69, live in West London, have been married for 35 years and known each other for more than 40 years.

'We met in the workplace,' remembers Ann. 'I was born in Ireland and came over to the UK in search of a job. Mushtaq was working in the accounts department and we met there.'

Not that they fell madly in love when they clapped eyes on each other. 'It wasn’t love at first sight - you’d call it a slow burn, I guess.'

'Why have we stayed together? I think it helped that we weren’t teenagers when we got together and by the time we became a couple, we really knew each other. Mushtaq agrees with me that, by and large, we’re still the same. I don’t think we’ve changed that much over the years.'

So what else are the key ingredients? 'It’s the simple things,' continues Ann. 'It’s about give and take and trust. We have shared interests, but we also enjoy doing things separately, so that each of us has our own space. That’s really important. We’ve also never been particularly possessive, so I go on holiday with the girls and Mushtaq doesn’t mind in the slightest.'

'We’ve been very lucky,' says Ann, 'because there haven’t been any really difficult times – we’ve both just very easygoing.'

'A sense of humour is important'

John and Mary McCormackMary and John McCormack live in Essex are both in their 70s and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2010.

'We were at school together and started going out then,' remembers Mary, 'but it took us 5 years to get married, as you had to wait until you were 21 then.'

'I knew instantly that she was the one for me, but she played hard to get,' laughs John. 'I think it was good starting early. It meant that when we did have the odd bad time, we found it easier to get through.

'We’ve been together so long that we’ve become part of each other,' says Mary. 'In other words, we finish each other's sentences,' jokes John. 

Not that John and Mary live in each other's pockets. 'We don’t do everything together,' says Mary. 'John plays golf regularly and goes to Probus, for example.'

But like all of our couples, they enjoy spending time together. 'We go ballroom dancing every week, walk every day and also love going to the theatre.'

John and Mary both agree that friends are another vital part of the puzzle. 'It was wonderful to see so many of our family and friends at our golden wedding celebrations.' says John. 'Friends are really important - we have a lovely social group who we’ve know for a long time.'

So have the pair of them changed since they first met? 'I don’t think we’ve changed one iota in 55 years – he was just as difficult then, as he is now!' chuckles Mary, which leads us to their golden rule of a successful relationship. 'A sense of humour is probably the most important thing,' says John, as he descends into gales of laughter again. Amen to that!

What you think the secrets are

We also asked those of you on opens link in new window Facebook what you think the secrets to a successful marriage are. These are some of your pearls of wisdom (some less serious than others!)

  1. Sense of humour
  2. Be true to each other and talk and don’t drag a row out
  3. Work at it - don't give up as soon as times get hard
  4. It’s all about trust, loyalty, sympathy, love, understanding, give and take.
  5. A blind eye
  6. We share problems, and money is OURS not yours and mine.
  7. Respect each other and give each other space, laugh together
  8. Just accepting each other for what you are, and being prepared to forgive and forget
  9. A little deafness helps
  10. Two words: ‘Yes dear!’

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