Linda: Last Thursday was one of those “Maybe-I just-need-to-stop-reading-the-newspaper-for-a-while days. There wasn’t a lot of uplifting news in the world, at least, not that I was hearing about from my usual sources. But then I came upon this piece on-line and my faith in humanity and in the power and possibility of committed partnerships was almost instantly restored.
The story is about a British couple, Maurice and Helen Kaye who have been married for a while. On August 27, they celebrated their 80th anniversary with their two children, seven grandchildren, and six great grandchildren, in Bournemouth, England. Maurice is 102 and Helen is 101.
They met in 1929 when Maurice, age 16 and employed as a traveling salesman for women’s clothing, stopped by the dress shop owned by Helen’s mother to try to interest her in purchasing some clothing. He ended up staying in the store for three hours, prompting his future mother-in-law to ask Helen, “Who’s going to throw him out, you or me?”
Although Maurice did, reluctantly, leave the shop, he never left Helen’s life, and he’s been an integral part of it for the past 85 years. They courted for four years because Helen’s mother wanted her older sister to be married first. Maurice went on to manage his father’s factory and two shops in London before joining the army in 1939, leaving Helen to run the business.
Although the couple has unquestionably created an exemplary relationship, their time together has not been without its ordeals. Like all couples, they have experienced their share of challenges over the years. When London was attacked by Germany during World War II, the couple lost their home, factory, and shops, all of which were totally destroyed by German bombs. While they were able to eventually rebuild their life together, they had to undergo the loss of two of their children; Anthony, who died of a burst appendix at age four, and daughter, Leslie, who succumbed to a brain tumor in 1991, leaving three young children. While these losses caused profound pain to both Helen and Maurice, it was the depth of their love for each other enabled them to prevail despite horrific grief.
In reflecting over their many years together, Helen stated that “It’s been a wonderful marriage, and even though it’s been hard work and not without its tragedy, we’ve had so many good moments together.” She added that the ability to laugh together has really assisted them along the way, affirming that a good sense of humor (which their on-line video clearly demonstrates they both possess) has been a helpful ingredient to their many years of shared happiness.
Amazingly vital for a centenarian, Maurice celebrated his 90th birthday by taking a flying lesson and continued to drive until he reached 100. Both he and Helen continue to enjoy good health and still live independently in an apartment in England. They are both avid bridge players and enjoy frequent visits with their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, with whom they continue to have close relationships. When asked to name one of their secrets of success, Maurice offers, “It’s simple. I just agree with everything that she says”, to which Helen laughed, “You do not!” proving him wrong!
Helen and Maurice exemplify many of the traits and characteristics embodied by the couples that we interviewed for our second book, Secrets of Great Marriages. Many studies have shown that couples who enjoy long-term, fulfilling relationships, also tend to experience enhanced self-esteem, clarity of life purpose, a tendency to view things optimistically, and generally, better health. They also tend to be less susceptible to illness and experience greater longevity. Recent findings in the research about the physiology of long-term happy couples refer to the “love cocktail.” Eve Shehilo, M.D. says, “Love sets off a set of physiological events in the body: peptides and hormones are released, including endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, vasopressin and nitric oxide. These lower anxiety, prompt relaxation, and create a positive physiology.”
In our own research we have discovered that happy couples are committed to taking care of their bodies by exercising, eating well, and getting sufficient rest, all of which promote higher levels of well-being and enhanced physical and emotional health. In addition to these commonly accepted health practices, they also place a premium on bringing lots of laughter, play, fun, pleasure and enjoyment into their lives through a seemingly limitless variety of experiences. Perhaps more importantly, these couples bring an attitude of curiosity, wonder, and delight to their lives, that permeates nearly everything they experience.
Like Helen and Maurice, most of the couples we’ve interviewed over the years have gone through their own “dark nights of the soul”. Yet even in the most trying of times, the connection and support that they experienced in their relationship has been the biggest factor in their ability to endure and grow from their ordeals and challenges.
While Helen and Maurice admitted that luck, good fortune, and fate played a part in them “hitting the jackpot” when it came to marriage, as an afterthought, they added that three other factors played a pretty big part as well:
tolerance, kindness, and love.
There’s not much that we can do about the first three, but we all do possess the power to determine the presence and extent to which the second group of three influence our relationships. My take on it is that the more tolerance, kindness and love we bring to our relationships, the luckier we’ll feel!