Recently our Relationships Coordinator, Emma, chatted to her grandparents who have been married for 70 years! Congratulations to them. Here is what they had to say
Last weekend I was over to Cumbria celebrating my Grandparents ’ 70th wedding anniversary.
I think that’s pretty impressive. I got in touch with them recently to ask them more about their 70 years of marriage.
The first thing that became evident as I started talking to them was how much times have changed since they were wed.
My Grandparents got married in 1949. They met through night school which they were attending, having left school at 14 and 15 years old, to start work . I can’t imagine my 14 year old self starting full time work! My Grandad’s alternative was ‘going down the mine’ and my Nana was invited into the workplace to replace someone who had been called up into national service. She was the only girl among 18 fellas! Consequently my Nana and Grandad were enrolled in night school by their employers to study maths to support them in their work and they then met when my Nana was 16 and my Grandad was 17.
Most of my Grandparents ’ courtship occurred on their bus journeys to and from night school but they also enjoyed going to the cinema, walking and cycling together.
When my Grandad was 19 he was called up. He was away much of the time, coming back for long weekends. He came out of the army in 1947 and they asked for their parents’ permission to get engaged and got married on 5th November 1949. My Grandad was 22 and my Nana was 21. By all accounts they were ‘quite mature’ at the point of getting married compared to many of their counterparts and in their own words, they kind of ‘drifted into’ marriage. It was the expected norm for their day.
Preparations began for the day. As it was shortly after war time , everything for their wedding was on coupons and rationing was still in effect. They had to be really careful with money, as things were tight. They main advice they were given for their marriage was ‘don’t get into debt!’
In terms of day to day life they didn’t have much of the electronic equipment we have around our homes today. They didn’t own a washing machine and only got a fridge eight years into their marriage. Hard to imagine. There were less time-saving goods available and everything was very expensive. They lived in a culture of ‘don’t change something unless it is broken and have a jolly good go at fixing something before buying something new’. No exchanging for a newer model, or buying the latest upgrade for them.
When I asked them what they valued about their marriage they talked about valuing their partnership, working out what their routine looked like together and just doing life together. I was really struck by the great culture of contentment in their marriage and that they had built a routine together about what worked for them as a partnership.
In terms of how they spend their time today they told me they still enjoy spending time together despite having different interests. For example, my Nana likes keeping busy and is a committed Catholic and attends her local Catholic church regularly, “only missing if she is sick”, whilst Grandad loves spending time reading his paper on a Sunday morning. They like going out on the bus together, visiting their local garden centre, having lunch or laughing at something daft on TV. Apparently my Nana has a portable walking stick that she whips out at the bus stop and it has proved very useful as people let them get on the bus first and get a good seat. “It’s no use getting old if you don’t get crafty” my Grandad interjects.
At this point I asked them what they are most grateful for about their 70 year marriage and they share that right now they are thankful for their health and mobility (Nana turned 91 recently) and their family and their great Grandchildren who they are delighted to see develop and grow.
They shared a memory with me about one of their ‘best’ marriage days – when my parents surprised them on their 40th wedding anniversary by inviting their extended family to celebrate it with them. She also recollected their 50th wedding anniversary celebration where apparently they had fireworks and my Nana put her hands over my ears because I wasn’t keen on the bangs – I don’t remember this so well but when I worked it out I must have been about 15 at the time – how embarrassing!
When I asked them whether they had many difficult times in their marriage they responded that they haven’t argued that much, they haven’t had time for it. I wouldn’t advocate never arguing with your spouse – I think a bit of disagreement is healthy in marriage but I like my grandparents ’ attitude of tolerance with space to have views and an openness to express them but then willingness to decide to let things go for the sake of their marriage. As my Grandad concluded, “You’ve got a choice when you wake up in the morning”. I think he is right.
Finally I asked them about their top tips for couples getting married today. They said:
· Avoid friction and resentment by working together as a partnership.
· Decide what you do together, in partnership.
· Be content, don’t get into debt.
· And finally, my favourite:
“Have two cups of tea in bed together in the morning before getting up for the day!!”