Keeping love alive: the secrets of a happy marriage

There is no great secret to marriage, says Arlene Harris, it's all about kindness.

Keeping love alive: the secrets of a happy marriage

WHO couldn’t help but warm to Ireland’s longest-married couple. Together for 74 years, James and Margaret Hurley described themselves as “best friends all their lives”.

After winning a nationwide search to find the winners, Margaret Hurley said: “It’s easy to live a long and happy life when you marry your best friend and I always tried to mind it,” while James described his wife as “extremely caring and loving”.

So how do you you “mind” your marriage?

We have all heard the phrase that ‘less is more’, and if a new directive from the UK government is to be believed, the little gestures between couples are what keep relationships alive.

Funded by its Department of Education and nicknamed ‘Love Nuggets; this new programme encourages couples to take ‘proactive steps to strengthen their relationship from the start, rather than allowing it to reach crisis point before seeking support.’

A simple show of affection, such as running a bath for your partner or making them a cup of tea can, according to the campaign, bring couples closer together and help them celebrate the everyday things people do that make a happy relationship’.

Psychotherapist Joanna Fortune of The Solamh Clinic in Dublin agrees, and says while little things may not seem important they can help to keep relationships alive.

“I believe that small gestures are the very essence of a healthy relationship,” she says. “The fundamentals to staying in love is really not about grand gestures, but far more about small things which show you care all of the time and not just at special occasions.

“Falling in love is one thing, but staying in love is the result of the small everyday gestures that can get overlooked in a busy household.”

The relationship expert says there are a number of easy ways in which to demonstrate your affection for your partner on a daily basis.

“I would advise keeping it simple because it truly is the little things, such as saying “thank you” for every-day things, recognising the other persons time and effort in doing mundane tasks, showing interest in their day and being supportive of their interests, “ she says.

“It is also important to find time to be silly together and share a laugh and to treat your partner to a cup of tea, breakfast in bed or a surprise gift.

“However, while a simple loving gesture can be as valuable as hearing ‘I love you’ it is also a very important emotional validation within a relationship to regularly hear and say those words.”

Anita Whyte and Paul Moran run their own beauty business called Living and working together can be difficult but they have been together for 15 years and believe that the little things often count the most.

“Although your partner knows how you feel it’s always nice to show them you care with little gestures, like cooking their favourite meal or doing a job they don’t like doing,” says Anita.

“I love to get a cup of tea handed to me, and when Paul is out and about he’ll bring me back a “surprise” of a bar of chocolate or, if I’m out at night he’ll record my favourite programme and have the electric blanket on so it’s nice and snug when I get home.”

Partner Paul says while he likes to look after Anita, she also tries to make him feel special.

“Anita will go out of her way to pick up my favourite foods and prepare delicious meals so I’ll try new things,” he says.

“She is also very patient, and when we first moved in together I wasn’t the greatest around the house. I don’t drink any hot drinks so would have never thought to make a cup of tea for her – but I’m more aware as I’ve learned she loves her tea and it means a great deal to her to have one handed to her.”

Anita says when they got together first they were both set in their ways, but they have learned to be more flexible.

“The key to a successful relationship is compromise and this comes with maturity,” she says. “In the early days I liked doing things my way and watching my favourite programmes on TV, but now we take in in turns to make choices.”

Linda Kelly has been with her husband Evangelos Chronopoulos for five years.

They met in Greece while she was working as a chef in an Irish pub and have since moved to Wicklow where he works as an engineer and she is a make-up artist for

She believes that sharing tasks and being openly affectionate are simple but very important aspects to keeping relationships alive.

“We both believe it is important to show you care with little displays of affection, such as a kiss on the cheek, a hug or holding hands,” Linda says. “It is important to let each other know when they look exceptionally good and we tell each other ‘’I love you’’ at least 6 times a week if not more.”

Husband Evangelos says taking care of each other physically as well as emotionally is a vital part of any relationship

“I believe intimacy is very important and keeps the relationship exciting and spirits high,” he says. “We both suffer from sore backs so we will often give each other a back or foot massage after a hard day and I think it is a good idea to live together for a while before you get married as sometimes the chemistry can be all wrong.”

Linda says it’s very important to be there for each other, no matter what happens and always be open with your feelings.

“My husband has supported me in my every endeavour and helped me financially to go back to college in order to become a makeup artist,” she says.

“Also, we spent a year apart when he had to go to Abu Dhabi for work which was really hard but made our relationship even stronger.

“I have told him if he wants to move anywhere, or do something like study or try a different job involving different work hours, he has my full support and I will be the sole breadwinner even if means doing a job I no longer have the same passion for”.

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