What does it take to stay happily married for more than 50 years? We find out from clients who've done it.
It’s a privilege to hear our clients stories, and all the more when they talk about the love they share. There are also many lessons to be learned from their lives, relationships and the wisdom they’ve gained over many years of experience.
Here we bring you three inspiring tales of love from within our cherished client community. At our Gorokan Activity and Wellness Centre, meet Rod and Lyn, whose love story is a beacon of hope and resilience. With a bond exemplifying unwavering dedication, Eileen and Tim are a valued part of our home support service. And lastly, delve into the captivating story of Sylvia valued member of our Raymond Terrace Activity Centre and her husband Peter, where love knows no borders.
Rod and Lyn share their answers to staying in love for 60 years
Theirs is a love story 60 years in the making. Lyn and Rod have been married for 58 years (in April 2024). Rod attends the Activity Centre at Gorokan and Lyn attends the Gorokan Wellness Centre weekly. Both are familiar faces in the local community.
To celebrate their love, we asked them to play our version of ‘The Not-So-Newlywed Game’. We asked them each the same questions, and here are their answers.
How did you both meet?
Lyn: I was a new staff member, and being one of only two females in the building he came in to check me out.
Rod: On the waterfront, we both worked at the same place in Circular Quay.
Where did you go on your first date?
Lyn: To the movies.
Rod: Oh jeez…. I honestly don’t know.
When and where was your first kiss?
Lyn: After a date, he kissed me good night at the front door.
Rod: On the day we got married.
When did you get married?
Rod: 02.04.1966 – not April Fool’s Day.
Where is the best holiday you ever went on together?
Lyn: Cruising the South Pacific Islands.
Rod: We have always enjoyed life so anywhere we went together.
What 3 words best describe your spouse?
Lyn: Happy, Cheerful, Generous
Rod: She is mine
What is your spouse’s most annoying habit?
Lyn: Being too generous and giving things away.
Rod: I don’t think I ever found one.
What is your best marriage advice?
Lyn: Communication – talk to each other about everything, even if you don’t agree.
Ron: None of this is mine or this is yours – everything is ours.
What do you love most about your spouse?
Rod: She is herself.
What is your favourite thing to do together?
Rod: Just be together.
“It’s obvious to anyone who meets Rod and Lyn that they share a lasting love for one another,” said Gorokan Activity Centre Coordinator, Rachelle Thomas. “They are both very happy and generous people and always a joy to be around. We think ourselves lucky that we get to be a part of their story, too.”
Another enduring love story – Eileen, Tim and a dog called Kim
Eileen and Tim met each other through the love of a Smithfield dog called Kim. Eileen got pooch Kim for protection and security after arriving in Tasmania from Liverpool, England. Eileen was working as a nurse when she needed to have Kim’s vaccinations done, so she took the dog to the local vet.
“Tim was the district vet and this is how their love story began,” said Support Worker Caroline Challis. “Tim asked Eileen on a dinner date, but apparently Kim the dog objected.They decided to go to the beach for a swim instead as this was Eileen and Kim's favourite thing to do,” Caroline said.
“Eileen and Tim have been married for 61 years and still live together in the home Tim built. They remain in the small seaside town on Tasmania’s east coast where they had four daughters and seven grandchildren. They still live happily married to this day.”
Sylvia and Peter’s 70-year romance
The Early Days: A Chance Encounter at the Dance Studio
I met Peter in August 1953. He was 19 years old, nearly 20. I was already 20. My friend and I wanted to learn ballroom dancing and, luckily enough, there was a dance studio nearby so we joined. After we had been going for a few weeks, four young men turned up at the studio. When you are learning to dance as soon as the music starts you have to get on the floor, and dance with supervision. There are no exceptions.
I found myself dancing with a very shy and quiet person – Peter. Nice person but far too quiet for my liking. After several weeks of saying ‘hello’ I found out much later that on a bet, he asked to see me home. On that walk home he told me that he was an apprenticed shipwright at London Docks and that at 21 he would join the Merchant Navy as a ship’s carpenter. I think I was quite smitten on that walk.
On our first date Peter paid for tickets for us to see Nat King Cole at the London Palladium. It must have cost him several weeks wages, but it was just wonderful.
We became engaged in 1954. I loved my ring. Peter couldn’t afford a lot, but I didn’t care a bit. (When we had been married 50 years I had the white zircons replaced with diamonds.)
Our married life started on 5 March 1955. Peter was in the Merchant Navy sailing to the USA and Canada. 28 days away with only a few days at home, so it was a bit of a rush as we wanted to get married. We had hardly any money so I borrowed my wedding dress and two bridesmaids dresses. My parents didn’t attend our wedding. I had left home several months before. Peter’s parents were divorced, that was disgraceful in my parents eyes. My life was made so miserable, so I left.
My eldest brother gave me away. I arrived at the Church in a blizzard. We couldn’t have any photos outside but we didn’t care, we were getting married. We had one pound between us. I had that for my fare to work and Peter hitched to the docks as he rejoined ship on the Wednesday. We spent our honeymoon in our one room flat in Plaistow E13.
When Peter's ship docked, it was mostly in Liverpool. He very rarely came into London dock so when he docked in Liverpool, I would leave work on the Friday and travel by train so we could spend a few days together. We were married nearly three years, and it was on the last trip I made that I broached the idea of starting a family. Peter wasn’t very keen on the idea. He thought of me on my own with a baby, but I managed to talk him round. We had bought a little Victorian terraced house in Barking, Essex. My two brothers and sister lived nearby. We paid the sum of 500 pounds for our little bit of paradise.
Starting a Family: Challenges and Joys Along the Way
Our baby boy Mark was born on 4 July 1958. Peter was home on leave for the birth. He arrived at the hospital with a huge bunch of flowers. They were awful. They filled five vases. The very next day when the nurses had all changed, these vases were held aloft for anyone to claim them. Needless to say, I made a quick dash to the toilet.
When Mark was 10 weeks old, Peter returned to sea. He had now signed on to do the long trips to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. We needed the money. I was fortunate my two brothers were very protective of my sister and I and as they lived just around the corner, I saw them nearly every day. Also my eldest brother was married with two little girls so I was never lonely. Although I would never really make a sailor’s wife because I missed Peter so much. When Peter came home after an Australian trip he could not believe how much Mark had grown. He was away for Mark’s 1st Birthday but sent a huge birthday cake which was enjoyed by all.
Peter was back at sea when I found out I was expecting another little addition to our family. No phones or emails then, letters only. I wrote to say he was going to be a daddy again. He wrote back to tell me he was so pleased. I was 5 months pregnant when he came home. He then made the decision that he would give up the sea as he had missed so much of Mark’s early life and as he had finished his National Service, he could settle down. Christina Susan was born at the same hospital as Mark. This time I got a huge bouquet of roses with a slightly drunk husband assisted by one of my brothers. We were complete.
By the time Mark and Tina had grown up, we had moved to a larger house. Son Mark had always had itchy feet and travelled a lot. In a newspaper he had read this organisation were asking for young men between the ages of 16 and 21 years to emigrate to Australia. He was interested. I kept quiet, but Peter encouraged him and helped him in any way he could. So three months before his 18th birthday he flew to Australia. Luckily enough, Peter’s sister and her family had emigrated several years before and she now had a fourth surrogate son together with her own three. Tina and I went and visited soon after his 18th and though it was hard to say goodbye I knew he was happy. He went back to England several times but we knew his heart was in Australia and over time he had met Narelle,our lovely daughter in law. We attended his beautiful wedding. He was settled.
Tina went out with friends to a social event and met our son-in-law David who was a Lieutenant in the USA Navy. They said it was love at first sight They met and married in five months They married in England and were there before his posting ran out. It was off to Virginia USA with our English granddaughter. Another goodbye. It did have some consolations though as Peter and I used to travel between the USA and Australia to catch up with the little additions coming into our family. How lucky were we.
David became a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy. His next posting was for Australia and had something to do with security for the Sydney Olympic Games. They came as a family. After two years, David decided that he would leave the navy and settle in Australia. Another one settled.
Embracing New Beginnings: From England to Australia
We decided that now both of them were settled we, too, should think of emigrating. Mark and Tina both said they would not influence us in anyway but we had made up our minds and added our names to the list. After 10 years of waiting and nothing happening, we were spending six months in England and six months in Australia which was great and we were not strangers to our six grandchildren.
On a trip to Australia I read in a newspaper that Immigration Officials were coming to Newcastle and would spend the day answering questions regarding Immigration. Off we went to Newcastle. We met with a really efficient pleasant lady who was sympathetic with our plight and suggested if we could pay, we would get a visa very quickly.
She was right. We left Australia on 1 May 2007 for England and were given a visa in August to live in Australia indefinitely. Our life savings gone but we didn’t care, we were on our way. We had another trip to Aus before we settled for good arriving 15 October 2010. We have never looked back.
I bless the day Peter came into that Dance Studio. He still makes me laugh. He is still the quiet man I met. Every morning we play Wordscapes on my iPad. We grumble how much time we spend on it, but I think we have earned it. Peter the name means rock, and to me he has always been my rock. I still love him to bits. He is a kind, patient, honest and caring man.
We love our house and the life in Australia. We have made lots of really good friends and are surrounded by a network of very kind people who make our life complete. Peter plays bowls and table tennis twice a week. I love my time at intergratedIiving and my little club Busy Bees. I’ve met so many caring and dedicated people, and love every minute of it.
Peter and I celebrate our 69th wedding anniversary on 5 March 2024. We have come a long way from our roots, but I’m sure Peter would agree we wouldn’t change anything along the way. We love living here in Australia. We are lucky we still have each other. Peter, bless him still calls me babe.
Not bad being 90 and I am still his babe.
Celebrating love at our Gorokan Activity Centre
More articles to read next
A Network of Support to Combat Loneliness and Isolation for Older Australians
Older Australians are worst affected by loneliness and social isolation. There are support services that can help those who are struggling to reconnect and rebuild the joy in their lives.