In 2014, there were 111,169 divorces with the average marriage lasting 8 – 12 years. However, for Bev and Andrew Shackleton (my wonderful parents), last week marked their 30th wedding anniversary proving not all marriages end in divorce.
After meeting at sixth form at the ages of 16, they went on to marry at the ages of 22 and 23 – my Mum is a cougar by six months. Before marrying, they endured a long distance relationship with my Dad studying in London and my Mum being home in Blackpool after she dropped out of Leeds university. In a time of no mobiles and internet – yeah, I know… there was once a time when everyone did not know what everyone was doing every second of every day – they still managed to remain a couple together despite the 247 (approximately) miles between them. They then went on to marry in 1987. So, in a society where divorce has become extremely common, I asked them how they’ve survived so long…
What were your toughest battles over the past 30 years and how did you overcome them?
Dad: “When we first married we were living in the Midlands in Birmingham and your Mum moved down there because I was there when she possibly didn’t really want to. It took your mother out of her comfort zone and just sort of pitched the two of us together as two 23 year olds in a new city and a new flat without the family support mechanism.”
I went on to ask how they coped as couple when my Mum became ill after giving birth to me and then my Grandma (her Mum) passing away from cancer a few months later:
Mum: “It tends to make your relationship stronger. In the face of adversity you pull together and support each other more.”
I also asked how my Dad deals with my Mum suffering with anxiety as sometimes it can be difficult to take care of someone with mental health issues:
Dad: “You used to be worse than you are now [to my Mum]. It was honestly never an issue and never a cause of conflict. If you marry somebody, you marry that person. You take on board each persons’ strength and weaknesses – your mother takes on mine and I do hers.”
Mum: “I don’t think we were surprised by each other when we got married because we already knew each other very well so I don’t feel we went into a relationship and thought “I didn’t realise you were going to be like this.”
What annoys you about each other?
Dad: *sheepishly* “you start…”
Mum: “Erm, there’s nothing really that annoys me about your Dad because if it did we wouldn’t have been together all this time. Anything that annoys me about your Dad he knows, like his snoring and his grumpiness that has come with age.”
Dad: “Your mum’s shopping habits aren’t great… and she never does the bins. Your mother’s stubborn too. It doesn’t annoy me [*he says sheepishly again*], it’s just an observation.”
Have you ever gone through a rough patch in your marriage?
Mum: “I think people who go through rough patches are people who have issues with each other, not the situations that are going on in their lives. Everybody goes through times in their life that are hard, but if you have a strong relationship you support each other and the reason marriages break up is because people give in too easy.”
Dad: “Either people aren’t suited, shouldn’t have got married in the first place or let little things become a big deal. They just use it as an excuse and don’t stick to it.”
Mum: “A lot of people end up divorced because of a third party. One person in the relationship will think that ‘there must be something better than this’ and they’re tempted by what they think might be better than what they’ve got. A lot of the time they go on to find that’s not the case and what they had was comfortable and secure. They’ve given that up for something they thought was initially exciting but turns out to be mundane and ordinary.”
What advice would you give to newly married couples?
Mum: Just think about how the other feels about things all the time and don’t set your expectations too high. The thing is when you first get married you take on a lot of financial responsibility as well, it’s all very boring and everything but you just kind of get on with it. You’re learning all the time.”
Dad: Just be aware of each others short comings. Make each other laugh. Always know you’re going to lose the argument – pretend to have a quick argument then let it go.”
How have you overall survived 30 years of marriage?
Dad: Because we love each other, we make each other laugh and we’re best mates.
So, there is such thing as soul mates – not all hope is lost people.