Married for 72 years, my grandparents could have taught celebrities a lesson or two about matrimony

thumb broken heart

“What attracted you to her in the first place, how did you know she was the one?” I asked.

“Her smile,” he said. “I noticed her smile across the room.”

And that is all it took. Those are the poignant words of my grandfather, who was married to my grandmother for a whopping 72 years.

I’m not one of those soppy romantics that believes in love at first sight or even in happy ever-afters, but I do however believe in not quitting anything, especially relationships, until every avenue has been crossed and due diligence observed.

I find it sad that not a week goes by without me hearing of another couple getting a divorce, or yet another celebrity’s divorce being publicized. I think Hollywood has killed the sanctity of marriage. All the Elizabeth Taylors and Britney Spears in the public eye these days use marriage and divorce to try to extend their 15 minutes of fame.

For an industry that creates, sells, produces and even packages the “happily-ever-after” premise, it’s ironic that Hollywood — and to a greater extent, celebrity culture — is also the mastermind and creator of the “irreconcilable differences” monster.

“Maybe having a life partner, rather than a spouse, is the answer.”
—Celeste de Muelenaere

Most recent to succumb to the Hollywood stereotype was “Beverly Hills 90210” star Jennie Garth, and her soon to be ex-husband, “Twilight” hunk Peter Facinelli.

Garth and Facinelli met in 1996 and married in 2000. With three daughters caught in the middle of the estrangement, one has to wonder if they really did try to get past their “differences,” or was it a question of egos getting in the way?

After all, when Garth met Facinelli she was a certifiable celebrity, while he was an unknown struggling actor. These days Facinelli has a cult following of fans of all generations due to his role as the vampire father in the popular “Twilight” series. Meanwhile, Garth’s career has stalled in recent years, with most of her old fans remembering her from the ’90s.

As my grandfather would say, “They just don’t make them like they use to.”

My grandparents made it work for 70 odd years — and trust me, those years were not all bliss and pleasure. They fought through and survived World War II in Belgium; made it through a year-long separation while my grandfather set up shop in South Africa (while only being able to communicate via mail); they joyously celebrated the birth of 11 children; and even mourned a miscarriage together. If they can make a marriage work through all of that without even thinking of divorce, then why can’t the rest of us?

We all expect the antics of 72-day marriages from publicity-seeking reality stars like Kim Kardashian, but Garth and her husband were married for 11 years.

It makes me wonder, if they managed to make it work for that long then why not figure out a way to make it work for even longer? What could possibly have changed in the last year that could have resulted in a separation?

Or could it be that — like most couples — they let the little piece of paper declaring their wedlock interfere with their relationship?

At last count, Statistics Canada estimated that 41 per cent of marriages will end in divorce before reaching the 30-year mark of being married. This is an estimated five per cent increase from 10 years before from 36 per cent in 1998.

Other matrimonies that fell by the wayside in the last year includes: Supermodel Heidi Klum announcing her divorce from her “Kiss from a Rose” singer husband, Seal, in January. The couple was married for seven years and have three children together. Demi Moore and her much younger husband, Ashton Kutcher, are divorcing after six, highly-publicized, happy years of wedded bliss. Predictably, they cited the classic Hollywood excuse of “irreconcilable differences.”

Tony Danza, best known for his role in the TV series “Who’s the Boss?”, recently announced his divorce from his wife of 24 years. However, the couple did separate in 2006, but are only now going through legal proceedings for an official divorce. Regardless, the couple did manage to make it work for well into the double-digit years, unlike some other celebrities who seem to change spouses as often as they change their clothes. Russell Brand and Katy Perry, for example, were only married for a year before pulling the plug.


However, probably the most unexpected divorce announcement in the last year was actually from a celebrity who is not regularly featured on the front covers of gossip 41 per cent of marriages will end in divorce before reaching the 30-year mark of being married.
Photo illustration courtesy of: S. Braswell,
rags. Buzz Aldrin — legendary second man on the moon astronaut — divorced his third wife last year, whom he married in 1988. For those who are as mathematically challenged as I am, that adds up to 23 years of the space cowboy staying grounded in matrimony.

Maybe having a life partner, rather than a spouse, is the answer. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have managed to keep the romance alive in their happily un-married union for more than 27 years.

On her deathbed, my grandfather stayed by my grandmother’s side. A few weeks after her funeral, he was heard lamenting that he missed his companion. Perhaps that is the secret to a lasting union. We should all think of our significant others as partners in crime, rather than spouses.

After all, with 72 years experience on the matter, my grandfather certainly must have known what he was talking about.

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