Ever wonder what makes a romance last? Or how people stay together despite what life throws at you? With It Takes Two, The Huffington Post Canada is talking to couples from across the country — young, old, married and otherwise — who have the answers to these questions.
Names: Lorna and Steven Poole
City: Port Credit, Ont.
Occupations: Former RN, now a business and personal coach; retail executive
The year you met: 1981
How long have you been together: 34 years
We met working at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. He was the bell captain, I was the dining room manager.
I knew about two minutes after I met him that this was it. He was witty and intelligent and kind. Also a little awkward with a growing out perm and baggy pants. We could have married then and there, but he had to go back to Nova Scotia to finish his degree. That year apart was so expensive — kids today have no idea what long distance charges cost and how hard it was to maintain a long-distance relationship in 1982! He had to call me from three different phones because his parents were upset at the size of their phone bill.
It was just clear that, when he finished his school year, he would come to Thunder Bay with his few possessions and move in with me. We didn't consult his parents or my parents. My parents came up to T Bay for a visit in the fall and we very casually started talking about our summer plans for 1983. One of us said, 'we should probably get married in the spring.' We set a date and that was it.
We had a simple wedding with about 45 people and no dancing. In anticipation of the traditional "first dance," we took dancing lessons. It was a complete and utter failure. As a result of our four left and backwards feet, we decided to cancel the dancing altogether and just have fun.
I had had a child in high school and there was a big void in my life after giving her up for adoption. Steven understood this loss and my need to fill the nest. So we were one of the first of our group of friends to have kids. We pretty much decided if we were going to do it, we might as well do it, so brilliant Heather was born in 1985, followed by the late Emily in 1988, and the amazing Gillian in 1989.
Emily was born with biliary atresia and died at 14 months of age during transplant surgery. It was a devastating and tragic loss. Living through her illness and death took its toll on both of us, but we never faltered as a couple. Social workers at the hospital would gently probe where we were as a couple or remind us of the divorce stats after the death of a child (80 per cent get a divorce — I remember that number to this day). We couldn't quite understand why they were sharing this. We weren't going anywhere — we no longer had Emily, but we still had Heather and each other, we knew we'd be okay.
When Kris, the child I had given up for adoption, came back into our lives in 1997, I had to re-grieve the loss of Emily as a separate loss — she had become very entwined with the loss of Kris as a baby. Kris's entrance into our family of four was very challenging for all of us, but again, we did it together. Then we were traumatized again when Gillian became desperately ill with a rare neurological illness called ADEM in 2010 and suffered tremendous losses as the result of her illness, including becoming permanently disabled. We are still coping and figuring out how to best move forward four years later — we're so grateful that Gillian is doing so well and is coping so beautifully with her change in circumstance.
We also recovered from our own physical and mental ill health. After years of obesity and feeling like something wasn't quite right with the way we were living our lives, I lost 85 lbs and Steven lost 70 lbs. We've maintained this weight loss through a complete lifestyle makeover and have been fit and thin now for over six years.
Emotional intelligence. We are both very self-centered in the way that we understand who we are — we've built on this self-knowledge over the years with therapy and coaching. We are excellent at understanding each other's emotional foundation and can figure out pretty quickly what's really going on behind the stress, angst, anger, etc whether it's ours or the other person's. We like each other so much that it's been totally worth it to explore what makes each other tick, then adopt behaviours to accommodate those things.
We are very similar in that we both have a deep intelligence and see many things through a similar lens. We come from similar backgrounds. We both have a crazy sense of humour. I love Steven's patience and perseverance; he loves my creativity and ability to do almost anything mechanical. We're both very extroverted but prefer each other's company to just about anyone else's. We come from wonderful families. We are extremely hard workers — in different ways. We're also very different in many ways that benefit us both: for example, I'm a total optimist and can find good in almost anything; Steven's very pragmatic and looks for the potential problems which he figures out how to avoid or solve.
We don't actually do anything that would look on the outside like it was designed to keep our love alive. We don't celebrate Valentine's Day or birthdays or even our anniversary! We live a very intentional life by telling each other what we want to accomplish together then setting out to do that. We completely changed our way of living after Gillian became ill — sold our house, I changed my career, moved to a condo and upgraded to a larger RV that we go away in every single weekend, all year round. Friday nights are sacred territory for us — wine and cheese and chat.
I'd tell couples to truly get to know each other — all of it! I'd recommend a couple's retreat if you haven't had the chance to explore each other's personalities and preferences and shadows. Accept your partner as an individual — don't try to change them or, worse, control them. Work together. For heaven's sake, talk to each other.
Don't get married for any other reason that a deep desire to spend the rest of your life hanging out with this person. Not for kids, financial security or, worse, a big wedding.
I think people believe that, if they truly loved them, their partner would be able to read their minds. For example, I cringe every time someone wails to me about the spouse forgetting their anniversary. If remembering the anniversary is so important to you, then remind him/her that it's coming up and talk about what you want. Today with our overload of devices and distractions, getting to know how to communicate effectively has never been more important. Take a course if you have to — it's that important.
I also think people look at Steven and I — fit, healthy and totally together at 55 and dismiss us as lucky if they don't know our story — or maybe even if they do. We do kind of make it look easy, I totally get that. But our love hasn't ever been hard, not for a minute.
Do you have a love story you want to share? We want to hear it! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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