The secret to an eighty year marriage

With 42 per cent of marriages now ending in divorce, the Kayes, who have endured terrible tragedies during the course of their lives, give a new meaning to sticking together through thick and thin

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Indy Lifestyle Online

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” asks Paul McCartney in what is thought to be one of the first songs the young Beatle ever wrote.

For Helen and Maurice Kaye, who both turned 64 back in the 1970s, the answer was a definitive yes - and it remains so to this day, now they are aged 101 and 102 respectively.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 42 per cent of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce, and the average British marriage which ends in divorce lasts 11 years and six months. 

These rather gloomy statistics might act as something of a reality check for starry-eyed lovers eager to race up the aisle toward a lifetime of assumed marital bliss.

But flying the flag for everlasting love are Mr and Mrs Kaye, who have enjoyed an impressive 80 years of marriage together.

“Eighty years and six months,” Mrs Kaye corrects me.

The pair met in 1929 when Mr Kaye, a 17-year-old  salesman, visited the clothes shop owned by Mrs Kaye’s parents and took a shine to their 16-year-old daughter who worked there.

Was it love at first sight? “Not really,” Mrs Kaye says matter-of-factly. “He phoned me up to ask to take me out and we went out.” 

“He had a motor car and in those days very few men had one. That was an added attraction,” she adds.

The couple got “very close” and the topic of marriage was raised, but they were forced to wait.

“We were courting for four years - I had an older sister and my mother wouldn’t let me get married before her,” Mrs Kaye explains.

They finally tied the knot at a London synagogue in 1934 - the same year in which Adolf Hitler became Führer of Germany.

The early years of Mr and Mrs Kaye’s marriage played out against a backdrop of growing political and social discord in Europe. When the Second World War began the pair were separated for five years, including two years during which Mr Kaye served in Iceland. 

Mrs Kaye says it was a “very difficult time”. The couple wrote to each other but she no longer has any of the letters he sent her: just before D-Day in 1944, Mr and Mrs Kaye’s south London home was bombed.

“We lost everything: our business, our home, everything we had,” Mrs Kaye says. “Maurice was given seven days compassionate leave. His comrades went to Normandy and were all killed. It was luck that our home was bombed.”

 

The couple have endured terrible tragedies during the course of their lives - they have lost two children: one baby and a daughter, aged 39. 

They have two surviving children: a son, aged 60, and a daughter, aged 67, and also have seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, with another on the way.

“We’re a very close family,” Mrs Kaye says.

After the war the pair moved to Bournemouth, where they still reside, and gradually began to rebuild their clothing business from scratch.

“I had to sell my engagement ring,” Mrs Kaye says. “Maurice said: ‘One day I will replace it.’ On one of our anniversaries about 20 years later he gave me a great big big box wrapped in paper and string. Inside was a smaller box and inside that was a smaller box, right down to a little box which had a replacement engagement ring inside of it. It was beautiful.”

While Mrs Kaye describes her husband as “romantic”, you won’t find either of them swapping oversized greetings cards declaring their undying love for each other tomorrow. 

“We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day,” Mrs Kaye says. “It’s just another day, nothing special.”

Last month research from the University of Manchester found that older people continue to enjoy active sex lives well into their seventies and eighties. 

Mrs Kaye says that sex played an important role in the couple’s relationship when they were younger (“It’s part of life,” she explains breezily), but it has taken a backseat in recent years: “We still cuddle up in bed,” she giggles. “That’’s all!”

She says she “had no idea” that she would still be married to her husband in 2015 and that if she had a clue what the secret to her long-lasting relationship was, she’d “bottle it and sell it”.

“We didn't have rows but we had different opinions, which we talked through. It’s not easy being in business and living together,” she says.

“I think it’s important to have patience and tolerance. You're two entirely different people who suddenly live together, which can't be easy. But if you love each other, you get over the difficulties.”

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