The key to a happy marriage: It’s much simpler than you think

(Featured image by Kate Fellerath)

“To simply always love one another,” That was my mother’s response, just days before I got married, when she was asked about the secret to a long and happy marriage.

She, along with my dad, were answering questions about love, life and relationships as part of a photography adventure called The Marriage Project. It’s a wonderful concept dreamt up by Montreal photographer Kate Fellerath and the amazing writer, Kate Shingler, to explore what it means to be in love decades after that first eye contact.

My parents, Aileen and Kenneth, with the Kates.
My parents, Aileen and Kenneth, with the Kates.

When Kate (Shingler), whom I used to work with, asked if my parents would be interested in taking part in the project, I immediately said, “yes.” To be honest, I wasn’t actually sure if they would enjoy opening up to strangers about their love story, but I’ve always found it so beautifully real, that I thought they just had to share it.

My parents met as teenagers — my mother was 16; my father, 19. They were at a party at a mutual friend’s house in Singapore, where they grew up. My mother, casually chatting with her girlfriends on one side of the yard; my father, sitting alone in a corner strumming a guitar and chain-smoking his way through a pack of cigarettes. My mum recalls seeing him from across the way, turning to her friends and saying matter-of-factly, “I will never marry a man like that.” They’ve been together now for over 40 years.

It was a sunny August Wednesday afternoon as we walked up the typical, narrow Montreal staircase to Kate Fellerath’s photography studio and my parents were all smiles. We acknowledged the fact that my mother would do most of the talking; my dad would crack a few jokes, but allow his talkative other half to answer all the questions. They are so rarely the main characters — never the stars — of our storybook, having spent the last 28 years lifting my sister and I up to our highest potential.

It was truly an honour to be able to sit with these two amazing people, whom I admire so much as individuals and as a couple, and hear their thoughts on love and marriage just days before I exchanged vows with my own best friend.

The wise words they shared during that short session with the Kates were echoed in the speech they gave at our wedding, just three days later:

“‘When you know you’ve found the one, you follow her.’

That’s what Raphaël said to me in the summer of 2010 when I asked him why he so hastily decided to take an entire semester off and move to Paris with Rachel.

There, in the City of Love, they fell so deeply in love.

Love makes the world go round.

Love is when the happiness of the other person is more important than your own.

Love conquers all.

Love will keeps us together.

Daddy and I have only one wish for you.

That you will always be in love, no matter what.

That mad, crazy, I cannot wait to see you, I cannot live without you, kind of love.

Now that will keep you together, forever.”

My parents’ photo and story, along with 11 other couples, will be on display at Kate Fellerath’s studio at 4877 Sherbrooke St. West in Westmount.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received when it comes to love?

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