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(Josee Bisaillon for The Globe and Mail)
(Josee Bisaillon for The Globe and Mail)

The secret to a 30-year marriage? I wish I knew Add to ...

I have been married to the same man for 30 years. He came to Canada from England at 21 with a diploma in agriculture and initially worked as a farmhand.

I came here from New Jersey when I was 7 with a single mother looking to get as far away from Hoboken as possible, and with the dream of starting a better life. If the stars had not aligned for us to meet, after coming from two different countries, I could have ended up on the Jersey Shore with my grey hair in a beehive and a wrinkled “natural” tan.

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No Kardashian wedding for us, just a simple appointment at the courthouse in Milton, Ont. After that it was off to a seafood dinner with a couple of friends who had stood as witnesses.

I wish I could say it’s been a walk in the park, but it’s been more like a walk through traffic, always dodging and weaving to escape being run over. Not by each other, but by all the things life throws at you to make the ride more interesting – and perhaps to also test true love.

We have endured more sadness than joy, more downs than ups and, more recently, a financial roller coaster with more twists and turns than any ride at Disney World. But he’s still here, and I am too. Turns out that neither one of us is a throw-in-the-towel type. A discovery you make about one another during tough times.

We met through a co-worker of mine whose husband was a good friend of “this handsome Brit” that she said I just had to meet. She knew he had recently started seeing someone else, but that was of no concern to my workmate. She had decided the other girl was totally wrong for him, and she was determined to do something about it.

So she invited him for an evening out with her and her husband at The County Club, a hot dance spot in Oakville, Ont., back in the seventies. It threw only a small wrench into the mix that the Brit, unaware of my friend’s ulterior motives, brought a date.

You couldn’t blame the guy – he didn’t know he was being set up. But as the evening progressed and he kept asking me to dance, the lightning bolt hit, as they say. His date figured it out too; she got up and left. From that point on, we were together.

In the blink of an eye, 30 years have gone by. We went from cuddling on the couch listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run album over and over to times when we were barely speaking or couldn’t even be on the same floor of our house.

Love does change over time. Sometimes the things you found most attractive in your partner are the things that bother you the most later on. Fortunately for him, I turned out to be perfect.

Actually, I’m a glass-is-half-empty, don’t-count-your-chickens-before-they-hatch kind of girl. I’m not particularly supportive of anyone’s dreams, especially those of my husband, who at 43 was made redundant by his company.

It wasn’t the easiest age to start over, but start over he did. After years of wearing a suit and tie to work, he started his own landscape construction company. He was the boss and the only employee, initially with one mower and a few garden tools thrown into the back of his Saab.

I couldn’t get on board with the idea of starting a tough business like that at his age. Anyone who owns their own business knows it’s either feast or famine, and we certainly have been through both. My husband is an incredibly hard worker, and at 59, he has not slowed down a bit.

That mower in the back of a car has turned into five trucks, two trailers, seven staff and a year-round business once snowplowing was added. But the hours are long when you run your own company. It becomes all-consuming having to deal with staffing issues, customers who don’t pay on time or at all, holiday weekends when no one wants to work, the recent financial crisis and, of course, the unpredictable weather.

It takes its toll on a relationship. My little boy (who is now 30) can count on one hand the number of times we were all able to go on a family vacation. The trouble with owning your own business is that a lot of the time, it owns you.

But in spite of the tough times, we are still here, still standing and, yes, we still love each other. I wish I could tell you what the secret to a long marriage is, but frankly, I have no clue. In these times of 72-day marriages, I know 30 years is an accomplishment, and it is one I am very proud of.

At the end of every day, we fall into our routine of dinner in front of the TV watching recorded episodes of Dragons’ Den. Sometimes there is no conversation, but now I know there doesn’t always need to be. I wish I were capable of saying I love you more often, or offering words of encouragement, but that is not how I was raised. I am not a touchy-feely person. I am negative, while my husband is more of an every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining kind of guy. He sees the good in everyone. Frankly, I think he needs to clean his glasses.

After three decades, sometimes my husband will look at me and say, “Do you still love me, dear”? I respond, “I said I loved you once, and if anything changes, I will let you know.”

My love is old-fashioned, and apparently it is here to stay.



Denise Tarantino Gaze lives in Oakville, Ont.

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