The Secrets to a Long and Happy Marriage


ThinkstockPhotos-178540147.jpgSo far, 2016 seems to be a bad year for love — at least if you’re a celebrity.

Who can forget the split of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne? Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts? Brad and Angelina?

But never fear — while 2016 was marked with heartbreak in Hollywood, these Philadelphia-area couples are here to remind those with even the most jaded and cynical of hearts that love does survive.

For these couples, this year marked major anniversary milestones, and they’re here to share their secrets to a long and happy marriage. Hollywood, take note.

Alvin and Rae Foreman celebrated their 75th anniversary in September in Naples, Fla., where they’ve lived for the past 14 years.

“We enjoyed our anniversary,” said Alvin Foreman, 98. “Our family took us out to a very nice restaurant, and we all enjoyed the evening.”

He and Rae, nearing 97, met when Alvin and a friend went to a party at Rae’s house — without knowing her.

“I heard they were having a party at my wife’s house who was not my wife then — I didn’t even know her,” he recalled. Alvin added no one invited him and his friend, but they asked to stay anyway.

Rae, however, joked that’s putting it gently.

“He crashed my party; he made it sound nice,” she laughed.

That party eventually led to their first date and 75 years later, they’re still happily together.

“A couple weeks later I called her up for a date and everything went on from there,” Alvin said. “I think about a year and a half after that we were married and lived happily ever after.”

They were married at a temple in Philadelphia and, 10 days later, Alvin went into the Air Force, as he had been drafted.

He later became a master sergeant and Rae, an avid singer and former athlete, came down to Washington, D.C., to join him. They lived in a tiny apartment in Maryland for a few years and made many Jewish friends, Alvin recalled.

“We used to meet every Saturday night in each other’s home,” Rae remembered. “It was like a hole in the wall — one big room, living room and kitchen and everything all in one room, then a very small bathroom. The bedroom was even worse.

“I don’t know how we did it all those years,” she laughed.

They later made their way back to Philadelphia and lived in the Northeast before moving to Florida where their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren live.

For their 75th anniversary, they received a card from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama congratulating them on their anniversary, which Rae framed and suspects was the result of some online magic by their son.

For Alvin, the secret to a long marriage is understanding.

“First of all, you have to understand each other. You have to take the good with the bad, and sometimes it’s best to just keep quiet — I’ve found that out,” he chuckled.

For some couples, long-term love has taken them overseas.

Rona and Aaron Michelson celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in July with their children and grandchildren in Modi’in, Israel.

Rona Michelson grew up in Philadelphia and met her future husband while the two were both at Camp Ramah in the Poconos in 1961. Rona was a camper and Aaron was a counselor.

“We were just friends and after camp we wrote letters until one day he wrote me that he got engaged and so I stopped writing,” Rona Michelson recalled via email. “A couple of years later, I saw that he had been assigned as a chaplain to Fort Knox, Kentucky, so I wrote him a letter and said, ‘Hi,’ assuming he was already married with children. He wasn’t.”

In that year, everything changed.

“I was attracted to him as a camper, but it was in the year that we wrote to each other that I began to really value who he was and what he believed,” she wrote. “I was attracted not only to his looks, but to his character.”

They were married at the Oxford Circle Jewish Community Center and now, 50 years later — and with five children and 30 grandchildren — they travel together and commemorate their love, though not always with flashy anniversary celebrations.

“We usually don’t do anything particularly special for our anniversary,” she said. “Fortunately, we have a good life and don’t feel the need to mark a special day because truthfully, pretty much every day is a good day.”

For Rona Michelson, a marriage and family therapist in addition to a tour guide, the secret to their 50 years of happiness, as well as a happy, long marriage in general, has to do with several attributes.

“Mutual respect, shared values, a good sense of humor and stubbornness,” she said, “so that even when difficult times come along, a couple needs to press on and stick together and get through them together — even if the individuals are not at that point feeling loved and supported.”

After 65 years, you can still hear the love between Jack and Elaine Barbash, who live in Northeast Philadelphia and celebrated their milestone wedding anniversary on March 18.

The two met on a blind date after Elaine’s cousin gave Jack her number, and the rest is history.

While they don’t remember where exactly they went, Elaine recalled that “when he walked in, I knew he was the one because he was dressed so meticulously.”

“And from that minute on, we were, you know, we went together,” Elaine said.

For them, a key ingredient to a long, happy marriage is teamwork and looking out for each other, whether it’s getting each other somewhere they need to go or the fact that when Jack gets up for ice cream, he always asks Elaine if she wants some, too.

It’s also the little things, like when they’re out taking a walk and 97-year-old Jack, a World War II veteran, proudly points Elaine out to a stranger: “See that woman there? We’re married 65 years!”

As with all marriages, they have their ups and downs, but they don’t let that deter them.

“We’re there for each other for everything, we talk to each other, we do things together, we’re together a lot at this point in our lives,” said Elaine, now 87. “My motto is, live today because you don’t know what tomorrow brings.”

They also never let their age deter them. “Age never mattered with us,” Elaine said, adding with a laugh, “He keeps up with me.”

For their anniversary, rather than have a lavish party, they went out for a nice family brunch at the William Penn Inn with their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

They both said they feel truly blessed.

“Elaine always says she’ll take another 65 years,” Jack said, to which Elaine responded, “I sure will.”

For some, relationship origins can be summed up in a song.

Edward Marks started singing “Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by … ” from Pal Joey when Elizabeth Marks recalled how the two met. It’s a fitting song, since that’s pretty much how Edward noticed Elizabeth in the beginning.

“We met in South Philadelphia,” Elizabeth Marks recalled. “My husband-to-be was standing on the corner with his boyfriends because that’s what boys did — there were no malls to go to. He would see me walking to my grandmother’s house. He noticed me and followed me home one day and asked me for a date. That was our first getting to know each other.”

For their first date, they went to the now-defunct Woodside Amusement Park to celebrate his birthday. They began “courting” but got interrupted when Edward went into the Army in the early ’40s, though they exchanged letters and kept in touch.

When he returned, he went back to his studies in electrical engineering at Drexel University, while Elizabeth studied secondary education at Temple University. They were married April 13, 1946.

Now they have three children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren and have made 38 trips to Israel to visit their daughter and family.

Their daughter had been a music major in high school, switched gears to study nursing and then “decided to take time off and go to Israel to help pick grapes, and she picked a husband,” Elizabeth said with a laugh.

That daughter has been married 38 years, and the Markses have taken the same number of trips to visit her, so until last year, they never had to miss a wedding or a simcha because of the distance.

Now living in Willow Grove, Edward and Elizabeth credit love for the not-so secret to reaching their 70th anniversary.

“I’d say love — getting us through problems, arguments, situations but underlying of all of it is a deep, abiding love,” she said. “Love and respect for each other. We’re thrilled with what we have, thrilled with each other and thrilled with what we produced.”

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Read more from our Fall Simchas issue here



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