On Valentine’s Day, couples of all ages will celebrate their time together, thinking back on what has made their relationships work in the past, and thinking ahead to how they hope to strengthen them in the future.
Relationships that have withstood the test of time are to be treasured. According to a 2018 study by the American Psychological Association, between 40 and 50 percent of married couples in the U.S. eventually divorce. While that percentage is steadily decreasing, couples who have been married for decades remain in the minority.
The Herald Gazette reached out to a few couples in Glen Cove and the surrounding communities who have been together for over 50 years to find out how they’ve done it.
A deep faith
One wedding led to another for Judy and Rocky Imerti. They met at Judy’s cousin’s wedding in the Bronx in 1953. Judy’s cousin was marrying Rocky’s brother, and they were both in the wedding party. But they didn’t exactly hit it off right away, Judy recalled, and she returned to her native Minnesota to finish college.
After she graduated from Carleton College in 1956, Judy moved to Manhattan to see what life was like in the big city and to be around people she knew. She and Rocky renewed their acquaintance at several family functions, and eventually they started dating. They were married on May 24, 1959.
While their relationship has changed over the years, Judy, 85, said she believed there was one thing that had helped them through the decades. “I would say, over the years it is a deep faith in God, and gratitude for our family and our friends and our faith,” she said. “We depend on Him to get us through the rough times as well as to rejoice in the good times.”
Above all else, Judy said of Rocky, who is 96, “We love each other. I love his sense of humor. He’s kind. He amazes me.” Later she added, “We really enjoy being together.”
A sense of humor is key
Mike and Dorothy Varous met on a blind date arranged by Mike’s future brother-in-law on July 28, 1962. The two hit it off immediately, and decided to make their relationship permanent after only a few months of dating. Mike, 95, likes to joke about the timing of their wedding, on New Year’s Eve 1962. “We weren’t invited to a party,” he said, laughing, “so we decided to get married.”
That humorous attitude toward life is something that Dorothy, 85, said she believes is one of the keys to a happy marriage. “If you try to keep a sense of humor about certain things, and keep a little song in your heart,” she said, “that helps quite a bit.”
Compromise is the key
The story of Ruth and Kam Yuen’s relationship begins on the other side of the globe, in Taiwan, where they met after fleeing communist China. According to Ruth, who is 84, the two met while working at an engineering company where Kam, 94, worked as an engineer and she was a typist. The two started dating shortly afterward, and were married on Oct. 15, 1960.
Ruth said that one of the most important parts of their relationship is their willingness to make concessions. “We respect each other — we both do a lot of compromising,” she said. “Sometimes I give a little bit, sometimes he gives a little bit.”
Of all the couples who spoke to the Herald Gazette, Locust Valley residents Lou and Alice Savinetti have been married the longest: They will celebrate their 66th wedding anniversary on June 21. They met at a bowling alley in Sea Cliff where, Lou recalled, what struck him was Alice’s personality.
Through the years, the couple have discovered a variety of things they feel are paramount in keeping a relationship alive. “First of all, you have to have a sense of humor,” explained Lou, who is 91. “Then you have to be compatible, and you have to have a lot of things to do. You have to keep busy.”
Even well into their senior years, the Savinettis still take that to heart. Lou is a commissioner of the Locust Valley Water District, and Alice, 88, volunteers in the Glen Cove Senior Center’s thrift store, the Rose Shoppe.
Alice said that relationships can be hard work, but that pushing through the difficult times is a significant part of what makes them last. “We went through a lot of ups and downs,” she said. “Everything you go through in life makes your marriage stronger.”
The factor she singled out as the most important ingredient in a lasting relationship, however, is the one all happy couples would no doubt agree on. “You have to have love,” Alice said. “That’s for sure.”