After 72 years of marriage, John Doyle, 94, is still smitten.
“It’s magic, it really is,” Doyle said.
The pandemic separated John and his wife, Kay, for much of the past year. CBS Boston’s Juli McDonald was on the scene when the happily married couple reunited.
“I don’t have a roommate. You can have that bed,” Kay said. John promised to “check with the authorities.”
Their marriage has weathered storms that would have broken many others apart. Despite losses, challenges and tragedies, the couple grew only closer.
What’s the secret to a happy, lasting marriage?
“Just love each other,” Kay said.
“I think he’s very kind and consideration,” she added. “And handsome too.”
A remarkable marriage
The Doyle’s have a remarkable marriage. About half of married couples in the United States divorce. Couples who marry again divorce with even greater frequency.
Many are concerned that with the end of the pandemic, America will see a sharp rise in divorce filings. The Doyle’s marriage is an example of what’s possible when couples are able to grow closer through life’s challenges and crises.
Breaking up is contagious
Psychologist Bella DePaulo writes that divorce is contagious. Reflecting on a study about social network effects on divorce, Dr. DePaulo wrote, “If someone you name as a friend gets divorced, then when the researchers see you again about four years later, you are 147% more likely to have gotten divorced yourself than if you didn’t have a friend who got divorced.”
What happens with family members matters too, Dr. DePaulo wrote. “If you have a sibling who got divorced, you are 22% more likely to get divorced yourself within the next four years.”
Marriages are also effected by what happens at work. “If you work at a small firm and one of your co-workers gets divorced, you are 55% more likely to get divorced yourself within the next four years,” Dr. DePaulo wrote.
Is your marriage at risk?
The Relationship Pleasure Scale is an objective six-item self-report measure of general relationship satisfaction. A study by the University of Central Florida’s Marriage & Family Research Institute validated the questionnaire as a reliable, valid measure of relationship satisfaction and pleasure.
The assessment considers key areas of relationship satisfaction that are the foundation of marriages like the Doyle’s, including intellectuality, emotionality, sensuality, sexuality, friendship and trust, and what’s been built together.
You can find out how your relationship scores by taking the free, confidential assessment online.
Doing marriage like the Doyles
Marriages like Kay and John Doyle’s are helping couples recognize that facing and overcoming relationship challenges can lead to greater happiness. Some, including many military and veteran families, are turning to relationship skills training such as VA’s Warrior to Soul Mate program to improve their chances for success.
Relationship skills training
Marisol Wetzstein is a licensed marriage and family counselor, trauma expert, and National PAIRS Trainer. For the past six months of the pandemic, Wetzstein has been leading 14-hour PAIRS relationship skills trainings online to help couples and singles learn skills to improve communication, conflict resolution, and emotional understanding.
Wetzstein said the training helps couples find their own answers. Some participants have said it’s like “learning to be your own therapist.”
Research indicates Wetzstein’s skills training approach makes a difference. In a study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the far majority of distressed couples who began intensive PAIRS (“Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills”) classes at the point of separation or divorce were happily married a year later.
John and Kay Doyle are together again. Their story may inspire other couples to overcome the natural challenges and transitions that face every close relationship to one day celebrate their own love stories.