Frank and Anita Milford, who celebrated their 81st anniversary yesterday - they are 101 and 100 years old, respectively - have discovered the secret to a happy marriage. Fighting.
Not, you know, brawling, but "daily squabbles," what Anita calls "the odd cross word" that keeps things lively. They also promote old-fashioned romance and taking time for one another: Says Anita, "Couples these days don't last long because they often don't take enough time for each other. There isn't enough respect - love is about give and take. Our advice to young couples would be to make time for a little romance every day." And adds her husband, "To win over your sweetheart you need a dose of old-fashioned chivalry and don't let your standards slip."
There's a lot of expert-speak to support the Milfords' approach. "Taking time for romance," working at the relationship, these are staples of relationship manuals, and as Mignon McLaughlin would famously have it, "a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person." But even more than this, the concept of "healthy fighting" has a lot of adherents; not only does a little tension help keep the spark alive (there's a reason every Harlequin centers around conflicts) but many scientists actually feel that the healthy release of stress and anxiety can have benefits for longevity - for which this couple is surely a good anecdotal argument. (Of course, "healthy fighting" - the respectful squabbling Frank and Anita advocate - is a far cry from any sort of abuse or rage issues, which shouldn't really need saying but always seems to for those who confuse instability and passion.)
In another eight months, the couple, who married in 1928 after meeting at a YMCA dance, will break the British record for the longest marriage, currently held by a Welsh couple from 1891. In any case, we wish them happiness and luck; love they've already got down.