Tricia Culliford, 65, was 24 when she first got married. While that union lasted for more than two decades, it eventually ended in divorce in her mid-40s. Nine years ago, she married for a second time. Here, she explains what finding love again has meant to her…
I’ve always been a very independent person since childhood – probably because both of my parents were career-driven. At 16, my first serious boyfriend was three years older than me and needless to say, my parents disapproved – so after him a few sensible but boring ones followed. I met my first husband at a golf club. After two passionate years, we got married – I was 24 at the time.
My first marriage lasted 20 years and we had three children together. We also co-owned a successful events marketing business. That had its pressures, but we also made the mistake of taking over my family home when my father died and inviting my mother to live with us after she suffered a stroke. Eventually, my husband succumbed to having his ego stroked by another woman. I thought we were happily married, but he had checked out long before I realised the truth. In the end, he didn’t have the heart to change his mind or try to talk things through – despite my efforts to show him my love. He just felt he couldn’t go back.
Divorce didn’t change my perspective on marriage. If you ask me, a public statement of love is a great starting point for any long-term relationship. Call me old fashioned, but the value of marriage is rooted in what the church says about supporting each other through the hard times. That said, people do change and if you can’t change together, then perhaps separation is the right answer. Even so, I’ve always preferred being in a partnership where you can share everything life has to offer together.
For a long time, I didn’t think anything was going to happen with my now husband. We’d been friends for over a year, and he was widowed. He wasn’t emotionally ready to commit to another relationship – ultimately, it showed me what a kind, caring person he was that he didn’t mislead me. Then, by chance, I was invited to a house party where he was also a guest. From there, it just moved to the next level. I was lucky my children were pleased for me and accepting of him. His children took a little longer to come to terms with it because their mother had only died recently.
My second wedding wasn’t so different to my first – only this time, I had the church and reception I’d wanted initially. Unusually, we now live in the house where I grew up as a child, so we got married at my parish church and hosted the reception in our garden. It was a full-on event. My daughters were bridesmaids, and my son gave me away. His son was best man – it was a wonderful family affair with 100 guests. First time round I was married at St Bartholomew The Great at Smithfield – long before Four Weddings And A Funeral made it famous!
Every relationship teaches you something. It’s tempting to re-conceptualise and reinvent stories and memories but overall, I’ve been lucky in love – and life. It would be boring to try and preach anything to my younger self – we all have our chances in life, so grab them and enjoy them. Everything will be okay in the end.
Sharon Kalmus-Brown, 74, met her second husband Peter four years ago after moving into a FirstPort residential home. Having lost her first husband Ronnie – to whom she was married for 50 years – as a result of cancer, she explains what committing to another person signified to her…
Peter and I met in a retirement development in 2017. He had moved into the complex about a year after me and we soon struck up a conversation – in the laundry room of all places! Like me, he’d also lost his partner earlier that year, and so we became friends. Over time, it grew into more and we decided to get engaged in October 2019 – Peter (who is 77) even got down on one knee! On 1st December that same year, we got married at the Palace Hotel.
My husband Ronnie and I were married for 50 years. After moving into a retirement development in Devon in 2016 to be closer to our family. When Ronnie died of cancer the following year, I was devastated. We were very lucky to have been so happily married for all those years. After I lost him, I never thought I would meet anybody else. But having had such a wonderful marriage, I wanted to experience the same happiness again.
A new relationship meant holding onto my own life – rather than just resigning myself to being the person who looked after the grandchildren. Living in a retirement community gives me the opportunity to enhance my social life – and I guess I’ve always been a romantic. Although I never expected to find another relationship, I knew I wanted to experience the joys of life with someone by my side.
Marriage was important to me second-time round. I’m quite traditional, so we decided if we wanted to live together, we’d better get hitched. Having enjoyed my first marriage so much, I saw no reason why I shouldn’t be able to commit again – a solid union can bring so much joy. Luckily, our children were delighted for us. They’re pleased we’ve found each other and can see how happy we are together.
Because I’m Jewish, my first wedding was at a synagogue. We had around 80 couples, so it was a big do. My wedding to Peter was quite different. We got married on a Sunday with 45 friends and family who had come from all over the country – it was such a lovely day, but both of my weddings were special in their own way.
If I could tell my younger self anything about relationships or love it would be you won’t get struck by lightning if you marry someone who isn’t Jewish! And always pursue happiness… no matter your age.
Jacquie Brazier, now in her 60s, first met her now-husband John while both married to other people. A first-time bride at 22, her husband’s eventual affair with John’s first wife ultimately brought them together. Here she explains how she and her second spouse found long-term happiness, and what it taught her about love and relationships…
After more than a decade of living together, my partner John and I got married 15 years ago. Between us we have six adult children – John has three daughters and I have a daughter and two sons. We now have six grandchildren, too. We first met each other when still married to our first spouses – I was in my 20s and John his early 30s. At that time, with our young families and living in the same village, we enjoyed many fun times together – including dinner parties and even family holidays together.
It’s my perspective that, after a couple of jobs and a lack of serious education, I got married too young first time around. By the time I turned 30, I’d been married for more than a decade and had three children. Life was frantic but was it personally fulfilling? No – I knew there was something missing but I had no idea how to scratch that itch. As a housewife with no financial independence, I soon realised I’d married for all the wrong reasons.
My life fell apart when I discovered my husband was having an affair. But here’s the kicker: he was having an affair with John’s wife. Suffice to say, it rocked both our worlds. Both couples ended up divorcing and during this two-year period, I had virtually no contact with John. Once in a while we would meet for a drink, but it was all very sad. There was a lot of anger, disbelief, unforgiveness – neither of us in any way was considering a new relationship and certainly not with each other. Then, one evening, we went out with a mutual friend, who was also recently divorced. We had such a fun night – it was then our friendship changed into something more.
To begin with, John and I had no intention of committing long term. We didn’t want our spouses, who were still together, to know about us as we didn’t want them to feel in any way appeased. So, for a long time our relationship was discreet. The time eventually came when both of us were selling our family homes and looking for new places to live. I realised I couldn’t see a way forward without John; I had fallen in love.
Once our children started leaving home, our relationship developed further. Suddenly the craziness subsided, and we only had each other for company! We had never really talked about getting married – then one day, out of the blue, John proposed at a dinner with friends. Once it was clear he was serious, I realised it was something I wanted, too. I accepted and it was absolutely the right decision. Our friends and family were delighted, and unanimously considered it was about time too!
We had a small wedding with our children as witnesses. We hired a private room for lunch and a limo for the day – it was so special. This was followed a few days later by a wedding celebration in our garden for 240 people. As we were paying, we went to town with the entertainment – it was a crazy night and the best party of my life.
Looking back, I’d tell my younger self to trust your feelings, not make decisions to please others and to give yourself some security. Also, live for the here and now. As for women my age now, it must be said every relationship is different. Generally speaking, I’d say don’t compromise or try to persuade yourself you’re ‘in love’ – if you are, you’ll know it. Also, recognise and value the relationship for what it is – sometimes a loving friendship can offer more than falling in love – and make sure any new relationship isn’t burdened with emotional and practical baggage from the past. Finally, remember you can’t change anyone.
If you ask me, a successful long-term relationship is built on trust, respect and friendship. John and I have had some very challenging times, of course, but we both have a deep respect and love for each other. John’s also an introvert – so I’ve learnt to give him time alone and not bombard him. Similarly, he has learnt to tell me what he is thinking, and indulge my need for socialising, friendships and activity. Our relationship works because we’ve learnt more about each other without wanting to change the other person.