Who do you love?
When asked by a Forum Poll who they loved the most, 32 per cent of Ontarians responded saying it was their life partner.
Spouses narrowly beat out a child or children, who finished with 30 per cent. Meanwhile, parents, girlfriends, boyfriends and pets trailed far behind – even when their scores were combined they only managed a measly 22 per cent.
So what makes spouses Ontario’s most significant other?
“I’m not surprised at all,” said Ellis Nicolson, a couples counsellor. “In the same way that a child bonds to its parents and needs to feel safe and secure we, as adults, seek out safety and security from our spouse.”
According to Nicolson, healthy relationships give couples the confidence to take risks, knowing they have a strong source of support.
Anne and Anthony Altilia are living proof that he’s right.
The couple is often asked all sorts of questions about making love last. After all, with more than 70 years of married life under their belts the couple has a lifetime of experience to draw on.
The couple met when they were teenagers.
Back then, 94-year-old Anthony was a handsome young charmer with a mane of thick, dark hair and Anne, now 91, was a natural knockout and prolific dancer.
The first time they saw each other they didn’t speak.
“We just kind of looked at each other,” said Anne. “You know how they say love on first sight? It can actually happen.”
Eventually the couple got to the point where they started talking and began going to dances six or seven times each week.
They married and five kids, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren later their love is as strong as ever.
“It wasn’t all about lovemaking and stuff like that. That’s part of it, but it isn’t the whole thing,” said Anne. “Love is caring for one another, that’s my theory anyhow.”
Openness, realistic expectations and sharing common interests all helped keep the couple together, but they are quick to note that the world was a different place when they got married.
“In our era, I can honestly say, I didn’t know anyone who separated,” said Anne. “People used to stay together to the end.”
While divorce is more common these days, Harold Niman, a divorce lawyer for over 40 years, said the results of the poll aren’t surprising.
“I think most people want to love their spouse,” he said.
Over the course of his career, Niman said, the rate of divorce hasn’t really gone up or down except for small dips where people stay together through hard economic times.
While the reasons couples separate are varied, the main reason is always the same – unhappiness.
“Jonathan Franzen, who is a great writer, said ‘Nice people don’t necessarily fall in love with nice people,’ and that’s something I find quite a bit in my practice,” said Niman.
But according to Nicolson, that risk is part of what makes finding the perfect match so amazing.
“Just as there is no one in the world who can hurt us more than our spouse, there is no one who can make us feel so loved.”
Tips for making love last
What makes love last? The Star asked Ellis Nicolson, a couples counsellor, what tips he has for making amour endure.
1) Take emotional risks, i.e. be vulnerable
2) Be emotionally responsive, i.e. don’t judge or dismiss your spouse’s emotions
3) Act on your promptings
4) Replace negative beliefs about your spouse with positive beliefs
5) Have the courage to ask for help from a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist if you are not feeling connected. Do not wait until you feel that counselling is the last resort because it may be too late by then.