How to defy the marriage odds

Peter and Ainslie Walsh are still very much in love after 23 years of marriage.
Peter and Ainslie Walsh are still very much in love after 23 years of marriage. Warren Lynam

FOR Cinderella, all it took was a lost shoe, Snow White a state of unconsciousness and Rapunzel a ladder of golden locks.

Three perfect weddings, three perfect matches.

But recent Australian statistics show that two out of three marriages fail.

It seems that after the vows are said and the knot tied, few of us will go the distance and live out our own "happily ever after".

So is there a magic formula to ensure the perfect marriage?

Perhaps it's time to ask the "experts". And who better to ask than those who make the journey with the couple through their pre-marriage preparation.

Maroochydore marriage celebrant Suzanne Riley is no stranger to wedded bliss.

Working with two to three new couples a week, Suzanne has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of relationships.

Through her profession, she has discovered the fairytale or ideal couple does not exist.

"Honestly, when it comes to matters of the heart, you just can't pick it," she said.

"One of my most loved-up, gorgeous couples who seemed to have the world at their feet surprised me by not even making it down the aisle, whereas one quite disagreeable couple, with whom I felt like the referee at our planning meetings, recently announced the birth of their second child."

Suzanne says every couple is unique and she believes no secret recipe for success - or disaster - exists.

Award-winning Caloundra cake artist and Ideas in Icing owner Lorinda Rogers agreed that judging how long a couple would last was impossible.

"Some couples come in and fight about every little detail and in others the bride-to-be is clearly the boss, making all the decisions while her fiance sits in the corner and lets her do it all," said

Lorinda, who has baked more than 10 wedding cakes weekly for the past 10 years.

"But the couple who fight may be the one that lasts.

"I've only had two weddings cancelled and I was very surprised with both of them."

Although Reverend Mark Calder, from the Anglican Church at Noosa, agreed that while knowing for sure if a couple would go the distance was rare, he usually was correct when he had "grave doubts" about a particular couple.

"As preparation for the wedding day, I do two hours of purposeful conversation with the couple where we talk about their reasons for tying the knot, the commitment of marriage and go through their vows," he said.

"I have found that some don't have any idea what to say to each other or ... are in conflict when they come to the meetings.

"Then you hear on the grapevine, six years later, that they've broken up."

Rev Calder said an "inappropriate" amount of expense on wedding preparations also worried him.

"I have seen correlation between money spent on flowers, dresses and cars, and marriages failing," he said.

Woombye Suncoast Outreach senior pastor Chas Gullo agreed that too often the wedding was made a priority over the marriage.

"I always remind couples that the wedding lasts a day, whereas marriage lasts a lifetime," he said.

After conducting more than 100 wedding ceremonies, Pastor Gullo said he had a fairly clear idea of which couples would remain committed.

"I usually go through a process, and after that, I can usually pick and it's very accurate," he said.

The process he referred to was six lessons that explored critical aspects of marriage: understanding the foundations of marriage; commitment and future plans; personality differences; sexuality; conflict management; and the ceremony itself.

Pastor Gullo said certain character traits were a giveaway.

"If someone is selfish or has spent a long time in the playing field, it often decreases their accountability," he said.

Having married people aged 18 to 60, Paster Gullo believed younger people usually needed more time with their partner before the special day.

The question of whether or not to live together before marriage was divided.

Suzanne highly recommended couples lived together before tying the knot.

"You don't really know someone until you live with them," she said. "It's almost like a forging ground."

However, Rev Calder's advice was the opposite.

"If people live together, what is going to be different the day after the wedding," he said.

"There won't be the unpacking, the setting up and making a home - something special all of their own.

"People who have lived together need to recapture this excitement to keep the marriage alive because so much of the profound significance of a marriage is lost."

Woombye residents Ainslie and Peter Walsh are convinced that they have found their "happily ever after".

The couple, who celebrated their 23rd anniversary on Sunday, first met at a church camp in Coolum when Ainslie was 14 and Peter seven years her senior.

Now a teacher at Chevallum State School, Ainslie and Nambour police officer husband Peter have brought up three children together and say they could not be more in love.

Ainslie said the secret to their happiness was authenticity, communication and persistence.

"Love isn't perfect," she said.

"It's hard work and you have to push through.

"We seem to be living in a throw-away society these days with so many people giving up too easily. People need to dig deeper and work hard on their marriage because the gift of sharing your life with that special someone is incredible."


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