‘Know What You Desire’ – Love Lessons From Our Old Romantics


As Valentine’s Day approaches, we’re getting advice from seniors across the country on what they’ve learned about love or heartbreak.

“Love can be hard work,” advised singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, now 78. “A lot of people run at the first sign of trouble. . . but if you can pull yourself out of it, you get closer and you learn a way of loving that’s different from the neurotic love in the movies. It is warmer and has more padding.

Step back 1,000 years and Brehon’s Irish lawyers have taken a deeply practical approach to partnerships. Husband and wife retained joint ownership of everything they brought into a marriage, whether it was a piece of land or a goat. On the first day of February, a husband or wife had the right to simply leave a marriage, no questions asked, no lawyer. Moreover, if a husband did not satisfy his wife in bed, he had to pay a fine.

Whatever the problem, remember that you are both on the same side –
Herbie Brennan (84)

These days, the social pressures to find a life partner are relentless. However, a Michigan State University study showed that there was almost no difference in happiness between those who had relationships and those who remained single for life. And so, whether there’s a wedding ring on your finger or a promising list of dating app requests to answer, don’t panic.

Moreover, no matter who we choose to love, whether straight or gay, non-binary, pansexual or unicorn, there is much to learn from those who have spent many years walking miles along the highway of romance.

Phyl Herbert: “Getting out of a bad relationship can teach us a lot about ourselves.” Photography: Alan Betson

“Always know what you desire and name it.” This is the principle by which Dublin author and playwright Phyl Herbert, who is 75, lives. “It’s amazing that it’s only now, in my mid-70s, that I feel emotionally adult. I finally understand what’s important in relationships, and my advice to young people is to be clear about that. what you want in life and to remember that the most important relationship is with yourself. Self-love should be a priority.

“When I was young, I couldn’t articulate the pleasures I wanted because it wasn’t in the air for women to talk about such things. Then we got so busy proving that we We were as capable as men, that we sublimated our desires in the process.Now women have more independence, but with all-consuming careers, the sense of desire can drop off the list of priorities.

Don’t forget to say please and thank you, because behaving politely towards your partner is both respectful and sexy –
Rachel Award (71)

“The whole journey of life is about developing ourselves, and if we try to please others while ignoring our own needs, that can’t be good for us. Sometimes we may think we’re in for a romance, but if a partner does not show respect, it’s a fool’s game to stay and a waste of precious time. Getting out of a bad relationship can teach us a lot about ourselves. We are reminded that we have to tolerate less bad behaviours.

“Teaming up over the long term is a bet, it must be worth it. Along with respect, having a shared sense of values ​​with your partner is of utmost importance. Pleasure, of course, can refer to sex, but there are other elements. Friendship, adventure, and absolute trust can be the binding power, creating a fundamental relationship strong enough to last.

“And there is nothing more beautiful than an enduring love that changes over time. You must remember that life is short and, as Shakespeare wrote, ‘be true to yourself’.

Stan and Bernadette Phillips:

Stan and Bernadette Phillips: “We rock and roll well together.” Photography: Patrick Browne

“We rock and roll well together,” says 83-year-old poet and novelist Stan Phillips of Co Waterford, “and when it comes to romance, I believe laughter is key.” Perhaps that explains why Stan recently dabbled in comics. “One of the great joys of my life is to make my darling laugh.”

“When I met Bernadette in 1994, something happened right away,” he recalls. “It was something wonderful that I couldn’t put my finger on, but it was like magic.”

Searching for an ideal love is a fool’s paradise. I think soul mates exist, but they are rare –
Virginia Comiskey (82)

Bernadette, a 63-year-old sociologist and humanitarian, agrees. “When Stan and I fell in love, it was a meeting of kindred spirits and an improvement for both of our lives.” The couple believe that love is something to be worked on at all times.

“Celebrating each other is one of the best things you can do in a relationship,” Bernadette says. “As we develop a better sense of who we are, it gives us a better foundation for a relationship filled with good self-esteem.”

“You have to remember to hold the scale for the person in your life,” adds Stan. “Respect your differences. Don’t try to have everything your way. Find the ability to compromise around a situation.

Do not sulk under any circumstances –
Edwin Balding (89)

Stan, who was in his 50s when he met Bernadette, says most arguments between couples are about hypothetical matters. “They talk about all the what ifs and maybes of life and yet a lot of the time those things may not even happen.”

“Some couples can lock themselves in,” explains Bernadette. “They’re trying to smooth things over in a space where the energy is dense. To really discuss things, dilute the tension, go out and go for a walk. You’re much more energized when you’re on the go, and as your mind becomes clearer, you can listen better. All of these things add up to a smoother conversation, and whatever decision is made, there will be less anger and more openness.

“Solvitur ambulance!” says Stan, referring to the Latin phrase, meaning ‘it is resolved by marching’. “If you go for a walk, the words you need will eventually come to you, and let them work their magic when they do.”

Remember to compromise, otherwise you will feel like you lost the war, even if you won the battle –
Alex Butler (75)

“Disputes can sometimes be the catalyst to deepen a relationship,” Bernadette explains. “If the love is out there somewhere, you can clean up the debris and unpack the reasons you fell in love in the first place.”

“Yes, love gets old,” says Stan, “but it can also be fresh and continually interesting even after years and years. Ultimately, the value is in the person you’re with and the adventures you you live together, and in the love and laughter you share.

JC O'Mahony: “Love can literally strike anywhere.  Photography: Laura Hutton

JC O’Mahony: “Love can literally strike anywhere. Photography: Laura Hutton

“One of the most wonderful things that can happen to a man is to be loved by a beautiful woman,” says JC O’Mahony, a 77-year-old retired businessman from Dublin. “I was very lucky in that regard and loved by many. It doesn’t lead to eternal happiness, but I think a beautiful relationship brings more joy than anything else in life.

O’Mahony says he loves to love, he loves to be loved, and has been married and divorced many times. “I don’t think it suited me to be a husband,” he concedes. “In fact, I once heard someone say that ‘JC is a man you would never want to marry, but a man you would always want to have as a boyfriend’.” Having recently moved on from a long-term relationship, JC is clear on his advice to those looking to hold on to love.

“I learned that women civilized men. We should treat them as if they were goddesses, as if they were the most wonderful creatures we have ever encountered. It’s one of the golden rules – if you really love someone, never take them for granted. You have to give more than you get, and not just sex, although that’s also extremely important. Money is another important factor. “It is not impossible for love to flourish in a cold climate, but it is better to be certain of your future and to be aware that you can afford to settle down.”

Personally, I think separate bedrooms are a great asset for the wedding after a few years –
Lucia Moore (72)

There are, of course, advantages to being free and single, “and although one may prefer to be in a relationship, if that relationship has come to its natural end, it has to be dealt with, otherwise you are in a lie”. O’Mahony is a strong advocate for the power of love and wants to bring hope to those who are still searching. “In the blink of an eye, your whole life can change. You turn a corner, walk into a room, stand in a queue at the cinema, love can strike literally anywhere. It’s what makes life great, it’s what makes it magical.

John and Mary Bermingham:

John and Mary Bermingham: ‘We relish every opportunity to be together’

Patience, faith and the belief that “true love trumps all” were essential ingredients in John and Mary Bermingham’s romance.

“We met in the old Wicklow Hotel in Dublin in 1970,” says Mary, 85, a beauty therapist and avid swimmer in her youth. “I was supposed to get married in two weeks, but anyway he says he fell in love with me that night.”

Beware of thinking you’d be better off with someone else, somewhere else, but if you go, remember you’re taking each other with you –
Ruth Grealy (81)

It took decades before Mary and John, a former show jumper, could fulfill their wish to marry. They dreamed of formalizing their relationship, but red tape got in their way, including the fact that there was no divorce in Ireland until 1996 and the Irish state’s reluctance to recognize John’s American divorce. The devotion Mary and John share is invigorating and they clearly know what keeps their flame burning. “We don’t take each other for granted,” says John, 87, “especially now that we’re older, we appreciate having each other every day.”

I’m not sure very occasional “flingings” matter in a relationship – don’t say it! –
Freda Lewis (86)

“We relish every opportunity to be together,” adds Mary. “Birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day . . . each one is an important little reminder for all of us to remember who and what is truly important in our lives.

The best things in life are often worth the wait, and when you see the Berminghams together, it’s crystal clear. “We’re having a great time,” laughs Mary, “and I realize we’re both so old now, but we’re happy.”


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