Snapshot of a Marriage | John & Phil, Married 49 Years

With all of our focus on how to make your wedding special, we thought it was important to highlight some ways to make your marriage awesome, too. Introducing “Snapshot of a Marriage,” a series from contributor Emily Westbrooks, who interviews couples on some of their secrets for a strong and successful marriage.

 John and Phil met at a dance hall in downtown Dublin over fifty years ago, at a dance that neither of them quite intended to attend. Phil, in fact, had gone with her girlfriends to a different dance but hadn’t found any suitable boys to dance with and had boldly asked the doorman for her money back!

But the next dance Phil tried that evening was certainly worth the second try. John and Phil met during what was known as a Paul Jones dance, where the boys made a circle and the girls formed a circle inside facing the boys. When the music stopped, your next dance partner would be the person opposite you – but when the music stopped that night, Phil found herself between two boys. She looked at one, looked at the other, and then chose John as her dance partner.

A few years later, John and Phil put a down payment on a house and planned their wedding. Phil’s mother made the four-tiered wedding cake, and as is tradition in Ireland, all four tiers were fruit cake. John and Phil saved the top tier and to celebrate their first child’s christening.

John and Phil each share their advice for couples planning their weddings today. Phil explains, “We grew up together; it was a wonderful learning experience. We’re both very devoted to one another, which is particularly important when you’re rearing little ones, and even big ones. That you have someone who loves you deeply.” John’s key to marriage success? “Retain a certain amount of individuality and share it with your partner,” he says. “Retain the individuality that the other person admired in the first place.”

After seven children and forty-nine years, John and Phil are living in the same house they bought just before their wedding. Children and grandchildren come and go daily, and a rescue dog greets you at the door. Reflecting on their nearly fifty years married, John says, “Another 20 wouldn’t go amiss.”

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SNAPSHOT SUBMISSIONS  Do you know a married couple whose relationship you admire? Or maybe you’re married and want to share your words of wisdom! We’re now accepting submissions from couples who have been married for ten years or longer. Email Emily at with your first names, how long you’ve been married, and a few sentences about why you’d like to be interviewed for our Snapshot of a Marriage series.


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