How To Make Your Love Last Long (Part 1)

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What is the secret to making a marriage last? These three women show that it takes hard work and compromise, but a partnership that is strong and true can take whatever life throws at it, as love will quietly conquer all

‘My husband the hero’

When Wendy Shand, 40, got the phone call every military wife dreads, she knew life would never be the same again. But his horrific accident changed her marriage for the better

‘People often think that the life of a fast jet pilot’s wife is glamorous and exciting – but the reality is very diferent. I was Rob’s partner all through his flying training, and when we married at 25, I knew exactly what sort of life I was getting myself into. For years we moved house at two weeks’ notice, I gave up my job in London, and our three children missed their daddy every night while he was serving on the front line during peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo. But you fall in love with a person, not the job they do, and I did whatever it took to be with him.

A few weeks before he was due to go on tour in Afghanistan, I was in the kitchen, the sunshine pouring in through the windows, when the phone rang. What I heard when I answered made my world turn grey. A man’s voice told me that he was a doctor and he was with my husband in a field, waiting for an air ambulance to take him to hospital. He couldn’t tell me any more. My stomach lurched and I thought I was going to be sick, panic rose through my chest and made me dizzy, and my head exploded with one thought: he would be dead before I got to the hospital, and I would never see him again. I called a friend and asked her to collect my children from school, and then one of Rob’s colleagues drove me to the hospital, as I desperately sought to keep calm, to will him to survive.

I found him lying in a bed in A&E, and felt relief surge through my whole body: he was alive. I didn’t know if he’d ever walk again, if he’d be the man I’d fallen in love with, but at least he was still here. It was only later that I learnt from the TV and the newspapers that Rob had been a hero. Somethinghad gone wrong with the jet engine and it exploded, bursting into huge flames above a village. As he shouted Mayday, Mayday, he had the presence of mind to steer the plane away from the homes and people below him, and save their lives.

Description: Wendy Shand’s family photo

Wendy Shand’s family photo

I had phone calls from higher up the military chain saying he’d be fine, he’d be back in the air – they had no idea that I didn’t want my husband going anywhere near one of their jets again. The doctors discovered he’d broken his back, and he spent more than six months in agony and rehabilitation at the military hospital Headley Court before he got back to normal. It was terrible to see him in pain, but Rob was incredibly stoic, and floored me with his positive attitude. When he did finally get back in a plane, I felt sick with anxiety, and so did he.

That experience changed our marriage, and it changed our lives. Coming so close to losing everything gave us a greater sense of resolve to make the most of our time together.We needed to put our marriage and our three children first, and do whatever it took to make sure we were the strongest couple we could be. So, Rob left the military and came to work with me on the business I’d started, specialising in holidays for families with young children.We work well together, bringing our different skills to it, and always making sure our family is our highest priority, going to every sports day and school event, rather than staying in the office.

When Rob was lying in that field, unsure if he’d survive or ever walk again, the first thing he said to the doctor was ‘Please call my wife and tell her what’s happened’. I was the person he thought of before anybody else, even himself. We both know that whatever life throws at us now we will manage, and thanks to Rob, we’ll deal with anything that comes along in a measured, loving and supportive way, putting each other first. And that’s why he’s my hero.

Description: “I was the person he thought of in that moment before anybody else, even himself”

‘I was the person he thought of in that moment before anybody else, even himself’

Wendy’s mantras

Always say thank you

Never take your partner for granted. Whether it’s for making dinner or something much bigger, saying thank you reinforces how valuable your loved one is, and how grateful you are to him.

You are a partner, nothing more, nothing less

When Rob was in rehab, I wished I could do it for him, but I couldn’t. All I could do was sit by his side, talk things through when he wanted, and provide endless tea. But for him, mine was the most important job in the world.

Put your marriage first

Busy lives mean competing priorities, but if you make sure your relationship is strong first, then you’ll be better able to deal with everything else.

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