Toronto couples share the secret to long-lasting love

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we meet three Toronto couples who have been together for decades


Every couple in a long-term relationship will hit rocky territory at some point, says Toronto-based psychotherapist Victoria Lorient-Faibish. These challenges might include illness, financial trouble or even a new outlook for one partner, and all these situations exert stress on couples, altering the established dynamic. The key to longevity in these changing circumstances is adaptability, says Lorient-Faibish. Pairs who are stuck in old patterns of behavior tend to come apart.

The good news is that couples who navigate these land mines as a team emerge with stronger bonds. “This shared experience builds a really solid foundation that bodes well for their future,” says Lorient-Faibish.

Below, meet three Toronto couples who have found long-lasting love.

Beverly Shepard and Robert Shepard

Robert Shepard’s hoarse voice quakes as he reads a love poem from his wife, Beverly Shepard, whose eyes glaze over with tears.

Robbie, as he’s better known, first noticed Beverly when they were both members of their Houston-based university’s amateur theater. “She had stunning good looks,” he recalls. But it took him three years to muster the courage to ask her out. To his surprise, she agreed.

On their first date at an outdoor concert, they discovered shared passions: classical music, books and science. Afterwards, they sat on her balcony and talked until dawn.

“She was quick-witted, and cosmopolitan,” says Robbie.

“He was handsome and kind,” says Beverly.

Within, a few weeks, Robbie confessed his love and Beverly followed suit shortly after.

The couple married in l967 and fled to Canada a year later to avoid the Vietnam draft. Beverly found work in a biochemistry lab, while Robbie was employed as a computer programmer. The two complemented each other: Beverly planned social events, while Robbie was the family’s expert in politics. Beverly became a fulltime homemaker in l973 when she had her first of four children, and Robbie supported the family single-handedly.

The Shepards’ harmonious existence was shattered when Robbie lost his job in 1987 and sank into depression., but there was never a moment when the two considered divorce.

“I didn’t like him very much, but I knew I still loved him, so we would figure how to make it work,” Beverly says.

Two years later Robbie found work elsewhere, and the crisis solidified their already powerful bond.

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Vivien Fellegi

Don Middleton and Clayton Wilson complement each other’s personality.

Clayton Wilson and Don Middleton

Clayton Wilson and Don Middleton finish each other’s sentences in their sunny dining room. The two met on a blind date in London, Ontario, but at first, they weren’t compatible.

They began hanging out by default because there weren’t a lot of other gay men in their community. They shared a fondness for theatre and fine dining, and began to wonder if their friendship could catch fire.

“We became comfortable enough with one another to experiment, and it worked,” says Middleton. Shortly afterwards the men relocated to Toronto and moved in together.

They found they complemented each other. Wilson gave Middleton the attention he craved and Middleton offered Wilson moral support.

A year later, the couple renegotiated their bond and agreed on an open relationship. The two hit a rough patch after Wilson was promoted at work. Although Middleton had been running the household alone until then, Wilson’s career advancement bolstered his confidence and he began participating in more household decisions.

One day, he brought home some pickled pork from the grocery store. Middleton was not only horrified because he considered it to be a country bumpkin’s dish, but he felt offended that Wilson intruded on his solo decision-making. “It took me a week to adjust to the fact that he had the right to challenge my authority.”

“We’ve learned to live around one another,” adds Middleton. “If you can’t adjust, you’ll wind up alone.”

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Vivien Fellegi

Joyce Binstock and Albert Binstock have been married since 1946.

Joyce Binstock and Albert Binstock

Joyce Binstock and Albert Binstock tease each other as they sit side by side at Terraces of Baycrest Retirement Residence. They have known each other since childhood, when both attended the same Toronto public school. Albert always noticed Joyce’s pretty face and strong legs. She was oblivious of his feelings until the day he marched up to her date at a dance and threatened a fistfight. “I was flattered,” she says.

But it wasn’t until Albert left Toronto for military training during World War II that Joyce recognized her own burgeoning attachment. “I missed him,” she says. She kept up his morale with regular letters. “She showed a lot of compassion,” says Albert.

Soon after Albert’s medical discharge, he returned to his home town and proposed to his sweetheart. The two married in l946 and built a life based on shared values. Both were observant Jews who contributed to their synagogue’s charities. They desperately wanted children, and Joyce endured several miscarriages before giving birth to a son and a daughter.

Their tenacity came in handy when tragedy struck in 2001 and the pair lost all their investments and savings overnight. “It was very difficult – our pride was hurt,” says Joyce.

The two supported each other through the crisis. At first Albert, who had handled their money, felt responsible for the financial meltdown. But far from blaming him, Joyce put the situation into perspective. They eliminated all luxuries from their budget and accepted their daughter’s temporary support. Surviving the traumatic situation together brought them even closer.

Like any couple, the Binstocks sometimes rub each other the wrong way. “Nobody is 100 per cent – sometimes I yell at her, sometimes she yells at me,” says Albert.

But they never let a day go by without at least one hug and kiss. “We’re like teenagers,” says Albert.

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