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7 longtime Pakistani couples share what they've learned about falling — and staying — in love

We asked, they answered: what does it take to make a love partnership work for 40 years or more?
Updated Feb 14, 2018 02:51pm


What's the secret to a long and happy romantic partnership?

It's a question many of us have pondered at some point or the other, and it's a tricky one. There appears to be no one-size-fits-all formula here; the reality is no one can really claim to know the answer.

However, despite its elusive nature — or perhaps because of it — enduring love is something most people crave.

At Images we decided we could stand to learn a thing or two from couples who have truly stood the test of time.

We spoke to couples who have been together for 40 years or more to find out exactly what has kept them together over the decades. From overarching life philosophies to mundane everyday gestures that grow in importance over the years, they gave us some insight into what it takes to really make a marriage go the distance.

Read on to experience their wisdom.


Jalil Jamil and Nuscie Jamil, married for 50 years this October

Their wedding day (L) and the first picture Nuscie gave Jalil (R)
Their wedding day (L) and the first picture Nuscie gave Jalil (R)

Images: How did you two meet?

Mr. Jamil: I met Nuscie when I was 18; I had gone up to Nathiagali for a month in the summer before I had to head back to Aitchison College and she was living in a house close to ours with some old friends of mine.

My relative who I was staying with told me that in the next house over, there's a very beautiful girl, why don't you go and meet her. And I said fine, I was 18, I was like girls are okay, sure. (chuckles).

And I was struck the moment I saw her to be honest. I remember her walking down the stairs, she was 16 at the time and I had just lost my hat; at 18, I thought that I want to get married now. That being said, she was very rude to me! For the two weeks I was there, she was extremely rude! So I went back to Karachi after Nathia, wrote to her and obviously she liked me so she wrote back.

Check out that turtleneck!
Check out that turtleneck!

I came back to Lahore and we started talking on the phone. Eventually, she started studying at Kinnaird College in Lahore and that's when we started dating. She used to sneak out of the hostel and we'd go out for dates. Meanwhile I went away to London to study and we couldn't talk as often on the phone. This is 1964-1965 I'm talking about so you had to book calls and it would take two days to call from there. I started writing to her, for 3 years, I wrote 365 letters a year.

When we asked if she wrote back, he shares: "Yeah, like twice a month."

Images: So when did you finally get married?

Mr. Jamil: When I came back from London, things got heated up. She got caught with a walkie talkie so her mother got involved. I had given her one since there were no mobile phones at that time. So she'd go on the roof of her hostel and I'd be sitting outside in the car and that's how we'd talk. Her principal caught her and Nuscie would say I'm listening to commentary (giggles).

She got into trouble, so much so that she had to leave her hostel and go live with her aunt. Her mother then came to me, she liked me and in 1968, we finally got married after four years of sticking it out and now it's been 54 years since we met.

Images: Was marriage all that you expected it to be? What advice would you give to young couples?

Mr. Jamil: We were 22 and 20 respectively then, we had no idea what marriage was. But I've always thought I'm very happy to be with her, I'm still very happy. Marriage is all about adjustments and compromise. You have to tolerate and be compassionate with your partner. The only thing is for you to be able to do those things, you have to be in love with your partner, If you're not, you will react and eventually walk away so it depends on how much you care about the other person. If you care about them, you'll adjust.

A recent picture of the happy couple
A recent picture of the happy couple

My marriage was pretty hunky-dory. I've had lots of ups and downs in my life, I don't want to get into that but my relationship with Nuscie has always been stable. She supported me through everything and that's the main thing. If you ask me what struck me at first, I'd say her eyes. Now, after all this time, there's so much more. She's very considerate, soft-hearted and compassionate.


Khalid Badshah and Shaheena Khalid, married 40 years

Mr and Mrs Khalid making a case for arranged marriages!
Mr and Mrs Khalid making a case for arranged marriages!

Images: How did you meet?

Mrs. Khalid: It was an arranged marriage. I didn't know him at all and we didn't really get to know each other before getting married in 1978.

It's rather funny because I didn't want to marry him at all before! When they showed me his photo, it was a very bad quality picture. The colours were off so his deep maroon shalwar kameez looked like a vibrant but horrid purple. I actually asked my mother why on Earth would they even think about this silly man and that he looks so maatha. I trusted my parents so I went along with it but I asked my sisters and everyone not to show anyone that photo. So much for my knight in shining armour.

But thankfully, he was not like that bad photo and it turned out to be a beautiful marriage. He's loved me, he's taken care of me and I, him. I think there is no one out there like my husband. It was exactly what I expected it to be, after hearing about ideal marriages from our elders. And fairy tales.

Images: What value has marriage added to your life?

Mrs. Khalid: It taught me that the ultimate end of a person is family. It gave my life more meaning when I had my family. A married life to me is everything. I have a person to rely on in my time of need and I always feel blessed.

Mr and Mrs Khalid with their first two children
Mr and Mrs Khalid with their first two children

Images: What piece of advice would you give young people about marriage?

Mrs. Khalid: Be it love marriage or arranged, you need to have patience with your partner. If you want a good life with your partner, there has to be patience when starting out. Call it compromise if you want I'd say it's more like understanding. You will become the kind of couple you want to be but not immediately. You need time and a lot of patience. Sometimes you may have to make sacrifices but always see what the result will be because maybe the sacrifice is worth it. Also, don't hold grudges.

The couple has been together for 40 years and have three kids
The couple has been together for 40 years and have three kids

We can't have the exact same thoughts or way of thinking, but you can only have a good life together when you take in account both the good and bad. You accept the negative along with the positive to move forward, only then will you be successful.

The relationship of a husband and a wife is one that requires communication. You should share everything with each other, increase your understanding of one another. Make major decisions together, even if you have taken different tasks for the home. Don't undermine the other. You have to become best friends. The beauty of marriage is that you are not alone.


Ali Jerrar and Shahana Jerrar, married 49 years

Mr and Mrs Jerrar with their first child
Mr and Mrs Jerrar with their first child

Images: How did you meet?

Mrs. Jerrar: We are both from the same extended family so we knew each other since we were young.

Mr. Jerrar: Whenever the family would have a get together, we would meet and our rishta happened from one such occasion.

Mrs. Jerrar: There were many young eligible bachelors in our surroundings but as fate would have it, we ended up together. It has been 47 years.

Mr. Jerrar: Since 2nd March 1969.

Mrs. Jerrar: In our times we really never had any expectations from marriage (laughs), it was something that we just had to do. But we still had a wonderful life together and raised our beautiful children together.

Images: What value has marriage added to your life?

Mrs. Jerrar: How do I even answer that? (looks to her husband) What's your worth? (both laugh).

Mr. Jerrar: I guess I can say it gave us a good life. We're a 'normal' couple for our time's society and we have worked on bettering the next generation through raising our children. It was a nice sense of purpose.

Images: What piece of advice would you give young people about marriage?

Mr. Jerrar: I think we should keep in mind the importance of education for our younger generations. This education not only makes an impact on your character but also has an important role to play in marriage.

Mrs. Jerrar: For the younger couples, I would like to say that be it a man or a woman, you need to have tolerance. After marriage, no matter how well you know your spouse, it's a new life. It's a new environment and both have to adjust. I want to say it for women more because I am a woman and know what we go through, we really need to be patient.

Mrs Jerrar is the real MVP; how many other grandmothers do you know who use terms like marriage goals?
Mrs Jerrar is the real MVP; how many other grandmothers do you know who use terms like marriage goals?

Mr. Jerrar: But men too! We need to carry the family together and make sure nothing negative impacts our next generation. We're both in this together.

Mrs. Jerrar: But they should not be like the typical 'man' that our society thinks is normal.

Mr. Jerrar: Very true. Men should not replace their maids with their wives. They are our partners and should be treated as such.

Mrs. Jerrar: Then you can be, as they say, marriage goals.


Dr Arif Hasan and Nighat Arif, married for 40 years this March

The handsome couple at their wedding
The handsome couple at their wedding

Images: How did you meet?

Dr. Arif Hasan: We met when I was just starting medical school. She was my friend's sister and the moment I saw her for the first time, I knew I wouldn't want to marry anyone else. I was still young and just starting professional college but with parent's blessings, we got married when I was in my third year and she supported me like a rock throughout my studies.

My wife was never a silent partner. She has been my strength and my inspiration for four decades and I see no end to that innings!

Images: What value has marriage added to your life?

Dr. Arif: If a marriage is good, it will provide you with one of life’s strongest bonds. It will heal you, teach you, comfort you and give you a home. If you are a person who values commitment, then there is no relationship that comes close to the love and sanctity of a husband and wife. It is enduring. It has given both of us a person we couldn't imagine living without. It has given us our most valuable treasures in this life - our children.

Images: What piece of advice would you give young people about marriage?

Dr. Arif: Always, always marry someone you can't imagine spending a day without. You must be absolutely sure that this is the person you want to wake up next to for the next 80 years of your life! Only when there is a sense of extreme love and care for the other person can you truly gift each other love and loyalty for the long haul.

Don't ever get married because of societal pressures; marrying someone you love is the best gift you can give yourself.

"Marriage has given both of us a person we couldn't imagine living without," shares Dr. Arif
"Marriage has given both of us a person we couldn't imagine living without," shares Dr. Arif

Even when we look back now on the tough times we had, we miss them, we wouldn't change anything. Truly being with someone through the highs and lows, the struggles and the triumphs are what make a relationship so multi-dimensional and strong.


Muhammad Ashraf Wahlah, Hameeda Ashraf Wahlah, married for 50 years this month

The couple have two children together.
The couple have two children together.

Images: How did you two meet and get hitched?

Mr. Wahlah: Mohni Road in 1956. Her brother's place, we knew each other, same biradri. No private meeting but I remember I stole a look once when she was serving tea, finally got married in 1968. Took 12 years! I wanted to become independent before getting married.

Mrs. Wahlah: We were both studying, had to make careers, complete education. I was in my FSc, did BSc, MSc from Government College. Then went on to teach as a lecturer at Governmentt Degree College, Faizabad. Made my career and only then got married.

Images: What value does marriage bring to one's life in your opinion?

Mr. Wahlah: Every person has an aim in life. My plan was to have a wife who’s qualified, educated, so we could both make individually names for ourselves. She was a masters, had also done BEd. My profession required full-time devotion so I told her either she could pursue her career or I could practice law.

She cooperated and I started practicing and reached up to her expectations. I was enrolled in the high court as advocate in 1967 and won the Pakistan Bar Council elections for 5-year term each, which I couldn’t have if I didn’t have support from my wife.

Mrs. Wahlah: I got a lot of respect from society. Educated children and enabled them to pursue big opportunities. Supported my husband wholeheartedly so he could achieve bigger and better things.

Images: What advice would you give young couples regarding marriage?

Mr. Wahlah: First enable yourselves to support and maintain families. Don’t wait much; marriageable age is between 20 and 30 years, so get married when you’re 25 or 26. There should be a reasonable difference between spouses’ ages so they don’t age together and the younger one can help the older spouse. Get married after careful deliberation, live together happily, perform your duties honestly.

A recent picture of the couple.
A recent picture of the couple.

Also marry someone you have an extreme liking for, where separation is intolerable, painful. Even the shortest spells of separation are painful. Love differs from person to person, but it's an emotion in which those involved sacrifice everything for each other. I don’t remember staying separately in these 50 years of marriage.


Dr Khawaja Muhammad Zakariya and Dr Shagufta Hayat-Zakariya, married 50 years this August

Images: How did you two meet?

Dr. Khawaja: We met at Punjab University, Lahore where I had just started teaching while she was a student. There are loads of attractive people in the world and perhaps for others beauty is the deciding factor, but in my case I found her intellectual compatibility the right fit for me and that is what piqued my interest.

It has been more than 50 years so I can’t say I remember the details but what I do recall is that her insight into Urdu literature was beyond the ordinary student’s.

Images: What advice would you give young people?

Dr. Khawaja: I think my basic advice is to avoid idealism. Remember, no couple under the sun is an ‘ideal couple’. However cliched it may sound, adjustment is the key to success. Of course, it has to come from both sides. Controlling anger and remembering to behave rationally is also an important component of being able to continue long-term with someone.

I think love is just liking someone more than you like other people. Because in the end it is really how much you like someone that determines the longevity of the relationship.

A recent picture of the couple.
A recent picture of the couple.

For a successful marriage you don’t need to do things differently rather you should stick to the basic principles, i.e. try to understand each other, give reasonable freedom to your spouse. I also think the economic independence of both spouses is very important, for a lot of marriages can come apart because of monetary issues. Two incomes can mean greater household prosperity which can eventually lead to a better relationship. Being loyal and patient are also some of the obvious but important points.


M. A. Wahid and Shaista Wahid, married 51 years this February

Betrothed to one another to strengthen family bonds, this couple wouldn't have it any other way
Betrothed to one another to strengthen family bonds, this couple wouldn't have it any other way

Images: How did you two meet and get hitched?

M.A. Wahid: We're first cousins. So we used to frequent each other's houses all the time. We weren't strangers to each other, we knew each other well.

Our marriage was decided by our elders. My father and his brothers sat down one day and thought, 'We all have to leave this world at some point. Why not do something that will cement our family's bonds?' And the three brothers decided to betroth their children to each other's.

I've done the same. My two sons are married to the daughters of my brother-in-law. If you examine our family tree, we all have the same Dada!

What has been the fondest memory of your marriage?

M.A. Wahid: We've had many good memories, but a recent one is our silver jubilee. It was truly marvellous in the sense that I had told my kids that I want it to be special to celebrate the 50 years we've spent in building this family. And they made it happen.

On the day of our anniversary (Feb 5 last year), my grandson asked us to accompany him to Jinnah Super, which was just a ruse because he actually took us to Islamabad Club. When I got there, I was so stunned to see some 60-70 of our family members gathered there for us, including my two daughters from Karachi and Lahore. I can't describe how I felt. You had to be there to experience my joy.

On that day, I felt that I'm a member of a truly great family. Because all my life, I've tried to keep my family close-knit and always taught my children and their children that relationships are the most important thing in life. You can't buy yourself a good brother or sister; you have to develop and nurture the relations that have been given to you by God.

Another recent funny incident: I had gone to visit a friend of mine and my wife called me to pick up some dahi baray and other snacks and come home immediately. I was pretty miffed because I was in the middle of something but then I thought maybe something was wrong. So when I went home, snacks in hand, I saw that all my kids and grandkids were at home and they said, 'Oh well, you won and we lost!' Turns out that they had made a bet with their mother, telling her that since she's always bragging about her husband, she should prove how loyal and attentive I am to her. And i did!

Images: How did you get through the tough times?

M.A. Wahid: It's important for spouses to behave like a partner to partake in your joys and sorrows equally. Until you support one another, you can't move ahead in life.

One of our first twists in life was that I pooled my hard-earned money into a car in 1969 and a few years later, it was stolen! We were dismayed, but we thought we worked hard to buy a car once, we'll simply do it again. And we did.

We faced another trial when I was building my house. I had already invested a crore; I needed 30 lacs more, which I loaned from a bank. The following period was a very financially trying time for us, so one day I sat my family down and shared that I hoped to be done with this bank loan. They agreed to help me with my goal, and we sold off everything we could, including my wife's jewellery. She agreed that our mental peace was more important than anything else. Even though I'm a businessman, I continue to try to have nothing to do with a bank's interest anymore.

A recent picture of the couple
A recent picture of the couple

Images: What advice would you give to young couples?

M.A. Wahid: The first thing that they must remember is that both of them come from different families. They should understand that their spouse has been brought up in a different environment — if you like milky chai and they like black tea, you can't make them have the milky chai! We must respect each other's preferences and opinions.

Secondly, we all have our weaknesses and in our first year of marriage, I had my wife list 10 of my qualities — good and bad — and I did the same for her, and we pledged to help each other overcome our weaknesses and enhance our strengths. We must not publicise each other's weaknesses; that only hurts the other person.

And lastly, it's important to make an effort to understand each other. For 10-20 years of my life, I wondered why do conflicts occur? And I got my answer in a sentence I once read, which went like: 'Accept a man as he is, not as you wish him to be.' Fights happen when we try to impose our preferences on others and we shouldn't.



Compiled by Anum Chagani, Sonia Ashraf, Mehreen Hasan and Sheharyar Rizwan. Illustration by Munnazzah Raza

Do you have an inspiring love story to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!