“Once you get married, you have to protect it,” said Kabita Batabyal over pasta at a Harmony Hall Centre for Seniors monthly luncheon. This particular meal last month was dedicated to Valentine’s Day, and the Batabyals were among the couples sharing their love stories.
Kabita said she and her husband of 35 years met “by chance.” It wasn’t love at first sight, but one that grew from friendship.
“We were just friends. We were too old to fall in love (right away), you know? We were both mature people. We were both working,” she said. “But then I don’t know what happened to him. I didn’t fall in love (at first). I fell after a while.”
Years after the Batabyals married, they moved to Canada. Kabita said they applied for a visitor’s visa and had to pay “quite a lump sum” with the applications. Although they were denied the visa, they were determined to live in Canada.
“One day I’ll come to your country,” Kabita remembers saying out of frustration. “Let’s see who stops me.” The immigration process became more difficult after 9/11, but their case was processed after six years and they moved to Canada in 2007.
Marriage isn’t always easy, but Bibash and Kabita have learned to make it work. The main ingredients, according to Kabita? Adjustments, understanding and sacrifice.
“Put up with all his wickedness, and forgive him all the time,” she joked. “And love, basically love. I mean, you get angry at him, feel like killing him, but still you can’t do without him.”
Kabita said someone once shared a proverb with her that “one who tolerates, ultimately gains.” After years of marriage, she’s found the advice to be quite valuable.
“I’m very happy now. Very, very happy. No regrets,” she said.
Across the room at the seniors’ centre, Carolynne Fairweather agreed with the importance of being friends first. She and her husband David have been married for almost eight years; a second marriage for both of them. For Carolynne, marriage means putting the other person first.
“Learn how to care about each other more than you can about you,” she said. “You get married because you want to get married and you want to spend the rest of your life with that person.”
Both Carolynne and David’s first marriages lasted over 40 years, after which they each lost their spouses to cancer. Friendship was what brought them together — when they met as volunteers at True Davidson Acres long-term care home. And it’s friendship that keeps them going as a married couple.
“You have to be friends,” said Carolynne. “You live and you love in harmony and respect. You learn how to love each other where you are.”