Sri Lankan expatriate Chanka Honemeyer with her German husband Dr Ulrich Honemeyer. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Valentine’s Day is here and some couples in the UAE are more than glad to share their secrets to a happy marriage, despite the odds in the face of COVID-19.

Meet Indian expats Stanislaus Joseph Chettiar, 48, and Twinkle Lavina Soares, 45. Twinkle said the mantra to a successful marriage is that first, couples should be good friends to each other. “Joseph and I met 21 years ago and we have been married for 19 years now. We first met when he was doing his engineering course and I was in my 10th grade. Joseph and I were neighbours. We played badminton together and became good friends.”

The couple have two children, Gary, 19, and Derick, 14. “We both share a common interest in fitness, so we workout in the gym. Since we love dancing, we even take Zumba classes together. So, having common interests helps. We do all our fitness workouts together as a team.”

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Stanislaus Joseph Chettia and Twinkle Lavina Soares. Image Credit: Supplied

But Twinkle said that the couple have faced challenging times in their relationship. “Joseph has built his business from scratch and I was with him all the way. There were times when we thought our dreams may not come true, but we stood by each other and supported each other in tough times. That is the key. The feeling of love and compassion for each other is what makes a successful marriage.”

Colombian expat Clara Cortes, 46, could not agree more. Her American husband Johnny Rubio, 48, and she have been together for 21 years. “We met in Costa Rica. Johnny was managing an airline company there and I was studying for my master’s degree in Education. A friend of mine introduced us and we started a beautiful and fun relationship. We met 21 years ago and we have been married for 19 years now.”

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Clara Cortes with her husband Johnny Rubio. Image Credit: Supplied

Clara said that marriage is a gift of love that one gives to his or her spouse. “Johnny and I have been building our days together with love, respect and humility. Marriage requires time, requires effort from both the spouses. You have to cultivate it, you have to forgive and you have to work together.”

Sri Lankan expatriate Chanka Honemeyer, 59, and her German husband Dr Ulrich Honemeyer, 65, said couples must stand by each other at all times and that helps forge a long-lasting relationship. The couple, who have three children — Deshan, 29, Shanika, 24, and Aloka, 22, said the lady of the house is always the backbone of a family and so she must stay strong always and never give up.

'Communication is the key'

“Communication is the key, so always stand by your partner and take time to sit down and talk,” Chanka said. The couple met in Maldives in 1989 where they were both employed. “I left the Maldives to move back to Sri Lanka and he followed me! He wanted to get married, so we moved to Germany and had a beautiful little wedding. We lived in Germany, where Ulrich had his own gynaecology clinic. We had three children and I worked hard to keep our nice home going, while Ulrich worked hard to support us. We eventually decided to move to the UAE, where we have lived for the last 18 years. All our three children were educated here in the UAE. We are grateful that our children have grown up in a safe environment.”

She added: “Over the last 32 years, life has thrown us into different situations, but the one thing that has kept us together — no matter what — is that we have always looked after each other. Especially when the going gets tough, love, care and support for the family has been our number one priority. Ulrich and I have always been motivated to stay strong — not just for each other, but for our children too, watching them grow into incredible adults. Our children have made everything worth it. We are now grandparents to a beautiful little girl and a handsome little boy.”

South African Chantelle B and her husband Mark W have also stood the test of time. “I think one of the things with us is that we are good friends. We have known each other for years and we have worked hard on our relationship. It is easy to walk out of a relationship, but no one realises the lasting damage it can leave on the couple, their families and children too. So it is important to marry your friend and work around your relationship in hard times. Two human beings living together can prove challenging at times, but if it has a strong foundation it all works well in the end.”

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Pandemic and marital stress

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world under severe socio-economic stress. Job losses and closure of businesses apart, even inter-personal relationships have suffered due to this crisis. If couples don’t take care, discord can take a toll on marriage.

Devanand Mahadeva, director, Bestwins Law Corporation, a Dubai-based law firm, said: “Living under one roof requires a lot of love, respect, understanding and to a large extent, sacrifice. These qualities seem to have come under stress in recent times.”