TORONTO, Ontario — Is being a parent putting a strain on your marriage? A couple who got engaged after just three months of dating says their relationship is still going strong after 30 years because they put their marriage before their kids.
Sonya Heath, 52, met her partner, Al, 53, at a camp where she was working as a nurse, and they hit it off instantly. Sonya wanted to be sure he was the guy for her and on their first date she grilled him on his values, financial stability, and family dynamics.
Luckily for Al, he passed the “interview” with flying colors and Sonya came home to tell her family she could see herself marrying him. Three months later, Al proposed on Christmas Eve and the pair wed just six months later.
They’ve since had three children together but insist they have always made their relationship “a priority.” The parents even tell their children they love each other more than the three of them. As well as going on family holidays, the couple have always made sure they go on a trip once a year without the kids and have regular date nights. The loved-up pair are now celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in July this year and Sonya says she is “more in love” with Al as time passes.
“I remember seeing him and thinking that guy is good looking. He is something else,” says Sonya, a music pastor from Toronto, in an online video.
“When we spoke, and I thought ‘he’s the sweetest’. We swapped numbers and went on a date. I interviewed him. I wanted to make sure we aligned. I didn’t want to be with a playboy. I wanted to be a guy who adored me and loved me. I came home and said to my mum ‘I think he’s a guy I could marry’. We are celebrating 30 years in July. I’m more in love with him. We decided to put our marriage ahead of our children.”
After meeting in July 1992, Soya and Al, a pastor, quickly hit it off and started dating in September of the same year. When Sonya was away on vacation with her family, Al packed a backpack full of letters for each day they spent apart – to remind her of him.
After both knowing they were both “all in,” Al got down on one knee on Christmas Eve 1992 and Sonya said yes. They quickly planned the big day and tied the knot in July 1993 – and have been happy ever since.
“We’ve always had boundaries with how we speak with each other,” Sonya says in the couple’s video. “We never call each other idiots for example.”
After starting a family, the couple still wanted to carve out time for each other and make sure it remained a priority.
“We’ve always dated through having kids. Even when our daughter was young. When Al came home the first thing, he’d do was see me. There are times when the kids need everything from you, but we’d always tell them we love mum and dad more than them. We’d go on vacations with the family and one with just him and I. You love your kids, but our marriage was something we wanted to keep alive. It’s about having an adventure with the other person.”
Since their children all left home in 2019, the couple have been embracing their empty nest life – taking more holidays and adventures together. Over the years, they say they have visited 36 counties together.
“I can’t imagine life without him. I feel bad when people don’t have someone. It’s such a blessing. He’s my safe space. We’ve done so much more in life together than we would have apart. We laugh so much. It’s fun being goofy with each other,” Sonya says.
South West News Service writer Emma Dunn contributed to this report.