At a celebratory golden wedding anniversary luncheon in 1997, the late Prince Philip—who was married to his beloved wife Queen Elizabeth II for 73 years—made the following remark: “I think the main lesson we have learnt is that tolerance is the one essential ingredient of any happy marriage…you can take it from me that the queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”
The quote is a chapter opener in royal expert Victoria Murphy’s new book, The Queen: A Life in Pictures, which looks back at the queen’s impressive reign, but also spends some time reflecting on the relationship between her and Philip, the man she once referred to as her “strength and stay.”
As a royals expert and relationship writer, I had to admit this felt surprising. After all, tolerance isn’t a word that often gets used as an attribute of a successful marriage. Doesn’t it imply…simply gritting one’s teeth and getting through something? Not necessarily, say the experts.
“Tolerance in good relationships is when both people let go of things that aren’t possible and are learning to be happy and content with what they have,” explains William Schroeder, co-owner and a counselor at Just Mind, LLC. “You have to find a way to accept and admire what you have as opposed to focusing on what you don’t have. This means letting go of emotional accounting of one another’s faults.”
Schroeder’s colleague, David Jenkins offers an additional insight: “One of the key things to consider is what a lack of tolerance in a marriage would look like. Almost anything you come up with—blaming, judging, feeling disgust—will lead you to the reason human beings often carry unresolved conflicts.”
Still, there is one critical detail that could end up being more important than tolerance in the long run, says Jenkins. It needs to be paired with acceptance. “Tolerance is putting up with something undesirable in another, whereas acceptance is dropping the judgment altogether and taking the person as they are.”
So is tolerance the secret to many, many years of wedded bliss? The proof’s in the length of the royal marriage, perhaps.