Albert "Jake" and Mary Jacobs, married since 1948.
When Lauren Fleishman’s grandfather passed away, her family found a book by his bedside, and tucked inside were a series of love letters. They had been penned by her grandfather to her grandmother during World War II. "I had never looked at my grandfather as anything other than my grandfather," says Lauren. "And I had always regarded him as old-fashioned because of the generational gap, but in reading the letters I suddenly saw him as a young man in love. I could relate to him, and all the generational boundaries were erased." The letters inspired Lauren, a photographer, to document the love stories of other older couples, and so she began to interview and photograph what ended up being 100 couples—straight and gay, of every race, from different countries—all with one thing in common: They had been together more than 50 years. In one case, as long as 80 years. “I tried not to have expectations. If you go in with expectations then you often don’t get to see what is really going on,” says Lauren. “I suppose I thought I may learn the secret to everlasting love—but I realized there is no one formula or secret."
"Over the years, you think of love differently." – Sulie SpencerThe universal theme that did come from the interviews, she says, was one of passion. Although perhaps not as society typically imagines passion. "We can think of passion as only for the young, or for the beginnings of relationships, but I learned that this is not the case," says Lauren. Hence she called her book of photographs and interviews, The Lovers. As the stories illustrate, many of the couples began their relationships in a period of history vastly different to now. Some met during, or post, World War II, in an era when same-sex relationships were forbidden, and parts of the United States were still racially segregated. While the times have changed, the advice about relationships that the couples have to offer will never fade. "It is relevant here and now," says Lauren. Here are some reflections from the interviews that Lauren shared with Wanderlust, with words from the couples themselves: