Protea Hotels

It started, as so many of these things do, as an offer to celebrate enduring love in the month of hearts, flowers and Cupid’s little arrows.

“Have you been married for 50 years?” we asked South Africa. “Is the flame of love still as strong as it was when you first said ‘I do’? Then spend the most romantic night of the year in a Protea Hotel for free, because we believe in everlasting love just as much as you do.”

And while dozens of silver foxes will be spending Thursday night in Protea Hotels across the country celebrating 50 golden years, many other with less romantic souls have taken Cupid’s arrow, knotted it around his neck and returned the mangled cherub to sender wearing a very pointy little bow tie.

One lovelorn soul needed a single word to express his views: dafaq? Not overly polite but eloquent in its own way, as was the “sies!” that also came via email.

Someone who was definitely not in the hearts and flowers spirit mailed: “Even if I get married today I’ll be 105 years old when I can make use of your promotion and by then I’d have no teeth, no hair and no libido!”

Slightly more restrained was the “Really… 50 years?”, but hats off to the couple who suggested contacting them in 2017 when they celebrate their golden anniversary.

While many people clearly believe there’s no such thing as true love, Cape Town’s most famous pharmacist Mr M (M-Kem) Hylton Mallach and his wife Maureen beg to differ.

The couple met when they were 19 and 17 respectively. They celebrate their golden wedding anniversary this year and were treated to an early Valentine’s Day celebration at Protea Hotel President, where they explained what it takes to keep love alive.

The secret, say the Mallachs, is in the Three Cs: communication, compassion and compromise.

It also doesn’t hurt to be best friends, they agree, but perhaps most important is not to sweat the small stuff.

“We’re different people and we’re going to see things differently every now and again. It’s absolutely normal. But the years have taught us that compromise is key; you need to work as a team, and that’s what we do every day,” says Mr Mallach.

The fourth C in their relationship is healthy competition, but perhaps not in the way most would expect.

“Compete to give the most rather than get the most,” says Mrs Mallach. “So many people go into marriage thinking about the wedding day, but not what comes after that. Do you homework, get to know your partner properly and commit to working together to overcome problems.”

Their methodology has borne fruit; the Mallachs have three children and seven grandchildren and believe family comes before anything else.

Mr M has the final word: “Be yourself, work hard, respect those around you if you really meant it when you said ‘until death do us part’. It’s not a bad idea, either, to stay out of your wife’s kitchen!”