13 February 2015 You are here:

Valentine's Day: A Salvation Army love story

It’s that time of year again when those loved up desperately look for last minute chocolates, flowers or cuddly toys for their partners, where new couples fret about the message a particular gift will send, and where couples with children try not to let their abundant lack of sleep get in the way – yes, it’s Valentine’s Day.

Here at The Salvation Army, where love is at the heart of what we do, be it caring for human trafficking victims or providing support to people who are unemployed, we’re suckers for a good romance story. So today we’re going to share with you the love story of none other than our Territorial Leaders, Commissioners Clive and Marianne Adams.

Their story begins more than 25 years ago, when both of them were a long way from the office they hold now – not just in terms of time, but geography.

Commissioner Clive Adams was based in South Africa, and Commissioner Marianne was based in Norway. It began with a simple picture in a paper when he saw a picture of Marianne and decided, with some needling from a friend, to write to her.

“The first letter was more of a joke,” says the now leader of The Salvation Army in the UK and Republic of Ireland. “It was a test to see whether she’d like my sense of humour, and luckily she did!”

One letter was replied to, and then, quickly, the two found they were corresponding with each other – in the days before email – across two continents, several times a day, writing at all times, in all frames of mind. But there was reluctance on the part of both of them to get involved romantically.

“I just didn’t want to get married,” says Commissioner Clive Adams. “Our work in The Salvation Army is all about people - I really valued my private time and didn’t want to have to spend it dealing with someone else! I needed it for myself.”

However, he was soon unable to fight the inevitable. “I found myself running on the beach in South Africa one day and it dawned on me that I was in love with this girl. When we’d written, we’d done so at all times – when we’d felt happy, sad, frustrated, and I realised that I was in love with Marianne. So I rang her up and told her so.”

Commissioner Marianne nearly burst out laughing; “I said to him ‘Don’t be ridiculous, we’ve never even met, how can you love someone you’ve never met?’That’s when he said to me, ‘Don’t you love God?”

Following this particular hurdle, the next obstacle that Commissioner Clive had to overcome was the rules of The Salvation Army at that time – the couple had to meet, figure out a way to serve the organisation whilst based on two different continents, and serve out a six month engagement notice period before getting married. They arranged an extended holiday, and Marianne flew to South Africa to meet Clive, with no idea what she was in for.

“I was standing in the airport, with a photograph of this girl, waiting to see if she would show up, when I felt a tap on my shoulder,” says Commissioner Clive. “I turned around and it was a magical moment. We spent some glorious time driving through South Africa, and she got to see the country I had been writing about.”

When the two met with Clive’s leaders in the South African Territory, they were advised to seek out a neutral territory, and to serve the six month notice period before marrying. In this time they contacted the UK and Republic of Ireland Territory and prepared for their appointments hereIn the meantime, they continued to correspond to see out their engagement.  

Commissioner Marianne recounts the impact this had on many things, including the proposal; “He had to post the ring, and then he rang me when he knew it was arriving so I could open it and he could ask me to marry him at the same time! It was very unusual, but we were used to it by then and it just seemed to work for us.”

They married and moved to the UK six months later, and progressed to become the leaders of the UK and Ireland Territory of The Salvation Army. Twenty five years and two children later, they are still clearly as in love as ever, and let us in on their secret.

“It’s humour,” says Commissioner Clive. “You need to be appreciative, say I love you, give each other space and all those things, but at the end of the day, if it isn’t fun, what’s the point? Life is hard. If you find a partner you not only love but can laugh with, you can face any of the challenges it throws your way."

If you have a love story to share, please contact us media@salvationarmy.org.uk, or tell us on Facebook and Twitter.