“Everything I Know About Love I Learned in a Prisoner of War Camp”

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“I never imagined that the skills we needed to survive years of torture and abuse would be the same skills you need to create a successful long-term marriage,” says Lee Ellis, a former fighter pilot, retired Air Force Colonel, and five-year POW (Prisoner of War).  In “Captured by Love: Inspiring True Romance Stories from Vietnam POWs” he has compiled a unique collection of 20 war stories entwined with love stories that are emotional, inspiring and instructive.

While psychologists, sociologists and neuroscientists have been working for decades to discover the secrets of happiness, wellness and longevity, 20 American couples have been living “happily ever after” marriages for between 44 and 64 years.

Ellis discovered seven “Love Lessons” that appeared repeatedly in the stories he gathered from his fellow POWs. “There is something universal and powerful about these lessons. They’re not sophisticated or difficult, but we all need reminders and practice.”

The seven principles are…

  1. Shared values. Couples whose values align—be they spiritual or personal or cultural values—have a firm foundation for a happy long-term relationship.
  2. Companionship. Your journey through life is easier, more fun and more meaningful if you have a loving partner. Good companions are both independent and interdependent.
  3. Respect. Everyone has a deep need to be respected—especially at home. Couples who are intentional about showing appreciation and gratitude strengthen their bonds.
  4. Focus on your partner’s strengths. As the song says, “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” If this were your one guiding principle, it would produce marital harmony and bliss.
  5. Trust. It is a cornerstone of all successful relationships. Trust ensures that you can be vulnerable with each other, and this creates intimacy.
  6. Optimism. The most successful people in business, life and love share optimism as a core trait. Optimists can handle any challenges.
  7. Commitment. Wedding vows—as well as military oaths—are sacred promises to be true to your partner or country. Commitment is the glue that bonds couples together.

The 20 love stories are powerful, inspiring and funny.

  • “Hi Jane! It’s me, Tarzan!” were the first words POW Smitty Harris said, on a trans-Pacific phone call to his wife, Louise, in their first conversation after eight years apart. Smitty’s exclamation reconnected them instantly. Pet names are “in jokes” through which couples share a humorous lightness and deep connection.
  • Mo Baker was obsessed with flying since he was a boy, and continued after he returned home, after being shot down, captured, and enduring more than five years as a POW. His wife, Honey, understands and accepts his affection for his planes. “Mo was fanatical about flying. I figured I could accept him having a mistress—as long as she was made of metal and weighed 50,000 pounds!”
  • Do you believe in Fate? Ralph and Bobbi Gaither do. “I wore a POW/MIA bracelet with Ralph’s name on it for several years before we met. When we finally did meet it was on a blind date! I had no idea it would be him.”

Ellis co-authored “Captured by Love” with love-expert Greg Godek, author of “1001 Ways to be Romantic.” Godek says, “Interviewing and getting to know our 20 couples was an awe-inspiring experience.”

The married lives of these couples mirror the insights from the longest in-depth longitudinal study on human life ever conducted (the Harvard Study of Adult Development, begun in 1938). (https://www.adultdevelopmentstudy.org/). You may have seen headlines like, “Scientists Discover that Close Relationships are the Number 1 Factor in Longevity & Happiness.” In The Atlantic magazine, one researcher reports, “The study has brought us to a simple and profound conclusion: Good relationships lead to health and happiness.”

The 20 couples in this book knew this long ago.

Kirkus Reviews
“…these stories are impressive examples of resilience, and an important record of sacrifice, survival, and the redemptive power of love.”
Lee Ellis, Colonel, USAF (Ret) was among the youngest captives at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” POW camp, and was single at the time. Upon his return he searched for a year before he found the love of his life. Through his firm Leading with Honor Lee speaks and consults on leadership, and helped develop a personality assessment that is used worldwide. He has authored books that help people understand themselves and appreciate others’ differences.
Greg Godek is a relationship expert, and author of 17 books, including the #1 bestseller “1001 Ways to be Romantic.” He advised Oprah’s audience, and taught a romance class on “The Today Show.”