Couples who've been married up to 50 years share their tricks to making wedlock work.
1. We're best friends. You really have to like each other to last. When the sex becomes less important you better enjoy doing things together (while still doing things apart). We drive for days to car shows sometimes. So we better like each other. -Ralph has been married to Teresa for 17 years.
2. I gave up the home decor I had brought into our relationship. This included my neon-light beer signs, a Jethro Tull poster, a bedroom set collected from at least four non-matching sources, a bamboo sofa, a brick-and-wood bookcase and a roll-top desk from my youth. -Steve has been married to Barbara for 24 years (Irvine, CA ).
3. We made a pact to never fight about money. Financial problems lead to divorce. We didn't want our relationship to deteriorate over something as inconsequential as money. We've been through financial ups and downs, including bouts of unemployment and significant credit-card debt. But we never cast blame and remain calm during financial discussions. -Lisa and Brian celebrate 12 years in June.
4. We never discuss sensitive subjects when hungry or tired. And eat marshmallows to improve communication. What's the one thing you can't possibly do with a mouthful of marshmallows? Talk. Communication is more about listening than talking. I tell my wife, if something I say can be interpreted two ways and one of those ways makes you sad or angry, I meant the other one. -Steven has been married to Sheryl for 20 years (Longwood, FL).
5. I follow this advice: 'Always treat your husband as an honored guest in your home.' In other words, be on your best behavior. This has rubbed off on me and he reciprocates. It works! My own saying about marriage is: 'A good marriage is made up of a thousand small kindnesses.' -Trudy has been married to Paul for 35 years (Yuma, AZ).
6. We purposely sit next to each other on the couch each night. My father told me to be sure to do this when I got married. It makes it impossible not to physically touch each other! -Stephanie has been married for 18 years.
7. We always find things to laugh about. Laugh together. Times are tough. Tragedy happens in all families. Things will go wrong. But if you find ways to laugh about "it" you'll form a special bond and can overcome anything! -Dawn has been married to Tony for 32 years (San Francisco, CA).
8. We have separate bathrooms. It's not a luxury to have one place in the house that you don't share. Forty-five years of hearing your partner gurgle his way through the theme song to Bill Dance's fishing show is guaranteed to start you off in a bad mood. There's nothing romantic about watching your hubby dearest attack the hairs in his ears or yank out an offending nose hair. His scream is guaranteed to send chills down your spine, and put off your hunger for that yummy meal he's cleaning up for. Connie has been married to Fred for 44 years (Bellevue, NE).
9. We follow this mantra: Women want to be loved and cherished; men want to feel respected ...even more than they want to feel loved. This may sound odd but it's true. Don't emasculate your man. Don't take your woman for granted. Life gets messy, boring and stressful. Your marriage will have seasons when it's stronger or when it feels anemic. Whatever you did in the early days that made you laugh together, make time to do those same things after 10, 20 or 30 years. Read to each other from a favorite funny book. Watch a favorite funny movie. -Judy has been married to Jeff for 22 years.
10. We never bail on date night. Since we married we've maintained one night a month to go out as a couple. When our children were infants (under 6 months) we'd take them along, we didn't just sit in the house. It doesn't have to be just you two. Go with other adults or couples. This allows you to have adult conversation and keeps you from hashing over household problems. Unless you have a baby under 6 months, no children allowed. Don't discuss problems or major issues. The activity doesn't have to be expensive. Have a club room in your apartment building? Host a pot-luck for some friends.You won't have to worry about cleaning for company! -Paula has been married to Dan for 26 years (Athens, AL).
11. We seek to do good for the other person, instead of fighting over 'what about me.' Then the experience is one where each person is giving and serving the other. A win-win solution. -Dave has been married to Rose for 32 years (Roseville, CA).
12. We face adversity together. Concern for our children has also been a strong force. Once you have grandchildren, the family bond is greatly reinforced. -Chuck has been married to Marilyn for 41 years (Richmond, VA).
13. We plan forward and look back only to the good times. Everybody has their rough spots, but if everything is focused on past hard times, your marriage can become like an albatross. Remember and revel in your successes. Ignore the times when you failed. Don't look at problems to place blame, only to find solutions. Love is like a boomerang, throw it at your spouse and you'll find it coming right back at you. -Don has been married to Estelle for 50 years in July (Sacramento, CA).
14. We remember why we got together in the first place. Put your relationship first. Be open and flexible to change. Adapt. These tidbits sound ordinary but we've seen so many relationships break up because one or both partners refused to do these 'common sense' things. -Maria has been married to Mark for 24 years (Raleigh, NC).
15. We believe that divorce is not an option. Almost all problems are short-term. Divorce is a long-term answer. And if money becomes an issue, get counseling immediately. It’s not the green stuff, it’s the values that generate issues and cause arguments. -Charlene has been married to Rick for 18 years (Georgetown, IN).
16. We're both left-handed. That was one of my criteria in getting married. Our three children are unfortunately handicapped—right handed. -David has been married to Dee Dee for 25 years (Memphis, TN).
17. We're passionate, supportive and accepting of what the other person is doing in their personal life. We knew it was important to still be individuals. We each had things we wanted to get done personally. We wanted our work goals not just supported but understood and facilitated. It hasn't always been easy. My husband put up with my two rounds of higher education and five startup companies. Today, I put him on a plane for a tour of duty in Iraq. I might not personally believe in sending troops overseas but I believe in him and know this is important to him. -Julie has been married to Mark for 15 years (West Linn, Oregon).
18. We prioritize each other. You have a new best friend now: your spouse. Make sure to have 'your time.' -Rick has been married to Jenn for 14 years (Arlington, MA).
19. We truly knew ourselves before we got married. -Nancy has been married to Don for 16 years (Temecula, CA).
20. We dumped friends and family members who had a negative effect on our life and marriage — and we expected oour spouse to do the same. Keep your sex life interesting. Listen to each other's fantasies. Do not be afraid to dress and act sensual in the bedroom. And plan exciting vacations together. -Beverly has been married to Pablo for 33 years (Lampasas, TX).
21. We mind our manners. Too often we show more respect to strangers than to those we love. Parents often expect manners from their kids but don't use them with each other. 'Please hand me that plate' is kinder, gentler than 'Hand me that.' Would you, could you, please, sorry, these are magic words. They're not just for dating. -LaRita has been married to Kurt for 27 years (Indian Shores, FL).
22. We're as different as a couple can get. But rather than be irritated by our differences, we revel in them. We find each other's foibles endlessly amusing, much like watching exotic animals in a zoo. Not a day goes by without my laughing so hard I cry, at my husband's making fun of something I'm doing. We tease each other a lot. It's never mean-spirited. And we're both psychiatrists to boot! -Doreen has been married to Tim for 20 years (Boulder, CO).
23. We take a lot of trips without our children. We had friends who judged us for leaving our kids so often. They are now divorced. -Becky has been married to Jay for 26 years (Twin Cities, MN).
24. We share a common dream. When couples have that, every bump in the road is on the way to somewhere that matters. Without the dream, every bump in the road is a mountain to climb over. Finding your dharma, or what your unique service is to the planet, creating a larger context of meaning in life, puts the little stuff in perspective and makes it easy to process. -Lanny has been married to Christine for 23 years (Albuquerque, NM).
25. We're in it for life. You're both going to do a lot of growing up and maturing over the years—you have to stay intimately in touch with each other's growth over all this time or you end up not knowing the person you're married to as he/she changes over the years. -Ann has been married to Dean for 25 years (Slidell, LA).