When I first had the idea for this story, I vastly underestimated how hard it would be to find couples who’ve been married for over 40 years to get their best marriage advice. I started asking around within my circle of friends (hoping that their parents might qualify) and was quickly reminded that the statistics are no longer in favor of such long unions.
That said, the people included below are in the very special percentage of women who’ve made love work long term. I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed working on a story more, or been more inspired by the wisdom and advice revealed.
No matter how long you’ve been with your partner (or, if you’re like me, and still looking for that special person) you’re sure to be inspired by the ideas below. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Selia Salgado, married to Albert Salgado for 48 years and counting:
“You need to be friends first and have trust in each other. Also to listen to each other. You have to always keep talking things out. It’s not always going to be sweet and sugary. There are going to be bumps along the line. You need to feel like there’s trust when you confide in each other—the good things, as well as the bad.
We’ve been married almost 50 years. It seems like we almost think alike now. What I like, he likes, and vice versa. We’ve grown together to be… almost the same, one. Like God says.”
Evelyn Gor, married to Henry Gor for 45 years and counting:
“In our marriage, there is love… love of God… love of each other… love of family and love of friends. We learned to communicate with each other through the 45 years of marriage. Believe me, it isn’t easy, but that’s what has kept our marriage going—communication. These days, grandkids are a bonus in our lives!”
Nancy Jackson, married to Craig Jackson for 49 years and counting:
“My husband Craig and I will be married 50 years in September, and with the exception of our children and grandchildren, our anniversary is what I am most proud of! There are so many things that can help a marriage last, but the main thing is wanting it to work! And then realizing that it is going to take a lot of work and that life isn’t perfect (and no marriage is, either.)
1. Marry your best friend.
2. Always look for the good in your spouse.
3. Don’t compare your relationship to others.
4. Put your spouse first at all times and tell him how much you appreciate him.
5. Don’t have such high expectations, and know that there will be bad along with the good.”
Jennifer Cumberbatch, married to Ashton Cumberbatch for 38 years and counting:
“We met as freshman at Brown University and married in 1979. We’re not quite to the 40-year mark yet but on our way. We’ve learned that the sweet things that we do for each other, outlast the impact of the annoyances. You build a memorial of what the other person did to demonstrate their love over the years and so even in the times that your upset with him/her, you realize it trumps the annoyances, and it’s the vehicle you use to forgive any transgressions.”
Bonita Speer, married to Clay Speer for 50 years and counting:
“We both feel we don’t have any big secret for success. We feel it’s about respect, not taking one another for granted, being kind to one another… and you don’t always have to say everything you’re thinking!”
Diane Smith, married to Mark Smith for 42 years and counting:
“I entered marriage with love, but also a mindful decision to stay together for life. Believing that a family that prays together, stays together. Knowing that no one is perfect, aiming to keep a heart of patience, understanding, forgiveness, and most importantly, love.
Here are a few tips that have helped me:
1. Try to put your mate’s feelings before yours.
2. Maintain good communication. Do not just guess you know what they are thinking.
3. Have joint projects and interests, but keep your own projects and interest as well.
4. Tell each other you love each other every single day.
5. Have a lot of patience and never yell.
6. NEVER go bed to bed angry or mad.
7. Keep a good sense of humor.
It takes work to maintain a good marriage… keep in mind it’s worth every minute in the end! It is nice to have your love and friend by your side as you grow older together.”
Anne Marguerite Baird, married to Mote Baird for 49 years and counting:
“Mote Baird and I will celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary on February 15, 2018. This is a photo from our wedding day, February 15, 1969. We look very young and very happy. We had no idea what the future held but we were excited to begin our journey together. We have had a wonderful, challenging, adventure-filled marriage and although I think each couple’s formula for a long, happy marriage is uniquely their own, for us there are certain features that stand out.
I first saw Mote when we were in the 8th grade and both just 13 years old. I liked him immediately and thought he was cute. We dated during high school, broke up for a while to date others, then reconnected our junior year in high school. Mote first asked me to marry him when we were 16 years old and I said yes. We were married three years later when I was 19 and he was 20, during our sophomore year in college.
Looking at our wedding photos, we look very young and vulnerable and our parents must have been terrified for us but to their credit, they did not show or voice their concern. We were oblivious to the dangers that lurked in the shadows. All we knew was that we were in love and that together, we could face any challenge or adversity. We still have that same attitude 49 years later.
What’s our secret?
It’s very helpful if a couple really loves each other. It makes everything easier, including forgiveness, empathy, and encouragement. We have weathered some tempests that might have ripped apart a marriage that was not grounded in a deep and abiding love for each other.
We share a sense of humor that allows us to laugh at the absurdities of life, even if it means laughing at ourselves.
We respect each other and what each one does to make this union work. When I see couples in trouble, there is often not much mutual respect.
We have common values that were learned early on from our parents and our shared history and experiences help us to express and to understand each other’s concerns and point of view.
Before our marriage, one of Mote’s well-meaning fraternity brothers put his arm around Mote’s shoulder and told him to reconsider the upcoming marriage, that it could never last, that we were too young and that life’s ups and downs would inevitably wear us out and tear us apart. Thankfully, that warning was completely wrong and all of life’s ups and downs have strengthened our marriage, not weakened it.
Barbara Jones, married 44 years and counting:
“Divorce was never in our vocabulary. Out of love, respect, and sheer determination, we just hung in there! We’ve each changed and grown and now we are blissfully contented.”
Jan Elder, married to Jack Elder for 40 years and counting:
Choose someone you have a lot in common with. Jack and I have always had so much in common… he’s a doctor and I’m a nurse, helping people in the field of orthopedics together. We love everything outdoors. Jogging, snow skiing, golf, sailing, boating, horses, and shooting weapons of all kinds. Most of all, we’re best friends who have been married for a very fast 40 years! Also forgot to mention beach vacations and gourmet cooking… maybe there aren’t many things we DON’T like. No wonder the 40 years flew by! Oh! I forgot street rods and dirt bikes!”
Gail Powell, married to Rick Powell for 43 years and counting:
“We only dated for six weeks before we got engaged, and were engaged for two months before we married. It was love at first sight.
A long and healthy marriage is multifaceted. A key factor is commitment. Go into marriage with the idea it’s forever, then you strive every day to make that a reality!”
This post was originally published on February 14, 2020, and has since been updated.