During a lecture at Stanford University in 2017, Ruth Bader Ginsburg shared a piece of advice she got from her mother-in-law on her wedding day:
“In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.”
The late Supreme Court Justice noted that she relied on this advice throughout her extremely happy 56-year marriage with her husband, Martin Ginsburg. “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out,” she told the audience. “Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”
The legendary lawyer knew something about persuasion, and this gem of advice can be used to inject a little zen into your own personal relationship (or professional ones—Ginsburg said it also came in handy during her decades-long legal career, including during her tenure on the Supreme Court).
While maintaining a long-term relationship can be challenging—especially during acute personal hardships or, say, a global pandemic when general stress levels are high and time spent together abundant—there are some secrets to success that can help keep things healthy and on-track.
Read on for words of wisdom from couples who have been married for 30, 40, or 50-plus years, on what’s helped them maintain strong and happy unions.
Married 25+ Years
“Make sure you still pursue interests and hobbies that make you happy. Do not expect your partner to always make you happy. As we mature and evolve, so do our needs and wants. Be willing to grow and adapt with your partner. Every couple argues, but when you do, make sure you stay focused on the issue at hand. Lastly, always make time for each other with date nights.”
—Tracey and Charles Williams, Philadelphia, Penn., Married 26 years (pictured above)
Married 30+ Years
“The person you choose to marry is the most impactful decision of your life. Luckily, we got it right the first time!”
—Jeannie and John McMahon, Selbyville, Dela., Married 36 years (pictured agove)
“Communication is key. You can’t assume your partner knows what you want or how you’re feeling, or what you think, without discussing it. Although you are a couple, you are two individuals with different perspectives. Yes, we wish our partner would take the initiative and take action without having to be asked, but that too could lead to misinterpretation. Be open and expressive but not judgmental or critical. People will grow and change over the years but the love that brought you together must be the bond that keeps you together through it all.”
—Michelle and John DiFeliciantonio, Philadelphia, Penn., Married 39 years (pictured above)
Married 40+ Years
“The things that make a marriage strong are respect for each other, and holding similar core values. Also, being able to pursue interests that you can do together and other things you do individually.”
—Debra and David Stern, West Palm Beach, Florida, Married 41 years
“Marriage is never 50/50. Often it’s 90/10 and that goes both ways. Each has to be a giver and a taker. It doesn’t have to be “even Steven” and it barely ever is! Trust is so very important. Share responsibilities!
Never go to bed angry at one another! It almost always guarantees a good night’s sleep. Don’t forget to say ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m sorry.’” They are the most important words in your marriage. Always be kind. Your words and your actions reflect your love. It’s a good example for others to emulate.”
—Kathy and Jim Boehm, Atlanta, Georgia, Married 47 years (pictured above)
“If you are really committed to a lifetime marriage, you realize that marriage is almost never 50/50. Sometimes it's 0/100 or 100/0—for years, even! Sometimes it's 90/10 or 10/90. Sometimes it's 55/45, mostly even, with just a bit more on one side. All combinations will occur over a lifetime marriage.
When we think about what has been the key to maintaining a loving relationship, one habit that we developed stands out. Each morning, we get up to a preprogrammed pot of good coffee, read our Bibles, and pray together. There is truly no better way to know and understand the heart of your spouse than to listen to their prayers.
These prayers give each of us an opportunity to hear our spouse talk to God about the joys and struggles in their life. We prayed for our children before they were born and continue to pray for them, their spouses, and our grandchildren now. And because we have prayed like this for decades we are now able to recall all the answers to prayer that we have received.
We can trace God’s faithfulness in our marriage and our family through the past 44 years and know that His faithfulness will never end. Whenever we look back on God’s love and faithfulness, it inspires us to imitate Him in our relationship with one another. And that is our key to our enduring relationship and marriage."
—Martha and Dave Ryan, Cincinnati, Ohio, Married 44 years
You have to be okay with giving your all and receiving little in return. You have to be committed to helping the other person get through the tough times, even if it hurts. The percentage changes daily, and sometimes lasts for years. But in the end, you have this long, long memory full of gratitude for the other person for being there for you during the tough times, sharing the good with the bad, but always being there. And that's what it takes to keep the boat afloat. Most of it didn't matter, but what remains is the being there for each other. The deep, deep assurance that you were each other's best chance of getting the best out of life, of getting through life, together.”
—Marcia Knapp Krech and Warren Krech, Holts Summit, Missouri, Married 46 years (pictured above)
“One of the best things my father told us was to have two TVs. We still say that it worked for us!”
—Laura and George Turner, Pine Point, Maine, Married 47 Years (pictured above)
“Someone once told me that you should treat your spouse at least as well as you treat your best friend. Don’t keep secrets, and actively look for things to enjoy together. At the same time, give each other space, and support their interests or activities. Do things with your partner that you may not want to do—compromise. Be thoughtful and considerate. It doesn’t sound romantic, but cooking a favorite meal for or bringing coffee to the other gives a good feeling, and those small things matter.”
—Jan and Dave Speer, Franklin, Tenn., Married 49 Years (pictured above)
"Keep your sense of humor and laugh together as often as you can.”
—Victoria and Greg Adey, Glen Mills, Penn., Married for 49 years
Married 50+ Years
“To be the best spouse you can be, work on keeping your memory short and your sense of humor strong. It is important to refrain from bitterness, and to appreciate the gift of two—without the other, neither's dreams come true.”
—Gerald and Annemarie Burke, Madison, Conn., Married 52 years (pictured above)
“We have been married for almost 55 years and still consider each other best friends. We were children when we met—19 and 21—so luck must be factored into the equation. We still laugh at each other’s jokes, so a sense of humor also needs to be factored in.”
—Victoria and Gary Wiedwald, Kennett Square, Penn., Married 55 years
Married 60 Years
“Try to listen to one another. Don’t go to bed angry. Cooperate in taking care of family affairs. Know how to say you’re wrong about something. No matter what, give as much love to the relationship as you can. My dad, who was married to my mom for 69 years, used to say, ‘When you get out of bed, say you’re sorry, to cover you for the day.’”
—Lois and Mike Midler, Clifton, New Jersey, Married for 60 years (pictured above)
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