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Love is one of the most misused and over-used words in the English language. At the same time, love is probably the four letter word that has the most potent effect.   Nothing is more intoxicating than being in love. Love inspires us. Love thrills us. Love breaks our hearts. They write more songs and movies about love than probably any other subject.  These songs and films awaken us to all of loves many possibilities.  We all crave the love that these songs and movies capture.  The kind of love that risks everything for that one person. Love stories like Grace Kelley and Prince Rainer? Queen Victoria and Prince Albert? Their devotion to one another is so inspiring.  Then, of course, the famous love story of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s classic tale of forbidden love.  This tragedy of forbidden love inspired the making of many movies.  

To be honest, my favorite love stories are non-fiction, though I admit I am a hopeless romantic, and Hallmark Romance Addict.  I watch Hallmark Channel year round.  The year starts off with Winter Love Fest, followed by Countdown to Valentines Day.  Then comes Spring Fling, Harvest Romance, and my favorite, Countdown to Christmas. This year there were 32 new Christmas shows. Thanks to the DVR, I didn’t miss a single one.  They are completely unrealistic. In the majority of them, most of the couples fall unconditionally in love in less than two weeks.  They just know at first glance.  That or they thoroughly irritate each other in the beginning, but we know they secretly like each other. Everyone else can see how perfect they are for one another, except the agitated main characters. But, alas by the end of the two hours, they live happily ever after. 

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to meet their perfect mate, and have the perfect wedding planned in two weeks.  Yes, I know the ending is predictable, but that’s why I like it.  It always has a happy ending. The one thing that is different in each Hallmark romance movie is the wedding. Not one of them is the same. The proposals are not all the same. The location of the ceremony is entirely different, from beaches to barns, to churches, to the bride’s parents’ homes, log cabins, and of course the destination weddings. 

The various locations are probably the only thing that resembles real life weddings.  Nothing else about these movies comes close to the time involved in planning a real-life happily ever after.  Most importantly, we never see what makes their love last! We all know, love and marriage are not what we see on television or listen to on the radio.  Marriage is hard work, sacrifice, and commitment.

So, for Valentine’s Day, I decided to ask, real-life couples, who have been married 25 plus years what their secret(s) is to a long and happy marriage. I want to know what makes these real-life unions so strong and how their union has survived not just two weeks, but all these years? So to all you newlyweds, here is some real life advice on real-life marriage. 

 

The first couple, we will refer to them as Couple #1, was quite amusing.  It will come as no surprise to most men, that the husband felt the most important thing to their 25 - year marriage is, and I am quoting, “sex, sex, and more sex!!!” He wasn’t joking but went on to add, "Communication is key, spending time together, and making memories. Making your wife feel special when she least expects it,  - not just birthdays and Valentine's Day. Also, being married to your best friend."  His beautiful wife told me “Don’t play the silent game, always communicate!  Take trips together, just the two of you, and with other couples. Don’t think there is an option, til death do us part is real; be willing to put your needs second. Give freely - whatever speaks to your spouses love language.  ​

 

Couple #2, had this to say about the secret to their 28 - year marriage: "We both had wonderful examples from our parents.  A divorce is never an option. We never put the subject of divorce on the table.  We try to remember that we always have each other’s best interest in mind.  Remember to show love and respect for each other, and always work things out."

 

Couple #3, said they are each other's best friend.  They enjoy each others company and over their 33 years of marriage have developed common interests which have helped when planning their nights out.

 

I couldn't wait to hear what couple #4 had to say.  This couple has been together 38- years, and when you see them together, you can tell they are still completely smitten with one another.  I asked the wife first, and without hesitation, she said "compromise!" "Be willing to compromise and accept each other's faults gracefully.  If you can't, you will make yourself miserable."  The husband answered without hesitation, and I love his response just as much.  He said, "Respect and trust, which bring a comfort zone. If you don't have either of those then the little things that might annoy you, will be blown way out of proportion."

 

Couple #5 married 55 years had straightforward but sound advice. The wife said, "always be a good listener."  The husband said, "be nice to your spouse."  Two simple things, but often so very hard to do.  

 

I saved the best for last. It came from couple #6, who have been married for 50 years.  They typed out their reply, so I am going to copy their responses as sent to me.  It is too heartfelt, real and honest to present it any other way.

The first reply is from the wife.

"50 years of marriage-------I really don’t know where to begin. Most of what I have learned of a strong relationship, I have learned hindsight. I learned from my mistakes and others. I think God and a strong faith (especially shared by the two of you) should be of utmost importance. It’s important to thank God for all your blessings and put your trust in Him with your concerns. Love requires patience and work. Real relationships that last a long time involve a lot of forgiveness. Your partner isn’t perfect and will hurt you, disappoint you, and upset you. Love them at their best and love them even harder at their worst if you are going to spend forever with them. Realize the person by your side means everything. Don’t ever take them for granted! As the years go by, you will both change in different ways. Be supportive and flexible. If something is bothering you, say what is on your mind. Do not bottle up those things inside because they just become a bigger problem for you and you need to share those concerns. Communication is of utmost importance! A kiss or hug before leaving the house is always special. You can’t say I love you too many times. Do little special things for each other—little surprises now and then let your partner know you care. And I think my favorite thing is LAUGHTER! Laugh at yourself------you make mistakes too and laugh together. Don’t forget about friends. Being social is important. On your anniversary, look at your wedding pictures and see how happy you were. Try and replicate those same feelings year after year. You will be glad you did!"

Now for the husband's sweet response: "You are probably asking the wrong person since I have been married to the same old woman for 50 years! A famous philosopher once said the best way to make a wife happy was to keep her pregnant and barefooted. It didn’t work for me because she loves to shop in shoe stores. On a serious note, to make a marriage work you must respect each other and be willing to compromise. You need to respect her space and give her time to herself if she asks. You must be willing to meet her halfway in solving any problem that you are having. You should always work on listening to her and not shutting her opinions out. The most important thing to remember is that you did not choose each other but that God put you together. In Matthew 22, Jesus gives us the greatest command – to love. Therefore, love each other and pray for each other both in good times and bad. Offer her your acceptance, your respect, and your care. Anticipate her needs and be there to support her before she asks. Walk with her in her trials and bless her with your prayers. Open your heart to her, and she will open her heart to you." 

 

Happiest of Valentine's Day to all the hopeless romantics, and here's to true love and Happily Ever After!​

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