My wife recently posted a photo of her grandparents on Facebook. It was taken at their surprise 50th anniversary party, and she typed the message, “My mamaw and papaw! Aren’t they cute? 50 years together!! How do people do it??”. What a great question.

In this day where the divorce rate doesn’t allow for a lot of 50th anniversaries, good advice on a lasting marriage and strong relationship is harder to come by. So I decided to ask those who have stood the test of time, and share their advice.

I am blessed to have not one, but two couples in my family that have been married for 50 years. My wife’s grandparents, Doc and Ruth Reid, celebrated their 50th in March, and my parents, Jon and Cathie Wheaton, celebrated their silver anniversary last September.

Doc and Ruth (affectionately known as Mamaw and Papaw by many) were quick to share their thoughts. One thing they both made clear is that their marriage hasn’t been a perfectly paved road for the past 50 years. It has required a lot of what Ruth calls “give a little, take a lot”, a comment to which Doc responded, “yeah, I took a lot!”. Determination was another key cited, along with faith in your marriage. And of course trust. And I think they both agree that you need to have (and understand each others’) sense of humor.

Jon and Cathie (a.k.a. Gran and Grumpy), have made it through 50 years of marriage with a lot of patience. They raised seven children, so patience is more than just a key to marriage, it’s a survival skill. But since all their kids are grown and out of the house, they have a lot of time together. Even though that is a good thing, Jon and Cathie still find ways to give each other space to do their own thing.

My mom and dad have a great understanding of each others’ feelings. It hasn’t always been that way. It’s required a lot of years of effort to reach the level of understanding they have. Today, I see them regularly try to show each other that they understand and care. Jon and Cathie aren’t that kind of couple who are exactly alike. They act and react very differently to life’s situations, but they complement each other very well by understanding each others’ the strengths and weaknesses.

I also have a coworker, Rudy, who has been married to his wife, Donna for 26 years. Rudy was glad to share some words of wisdom with me. He told me there are three keys to a happy marriage:  1) Eat lunch together with no interruption from kids, and sit across from each other so you can look into each others’ eyes;  2) Never disagree or dispute decisions in front of other people, particularly kids. Show solidarity;  3) Let each other finish each others’ sentences. There’s no point in getting frustrated with something like that.

I know what you’re thinking:  Nobody mentioned “love” as a key to marriage. I think it goes without saying that you have to love someone to want to do all the things that these couples do for each other and their marriage.

Have you ever given or received marriage advice that’s worth sharing?