What’s the secret to long-lasting love?
If you’re Frank Sinatra (referring to his fourth and longest marriage), it’s separate sleeping quarters, each with its own bathroom. For country singer Martina McBride, who shared her secret with People, it’s about finding someone you like, not just love. And Henry “the Fonz” Winkler once shared this advice with Parade magazine about his four-decade marriage: "Listening is the beginning and the end."
We found four couples who have their own ideas about why they’ve stayed together for decades. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s what they had to say about why their partnerships have lasted so long.
Boyzell & Andrida Hosey
Boyzell, 57, is a deputy editor of photography for the Tampa Bay Times and cofounder of the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival. Andrida, 64, is a middle school drama teacher. The couple, who live in St. Petersburg, Florida, have been together for 34 years, married for 29, and have a daughter and a son. In late 2020, when the Hoseys lost three relatives in two weeks to COVID-19, the strength of their relationship helped them cope.
Andrida: I love the wonderful little breakfasts you make for me in the morning. Those great omelets — the way you slow-cook them, putting little veggies and seasonings and spices in them. And I appreciate the texts with little hearts.
Boyzell: And you text me back little kisses. On an intimate level in general, you give me fantastic head rubs. When I’m on edge, you put me at ease with your touches.
Andrida: I knew we were going to be together forever the day we got baptized together. It was something about being in the Lord’s house, being reborn again together in the water. And also getting married on the same day as my grandparents did, and they were together 65 years.
Boyzell: I’d never really thought about it that way. When we first met, there was definitely chemistry there. And I knew things were going to get a lot more serious when we went on that riverboat ride. We were on a double date with other people, but we ended up leaving together.
Andrida: And we left our dates on the boat!
Boyzell: You were boisterous and loud and didn’t really know a stranger. I was much more conservative.
Andrida: Much, much more.
Boyzell: Oftentimes people look at us and think we have the perfect marriage. They don’t realize it doesn’t always come easy. But we’ve given each other the space we’ve needed to be who we are as individuals. We also made a pledge that even on our worst days, when we were barely talking to each other, we would never go to sleep without at least praying together. Sometimes those prayers are really short, but just taking time together to release whatever we need to release has been hugely beneficial. Especially with this recent tragedy.
Andrida: Time is truly precious, and I’m so glad that you document everything. You’ve given us golden nuggets over the years to treasure that allow us to stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. Those nuggets give us the strength to go forward into the future.
Boyzell: We have a tremendous amount of resolve. Having you around minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day has reaffirmed that there’s nobody else I’d rather spend my life with.
Bonnie Meyer & Katharine Halpin
Katharine, 63, owns a boutique consulting firm. Bonnie, 82, is a former nun, educator and staff director. In March the couple from Phoenix, Arizona — who married on Oct. 17, 2014, the day Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban was struck down — will have been together 40 years.
Katharine: You’re always reminding me we should have a hug. You give me hugs half a dozen times a day.
Bonnie: I go to you because I like to see you. I go to you when I need something and don’t have it. And I go to you when I can’t think of what I should be doing but know I should be doing it.
Katharine: Even though you don’t talk much, you’re still crackerjack about helping me process things. I can describe a situation to you and you’ll give me really good advice or ask me really good questions. That makes me feel well supported.
Bonnie: Yes, I don’t talk very much. You do all the talking. It takes awhile for me to get settled before I can start a long discussion. I just don’t understand some things at all, and I have to wait until you explain them to me — and sometimes that takes awhile. But if it’s something important, I want to know what it is.
Katharine: You do have a childlike wonder, and as you’ve aged, you’ve been freer to express it. That’s why I love taking you into nature or to the zoo. It’s always fun to watch you in those settings. You’re so much in awe.
Bonnie: Well, you’re always making sure that I’m going to be happy. That makes me feel good and important.
Liz & Mike Drayer
Liz, 60, is a semiretired attorney. Mike, 62, is a fully retired attorney. Married for 34 years, they live in Clearwater, Florida. They met at a party while they were both in law school, and have two adult daughters. With both children grown, the couple is enjoying this new phase of their marriage.
Liz: After this amount of time, we try not to push each other’s buttons. I avoid doing things that may upset you.
Mike: Yes, we don’t sweat the little things. We get angry for a moment and get over it. Sounds kind of boring …
Liz: Well, we try to be flexible. If something is important to one of us, the other gives in on that thing. Things are pretty evenly matched there.
Mike: We all have idiosyncrasies, and it helps if you find those idiosyncrasies charming instead of annoying.
Liz: Yes. I know you put up with my leaving newspapers all over the house, and not being as particular as you are about organization.
Mike: And I can be obsessive about dealing with something as soon as it comes up. I want to talk to you about it immediately — even if you’re on the phone. And yet you still say things to show I’m appreciated, like, “You’re a good husband.” The little things that aren’t so little.
Liz: Most of life is not that exciting — going to work, making dinner, changing the cat litter. A sense of humor can get you through, and we’re lucky to have that.
Jill & Layne Stangeland
Jill, 59, is a payroll auditor. Layne, 60, is a facility manager. Married for 30 years, they live in Dublin, California, and met through a pre-internet dating service. Engaged three months after meeting, they eloped to a casino chapel in Reno. They have a daughter.
Jill: Even though we don’t talk a lot or do a lot, I’m very secure knowing you’re not going anywhere. I don’t live in fear that our relationship is going to fall apart at a moment’s notice.
Layne: I feel the same way. We think on the same page. We’re solid.
Jill: You always give me the opportunity to be myself and do what I want to do. You’re never jealous or mad about the time I spend with others, and you support all of my decisions. I decided to change jobs during the pandemic — you saw how stressful my job was and how it was affecting my life, and were supportive. You always have my back.
Layne: Well, you’re always willing to let me stew in my thoughts for a while before we discuss important decisions we make. You give me the time I need to reflect and put my thoughts together.
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Robin L. Flanigan is a contributing writer who covers mental health, education and human-interest stories for several national publications. Her work has also appeared in People, USA Today and Education Week. She is the author of the children's book M is for Mindful.