Marriage Secrets From Couples Who Have Been Together 25 Years or More

Tips on how to keep your relationship thriving, year after year.

married couples

Art by Tiana Crispino

Years ago, when I was complaining about a marital issue I was having with my husband, my friend Athena said to me, “So your perfect husband has a flaw!”

I was taken aback by her comment—why was it so much easier to focus on a spouse’s imperfections instead of their strengths? That was truly an “aha” moment for me in my marriage. From that point on, when my partner does something that drives me nuts, I think about the 90 percent of him that is, actually, quite perfect. 

Curious as to how others who’ve been married over 25 years have maintained course, I set out to interview long-married couples on the secrets that have made their marriages thrive decades later.

Here, some sage advice for couples about starting their lives together.

01 of 13

Keep the Peace

The Couple: Donna Segal and Burt Podbere, Los Altos, California

Married: 25 years   

Burt’s Advice: “Try not to fight like high schoolers—don’t play games, give the silent treatment, argue over the same things over and over, or bring up past issues in every subsequent fight. If you have children, you want to set a good example of how you’d like them to act in their future relationships. You’re teaching if you show love and affection, you’ll get it in return.”

Donna’s Advice: “Never be a ‘counter’—this means don’t get petty about things like, ‘I emptied the dishwasher the last three times or I changed the last six diapers’. Because life is never fair and if you’re always counting to be ‘even’ you’ll never be happy. People have different tasks in a marriage—I may have wiped more bottoms and unloaded more dishes, but my spouse completed numerous other chores as well.”

02 of 13

Keep Growing

The Couple: Amy Penfil Wolf and Jeffrey Wolf, Churchville, Pennsylvania

Married: 26 years 

Amy’s Advice: “Expect and accept change. No one remains stagnant for twenty-five years, nor should they. You may sometimes feel like you’re with someone different than the person you married long ago. But if basic values, ethics, and morals are the foundation of a person’s character, growth can add to marital satisfaction instead of taking away from it.”

Jeffrey’s Advice: “You and your partner will and should share many things but it’s important to keep your independence and not to lose yourselves in each other. Not every hobby or friend has to be mutual. In fact, a marriage stays fresh when partners have separate interests and relationships.”

03 of 13

Stay Flexible

The Couple: Michelle and Michael Vanlochem, Los Angeles

Married: 38 years 

Michelle’s Advice: “Roll with the punches. As this past year has shown, you have to keep reinventing your relationship to withstand what has been thrown at you. Never consider yourself too old to switch up ‘roles’ within the marriage—if you change things up, you’ll have a fresh window into your partner’s life.”

Michael’s Advice: “Always listen to what’s important to your spouse and if you disagree, always try to compromise.”

04 of 13

Show Your Love

The Couple: Paul and Diane Doherty, Vero Beach, Florida

Married: 53 years

Paul’s Advice: “It’s important to do little things on a regular basis to show your love. That’s why I get my wife her favorite coffee every morning. It keeps her happy.” 

Diane’s Advice: “We’ve always planned a date night once a week. Even when our kids were little, we prioritized making time as a couple. We’d stay out just late enough to make sure the kids were asleep so when we got home, we didn’t have to jump back into Mom and Dad mode.”

05 of 13

Don't Keep Score

The Couple: Guido and Regina Bussinelli, Ridgewood, New Jersey

Married: 27 years

Regina’s Advice: “Don’t keep score or rate who does more. A good partner knows when to step in, when to take over and when to encourage you to keep moving forward—not get caught up in keeping tabs. I can remember during different phases of our lives being very conscious of the fact I did more with the kids. It could have been easy to mention who had to stay home from work with a sick kid, who had to get up with crying babies, or who had to find childcare so that we could go out on a weekend, but doing so doesn’t get you anywhere.”
Guido’s Advice:
“This may sound simple but it has stood the test of time for us—always use kind words and never take the moments you have together for granted.”   

06 of 13

Keep Laughing

The Couple: Charlotte and Daniel Newton, Simi Valley, California

Married: 31 years

Charlotte’s Advice: “Always remember what attracted you to your spouse in the first place, which, in my husband’s case was his sense of humor when we first met as coworkers at a hospital. I may have feigned annoyance at his antics before we dated, but he ultimately won me over with his humor and kind heart.”

Daniel’s Advice: “Maintain a steady stream of fresh jokes to keep your partner entertained. I worry what will happen when I run out!”

07 of 13

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

The Couple: Peter McQuaid and Laura McQuaid, Fanwood, New Jersey

Married: 32 years 

Peter’s Advice: “Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself and pick your battles carefully. It’s easy to argue about the silliest of things but does it really matter how the dishwasher gets loaded or the car gets packed before going on a road trip? You come to realize it’s crazy to ruin an evening together or a trip away over stuff like this. And don’t be afraid to use the silly/lovey pet names you have for each other in public—it makes people wonder what you’ve been up to!”

Laura’s Advice: “Keep your own interests. You’ll stay happier longer if you still take time to do the things you love to do—go for long walks alone, take weekend getaways with friends, sign up for a class on art or sculpture—whatever it is that makes you happy. Having your own interests will give you a new perspective and things to talk about with your partner.”

08 of 13

Keep It a Partnership

The Couple: Myrtle and Ray Luer, Langhorne, Pennsylvania

Married: 64 years

Ray’s Advice: “I met Myrtle when we were both in high school and except for the six months when Myrt decided she needed to see other guys, we have been together. There are several things required for a good marriage, including having mutual respect for each other and viewing your marriage as a partnership. We never had separate vacations or bank accounts and we made decisions together. But, most of all, we frequently hugged. The hugging has increased as we’ve aged.”

Myrt’s Advice: “Always appreciate each other’s talents and complement each other’s efforts. My husband loves music and plays the guitar, violin, piano, and flute. I love to paint. The recent pandemic forced us to be at home alone together for most of the year doing what we love, with each other.”

09 of 13

Finish the Fight

The Couple: Deron and Athena Siddons, Eden, Utah 

Married: 25 years

Deron’s Advice: “It may sound cliché, but never go to bed mad at each other—end a fight then and there so nothing carries over into the next day. And don’t lose sight that every couple fights, it’s about how well you move on and process things that matters.”

Athena’s Advice: “No white lies. The truth always comes out and without trust, you really don’t have much. You need to work on building that trust from day one and never lose sight of how precious it is to a marriage.”

10 of 13

Support Each Other's Interests

The Couple: Amy and Harry Bourque, Old Forge, New York

Married: 26 years 

 Amy’s Advice: “Having separate interests is key to a happy marriage. Harry is a sportsman who loves to compete. That’s how he blows off steam and relaxes. I encourage him to practice, get better and enjoy himself when he can. I love music. I sing in a band and often, leading up to a performance, have endless back-to-back practices. Sometimes the entire band sets up in my house and stays until midnight rehearsing.  Harry never complains, quite the contrary, he is pleased to see me doing something that makes me happy.”

Harry’s Advice: “My secret to a happy marriage was finding someone who can enjoy the simplest things in life with me, like sunsets and a cold beer.”

11 of 13

Remain Friends

The Couple: Mike and Kathy Pantele, Richmond, Virginia

Married: 36 years

Kathy’s Advice: “Always put your spouse first, even before your children, and that means remaining best friends. We always agreed if our marriage was sound, our children would learn what it means to show devotion and commitment to another person. We have remained best friends over the last three decades.”

Mike’s Advice: “For a marriage to be successful, both husband and wife need to view themselves as partners—you are no longer just yourself, you have another half to constantly consider.”

12 of 13

Acknowledge Who You Are Marrying

The Couple: Nancy and Robert Swanick, Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania

Married: 46 years

Nancy’s Advice: “Be sure you’re marrying your friend. You need to really, really, really like the person you are marrying just the way they are as there’s no changing someone after the fact.” 

Robert’s Advice: “Always work towards togetherness and that means constantly thinking of what makes your spouse happy.”

13 of 13

Keep the North Star in Sight

The Couple: Brenda and James Mitchell, Cheltenha, Maryland 

Married: 32 years

Brenda’s Advice: “It was important for us to commit to the journey we decided to take together. In hindsight, we did not have a clue about how that would look but we were determined to see it through—divorce was never an option. With that being our north star, so to speak, we had to constantly condition ourselves to do the things that contribute to a healthy marriage and be equally committed to NOT doing the things that would deter us from our mark. We did not know the road or the way but we were committed to taking the journey together. We are now empty-nesters, and excited about this new phase. I now believe that by speaking and affirming out loud that divorce would never be an option for us, it came into being.”  

Mitch’s Advice: “Start your marriage with dedicated dating time and then schedule time for yourself. Thursday night has always been our date night—during the first six years of marriage without children and then throughout the 20 years, our two children were at home. We’re approaching our thirty-third anniversary and date night still stands strong. The first and third Thursdays of the month we date each other, the second and fourth Thursdays is our time to be alone or be with friends or family.”

Related Stories