How do you stay in love forever? Married readers share their tips

·7 min read
Weathering the storm.
Weathering life's storms is easier when you're with someone you love. (Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

It's wedding season, so we asked readers to share tips for a long and happy relationship. Comments have been edited for length and clarity. Some submissions included names, others did not, but all offered great guidance for tending to marriage and committed partnerships. One that wowed us all? "Don’t let your partner ever wonder if you love them."

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In my marriage, there have been many ups and downs, including life-and-death moments as my health has taken many turns for the worse. I am still recovering from their brutal impact. The worst was when I was in a coma for six weeks. My husband drove an hour each way to sit with me every day after a full day at work. He sat beside my unmoving body, my eyes stayed closed, and I never responded to his words of encouragement and hope. For six weeks he did this and has never complained. I told him once that if he didn't want to stay married to me, I would understand. After all, this is not what he signed up for or expected. He said, "I'm never going anywhere as long as you're alive." Now, I try to give him back that true commitment and total acceptance every day.

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We will be celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary. All you have to do is try your best to live by this little ditty penned by poet Ogden Nash:

To keep your marriage brimming

With love in the loving cup,

Whenever you're wrong, admit it;

Whenever you're right, shut up.

Of course, it’s not easy to follow this rule, but then they never said marriage was going to be easy, right? — J. Roe

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There is a forest of ways that you can fall out of love. The solution is to grow your love into a sequoia tree. Years of nurturing, feeding each other’s souls and having the freedom to spread out while staying connected.

Here is what we do.

— Be honest from day one. It builds a deep trust that gets you through life’s twists and turns both big and small.

— Refuse to let disagreement turn into arguments. We listen and discuss. We take a breather to think.

— Learn to listen. My wife says, “Sometimes it is a listen and not a fix.” Trying to solve every problem is exhausting and can be annoying . Just listen.

— Consider giving your partner what they like rather than what you want them to like. You will know you nailed it when they light up.

— Give them room to grow. Let them experiment and change course or even fail. Compatibility does not mean you both are the same. Blend your strengths and your weaknesses.

— Have your date nights or even date hours.

— Lead with your heart and be guided by your caring. You can create a love so deep that old “until death do you part” question becomes a duh. — Jennifer Moore

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As one who practiced psychiatry for 30 years and worked with many couples in trouble, I believe the secret for a happy and long-lasting relationship includes the ability to communicate well and to problem-solve. When couples were courting, I encouraged them to not tie the knot until they had experienced some conflict as a couple so they could judge their ability to do just that. If couples were lacking in those skills, I taught them. To do this, with his permission, I adapted the work of Thomas Gordon, who wrote the book "Parent Effectiveness Training." Although he focuses on the parent/child relationship, the principles he describes apply to every relationship. — Alan Pollack

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Because my husband and I have been married for 41 years, people seem to think we have cracked some sort of code, located the holy grail and learned its secrets. “How have you done it?” I am often asked. “What’s your advice?” Get lucky is what I say because really in so many ways that is what happened. Maybe not the whole story but a big part of it.

I was fortunate to marry a man who would grow with me, not against me, but that was something I couldn’t know at the time we pledged “to honor and cherish as long as you both shall live.”

We met cute, or at least amusing: Our grandmothers, Francis and Rose, fixed us up.

Coming from similar backgrounds, similar geography, our grandmothers figured what could be wrong? We’d grown up in the same neighborhood, attended the same elementary school and high school — though five years apart — and didn’t know each other.

What were the things that sustained us? Respect for each other, our inherent optimism, our inclination to maintain the idealized version we see of the other, friendship, honor and the encouragement we give to each other to be our better selves. The person my husband expects me to be is the person I want to be as well. The physical attraction has stayed, and the passion, though its definition has changed over the years.

It is these things that ultimately hold us together through the storms, including the challenges of raising children — the source of most arguments.

Now, when I look at my husband and notice he has taken on the most annoying habits of his father, or the times I feel sidelined by his focus on his laptop and am ignored because of his hearing difficulties, or when he finds me criticizing his actions, re-arranging his things, forcing him into a social plan he doesn’t want or ignoring his advice (particularly on a medical issue), we shrug it off, because, in the big picture, none of that matters.

Did I know any of this when we got married? I don’t think so. We were lucky we found each other.

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I remember our first kiss; my whole body said “WOW”! We got married three years later and have been married for 39 years. The first secret is to be totally committed to your marriage. Otherwise, there is no incentive to continue if communication breaks down. Commitment holds you together and holds you accountable.

The next secret is to never give up trying to improve your marriage. The very next thing you try could be the magic formula that sends your marriage to a higher level of happiness. Most people give up too easily, thinking it’s too much work. The next secret is to stop judging your spouse in a negative way. Always keep a positive view of your partner so that when you think of your spouse, it will put a smile on your face instead of a frown. Our goal is to have peace and harmony in our marriage, so we actively do things that will enable that. — Wendy Fierstein, author of the book "You Can Live Happily Married for a Lifetime"

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Keep your mouth shut and nod your head a lot when listening. Think before you speak and realize the next sentence that comes out of your mouth may wreck your marriage for the next 72 hours.

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I have been married 37 years and I know that I would marry him again. The secret is waking up every day, looking around and asking yourself if you'd want to do it again. More important, is your partner the one you want to be by your side as you live another day? It is a daily commitment to question and answer: What do I need and who is there on my team to meet that need? The other person must do the same.

We’re both on our second marriage and have become better at marriage through the process of a first marriage and divorce. I’m not recommending anyone get married just to learn and subsequently divorce, I’m just reflecting that the experience has actually made me a better husband now! Here are my tips:

— Never take your partner for granted.

— Always date them. Forever.

— Buy flowers unexpectedly for no reason, or for some silly little reason: “I love you. It’s Friday.”

— Take time to write an actual love letter and mail it (yes, a real letter with actual postage), even if you’re mailing it to your own house.

— Don’t hold a grudge. Don’t “prove your point.” Don’t let problems fester and grow. Don’t be afraid to have an uncomfortable discussion.

— Avoid falling into a pattern in your sex life. Be spontaneous, creative and willing to sometimes focus exclusively on what your partner wants.

— Take breaks from the work-life-kids grind. Take short getaway trips without the kids and random days off work to have a “date day” with your partner without leaving town.

— Take them to lunch, drinks and a walk in the park on a Thursday.

— Don’t let your partner ever wonder if you love them.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.