Ken, 31 and Richelle, 30, have been married for nine years, but they still take pleasure in the little things. "We're big on celebrating unconventional 'firsts,'" the couple, who asked that their last names not be used, told Holidash. "Not necessarily the first day we kissed or our first date, but events most couples forget. For example, every December 27th, we watch 'Scream 2,' in celebration of the first movie we saw together."
Lance and Carrie Jamerson, of Austin, TX, have been married for seven years. The couple met when Lance moved into an apartment complex that Carrie managed. "We got pregnant a month after we got married," Lance says, "so, the 'honeymoon' was over very quickly for the both of us."
What's their secret? Lance says it's all about the simple things. "My wife appreciates me helping around the house and the occasional surprise flowers. I also try to make it a habit to have a 'date night' at least once a month where we can enjoy some time to ourselves away from our daughter. [Carrie] also enjoys the occasional 'love' note... it could be a Hallmark card or just a simple Post-it note left on the door to the garage."
An officer in the U.S. Air Force, Dan, 34, spends a lot of time away from his South Carolina home and his wife of almost 14 years, Jamie, 33 (the couple asked us not to share their last name), so they make up for lost time when he's on American soil. "We don't go out to clubs or bars without each other," Jamie says. "We both don't feel as though there is a need to be without each other at an establishment like that. We don't do girls or guys night; for us it isn't a want or need to do!"
"The secret to honest love is a good fight," says Nancy Winthorpe, a professor of botany at Valley Sands University, near Akron, Ohio. She has been married to Hiram, also a professor, for 26 years. "It sounds paradoxical, I know, but the elements of argument are the key to discovery."
Nancy says fighting (and making up, of course!) is the best way help a relationship evolve. "If you truly love someone, you want to know them, to understand them, to be held in a continuous state of curiosity and intrigue," she says. "A good fight helps to contour one's character."
North Carolina college students Brooks, 32, and Dave, 30 (who asked us not to use their last names), are still in the newlywed phase -- they'll celebrate their second wedding anniversary this spring. With tuition bills, the couple rarely have extra spending money, so they have to keep love alive without the expensive dates.
"We earmark time that is non-negotiable together time," says Brooks. "We take turns making dinner, and we eat it together at the table with the TV off. It is our time to catch up with each other, to hear about our day, to talk politics and local events. It's amazing the things you think to talk about when you have a half hour to sit face to face."
With a brand new baby and a toddler at home, Binghamton, NY, parents Danita and Rob Brooks admit they sometimes feel like they're stuck in a rut in their five-year-old marriage. But Rob tries to give Danita some time away from the kids, and they carve out time together. "A couple times in December he watched the kids for a few hours while I went out shopping or to a movie and it was really refreshing for me to have that break -- [it] made us appreciate each other a bit more," Danita says. "Beyond that, it's basically just finding times to spend time with each other, even if it's staying up to play a game of Scrabble until 1 a.m.!"
Ernie and Jeri Odeneal have been married for 61 years. The couple, who are both in their early 80s, like to tell people that they met when his dinosaur ran into her dinosaur. So how do they keep the romance alive? "We work together, so that's kind of unusual," says Jeri, who runs a jewelry store in downtown Greenville, TX, with her husband. "He stays in the back and I stay at the counter. Otherwise I'd have probably killed him. I'm kidding."
Austin, TX, residents Shelia and Randy Wooldridge have been married for 24 years. The couple met as kids when they worked at the same restaurant in Ohio. Shelia says that the key to their marriage has been relying on each other, in good times and bad. "We were married young and then moved away from friends and family. Because we only had each other to rely on, we developed a really strong bond." She also notes, like many couples, that the two are best friends. "He makes me laugh and we have fun together."
Even newlyweds have to make an effort to keep the romance alive. Ben, 31, and Brooke Gredler, 29, have been married for two years (after dating for eight). Their secret is a weekly date night, to keep the lines of communication open. "Even if it's the mundane happenings in our lives," Brooke says, "we make an effort to talk about it. Also, we make time to go out and have 'girl night' and 'guy night,' because time apart with other friends is good, too."
Hannah and Adam Alvarez are just starting out; the couple, who are 25 and 32, have been married for ten months. So far, things are off to a good start, thanks to this husband's skills in the kitchen. "Now that Adam cooks for me, that helps," says Hannah.
Sounds like the recipe for a lasting romance.
Reporting by Jeanne Sager, Josh Loposer, John Stein and Missy Jess.