Couples married more than 50 years give secrets on how to make love last

by Scott Stump /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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Who better to give lessons on love ahead of Valentine's Day than a group of couples who have all been married at least 50 years?

As part of TODAY's special series "A Little Romance," Hoda Kotb decided to meet with six couples who represent more than 350 years of successful marriage to find out their secrets to long-lasting love.

Kotb picked their brains to find out how they met, how they came to get married and how they have remained in love for more than half a century.

Jim and Lynn LaMarca have been married for 54 years after eloping at age 18.
Jim and Lynn LaMarca have been married for 54 years after eloping at age 18.Ira Lippke Studios

Support and a good sense of humor are a good place to start, according to Ben and Annette Connolly, both 78, who have been married for 53 years.

"If you fall, I'll always pick you up,'' Annette said. "After I stop laughing."

Ben and Annette Connolly, both 78 years old, have been married for 53 years
Ben and Annette Connolly, both 78 years old, have been married for 53 yearsIra Lippke Studios

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For some of the couples, it was love at first sight. Marian and Philip Sarno, both 80, have been married 61 years, and the seeds of that love started early.

Marian and Philip Sarno have been married for 61 years.
Marian and Philip Sarno have been married for 61 years.Ira Lippke Studios

"She was crossing the street and the guy I was with, I poked him, and I said, 'I'm gonna marry her,''' Philip said. "And he looked at me like, 'What are you, nuts?" I was only 15."

"It seemed like from that day on, no matter where I went, there he was,'' Marian said. "He was a pain in the neck, to be honest with you."

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For others like Doris Zeiser, 88, and her husband, Ed, 89, who have been married for 68 years and have seven children, it took a little bit longer.

Ed and Doris Zeiser say the secret to their 68-year marriage is love and patience.
Ed and Doris Zeiser say the secret to their 68-year marriage is love and patience.TODAY

"One night we came home and he said, 'You know, I decided I love you,'' Doris said.

"I was romantic,'' Ed said.

"So I said to him, 'I'm not sure I like you,'" Doris said.

Ed and Doris Zeiser have known each other since they were 14. They have been married 68 years.
Ed and Doris Zeiser have known each other since they were 14. They have been married 68 years.Ira Lippke Studios

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For Kenneth and Shirley Radcliffe, both 82 and married 52 years, it was Kenneth who tried to get over his fears.

Kenneth and Shirley Radcliffe, who have been married for 52 years, say honesty is one of the keys to a successful relationship.
Kenneth and Shirley Radcliffe, who have been married for 52 years, say honesty is one of the keys to a successful relationship.Ira Lippke Studios

"I found myself on one knee and proposing,'' he said. "And I remember those voices going off in my head. 'I thought you were gonna wait until you were 30. What are you doing?'''

The couples also offered their tips on what it takes to have a successful marriage:

  • A lot of love and patience, plus discussing what you want to spend your money on, according to the Zeisers.
  • Do everything together, don't argue in front of the children, and trust each other, according to the Sarnos.
  • Be honest, don't put off the inevitable, don't go to bed mad and take the time to get to know one another rather than rushing into marriage, according to the Radcliffes.
  • Dance and have fun, according to the Connollys.

Hoda Kotb gets in the Valentine's Day mood, along with the help of 6 couples who have each been married for 50 years or more.
Hoda Kotb gets in the Valentine's Day mood, along with the help of 6 couples who have each been married for 50 years or more.TODAY

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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