A lot of ingredients -- from sharing a kiss every night to biting your tongue every day -- go into the recipe for lasting love.
Some couples do everything, from shopping for groceries to running a business, together. Others are separated for months or even years at a time, by jobs on the road or the demands of war.
Plenty talk about everything going on in their lives, but just as many have learned that it's better to keep some things to themselves. Some have danced through the years; others have moved through life a little more slowly.
From grand gestures to little notes of appreciation, couples who have gone the distance know how to make their partners feel special. Such is the stuff that lasting love is made of, they have discovered.
At a time when nearly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, it's clear that those who have beat the odds have learned a thing or two about lasting love.
In celebration of Valentine's Day, we asked long-married couples to share their secrets to staying together, and many responded with touching tales of coping with little challenges such as dividing up house-cleaning chores, raising children and finding time for each other. Others shared their insight into loving each other through the big stuff, from serious illnesses to job loss and separation.
Here are some of our favorites.
Con and Carol Shuck
Married 43 years
Carol Shuck loves to cook. Emptying the dishwasher afterward is another story.
"I just didn't like it," she said.
She casually mentioned her distaste for the chore to her new husband some 43 years ago.
He could have ignored her or simply disappeared from the kitchen after meals, but instead Con took a different approach.
"From that day on, unloading the dishwasher was my job," he said.
This career Marine for 20 years didn't stop there. He found other things to make Carol's life a little easier.
"He doesn't like to fold his clothes, so I do that," Carol said. "And I pack his bags when he travels."
It's that kind of give-and-take that has made their love last. In November, the Granbury couple will celebrate their 44th anniversary.
"We believe each partner should carry their weight," Carol said. Early on, they discovered just how capable they each were of doing that. As a Marine, he was away much of the time. After he retired from active duty, he still was often on the road as a sales rep.
"My wife, Carol, learned very early in the marriage that she had to make decisions by herself, as I was not there," he wrote in his entry.
When he returned home, he discovered that she was capable of handling things just fine without him and soon realized that if they just communicated, they would not duplicate efforts.
By trusting and respecting each other, the couple said, they found the secret to lasting love and passed that lesson on to their two sons.
It's the little things that you do for each other that show you care, Con said.
"It's just part of my routine to drink coffee and unload the dishwasher," Con said. "Then I take a cup of coffee to her, rub her back and tell her how much I love her."
Richard and Betty Goodspeed
Married 57 years
The advice from a Navy chaplain's wife was simple: "Don't marry your hometown girl; she won't make a good Navy wife."
Fortunately, Richard Goodspeed chose to ignore it and instead married the hometown girl, Betty, and spent the next 57 years with her.
"Betty was a superior Navy wife for 20 years until I retired and long afterwards," Richard wrote in his entry.
While Richard was busy with the Navy and later at Bell Helicopter, Betty became an artist and painted portraits. Over the years their house became filled with her award-winning pastels and watercolors. The Hurst couple had three children and traveled around the country before he retired from the Navy in 1970.
Although Richard liked his civilian job, he eventually grew restless staying in one place, something he had never done for more than five years before.
"One day I walked in our front door, kissed Betty and announced 'I think I'm gonna quit,'" he recalled.
Her response stuck in his mind and forever in his heart.
"Where will we go?" she asked.
They packed their bags and spent some time in Key West before later returning to Fort Worth.
"Her attitude was always 'Whatever you want to do, I'll do it with you,'" Richard said.
And that's exactly what she did until her death on May 9, 2009.
Deniske and Richard Albin
Married 63 years
Money was tight back in 1948 and the last thing that Richard Albin wanted his wife, Deniske, to do on Valentine's Day was to buy him a greeting card.
Deniske, his bride of three years, thought otherwise.
The recorded cardboard greeting card that she bought sang a cheery little message "to press your lips to mine" and, best of all, it could be used over and over again -- a bargain, for sure, during tough times.
And for 63 years Deniske did exactly that every Valentine's Day for the boy whom she met at church when they were both just 15.
Over the years, the couple shared the card through life's many milestones. They had three children. Richard retired from the Navy and then worked as a mail carrier before retiring. Over time, the recorded greeting card grew more and more worn.
"Cardboard doesn't last forever," said Deniske, who lives in Hurst.
It did, however, last long enough for Deniske to play it for beloved husband on their last Valentine's Day in 2008. He was in a nursing home with lung cancer and had months to live.
When she played the "Record Song" for him, he was alert enough to hear her sing the lyrics -- "We can kiss a lot; lipstick marks the spot." She showed him the card with each year of their lives together written on it.
"Our marriage that began Jan. 20, 1945, on his Navy leave during World War II, became a long-lasting love of 63 years with a cardboard record's song that remains in my memory and heart," Deniske wrote in her entry.
"When you have that kind of love, that's what holds you together," she said.
Pollyann and Jim Powers
Married 47 years
He was the handsome, wildly popular "older" boy, already a senior in high school. She was the beautiful 10th-grader in a fancy red-and-white party dress that her mother bought her on a trip to Neiman Marcus in Dallas. They were introduced by her friend one cool night in the white gazebo at Spring Lake Park in Texarkana.
As he swung her onto the dance floor, he said: "I'm going to marry you."
He would have to wait until she finished high school, and he went on to college, but in 1964 they tied the knot. A decade later, the couple welcomed their daughter, Misty.
Life was good.
After Jim graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, they settled in Lufkin, and he took a job traveling for a chemical company. Pollyann, who had been a teacher, stayed home to care for Misty and later served as a room mother and PTA president.
"We were happy as larks and a very close family," Pollyann wrote in her entry. "We had patience, respect, love and all the qualities that make for a good marriage and family life."
Then, in 1980, everything changed, except for their devotion to each other. They were all dressed up and headed to a New Year's Eve party when Jim stopped to fill their first company-owned Cadillac with gas. Suddenly one hand and arm went numb. By the time he got back in the car, he was sweating and dizzy.
"We knew it was a heart attack," Pollyann said.
A long hospitalization in Lufkin followed.
"Our life as we knew it had taken a 360 degree change but not our love for each other," Pollyann wrote.
Jim would undergo three open-heart surgeries over the next 18 years. More challenges would follow, including congestive heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer and a collapsed lung, twice.
For 29 years, Pollyann has been at Jim's side, taking care of him. Through it all, the couple have held on tightly to their commitment to love, honor and cherish in sickness and in health.
"That's what makes a marriage work," she wrote. "Take it seriously."
Despite the difficulties, the couple still have fun together at their home in Sanger. Not a day goes by that Jim doesn't tell someone, usually a healthcare worker, that he married the prettiest girl in school.
"He did what he said, and we are as happy as we were way back on Sept. 5, 1964," Pollyann wrote. "Our life of happiness will continue until we depart this world."
Chuck and Peggy Keim
Married 45 years
They met at a dance competition in 1964, married three years later on Valentine's Day and have been waltzing their way through life ever since.
Chuck and "Hot Lips Peggy," as he fondly calls his dance partner of more than four decades, will celebrate their 45th anniversary this Valentine's Day. They have seldom been apart these many years. They're practically joined at the hip, Chuck said.
For a decade they owned a dance studio in Fort Worth, then they taught at recreation centers. For years, they traveled across the U.S. and Canada, exhibiting their ballroom and country-Western videos at state fairs and rodeos.
Sharing their love for dancing with each other, as well as others, has been the glue that has kept this guy from New York and gal from Fort Worth together.
"When you have music and dance, you're in a happy world," Chuck said.
"We are responsible for teaching and introducing 23 couples that met and married while taking lessons from us," he wrote in his entry.
Others could take a lesson about lasting love from this couple, who raised three children and are "now retired but haven't expired," as Chuck put it.
Chuck, 86, who wrote about his wife, Peggy, 80, as a tribute to her on their 45th anniversary, said they have never stopped dancing and will still take a spin around the living room from time to time. They remain dedicated to each other and make sure to start and end each day with a kiss.
"It was always 100 percent."
Jim and Katie Hargrove
Married 34 years
The secret to a long-lasting marriage is not something Jim Hargrove of Fort Worth is likely to forget.
He has made sure of it with a reminder on his iPhone to "Make Katie Laugh" every day.
It's a pretty handy way to remember to keep life fun, said Hargrove, a father of two.
Fun has always played a big part in their lives. Her great sense of humor was one of the reasons Jim said he was attracted to Katie, a makeup artist.
This baby boomer takes a part-Bible, part-Beatles approach to love and says it works for him.
"The Bible says do unto others as they do unto you and there's a Beatles song that says that in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make," he said. "Basically, you get what you give."
This approach, along with lots of laughter, has gotten the couple through tough times, including a house fire, Jim's heart attack 10 years ago and other setbacks.
"But even during tough times we always seem to find something positive and humorous," Jim wrote in his entry. "I am blessed with a woman who can not only keep the family laughing, but can laugh at herself, too."
James and Karen Ross
Married 30 years
James Ross had his brand-new 1980 Pontiac Sunbird for about a week before he handed over the keys to his wife-to-be, Karen, so she could have reliable transportation.
And what did he drive?
"I took her 1964 Chevy with a rusted-out floor board that you could see the road through," he said.
He caught a glimpse of the ground under his shoes every time he got behind the wheel, but the sweet gesture was enough to sweep Karen off her feet.
"To give up his brand-new car because he was more concerned with my well-being, well that's just not something that happens every day," Karen said. "He's always been a very emotional, compassionate and giving man."
James said he was more concerned about this wonderful new person in his life than he was his car.
"You might say I was smitten," he said.
Nearly 31 years later, that hasn't changed.
The Arlington couple remain committed to giving to each other unselfishly. A big dose of laughter -- something this couple has plenty of -- helps, too.
"We're kinda like Laurel and Hardy," Karen said. "He's the funny one. I'm like the straight man."
Jan Jarvis, 817-390-7664