In this day and age, when many marriages end in divorce, making it to your 50th wedding anniversary is more rare than consensus in Congress. Last November, my parents—Margaret and John Taulane—reached that milestone.

They’ve raised six kids together, battled tough financial times, and nursed each other through hospital stays, heart attacks, and strokes—and never once waivered in their devotion to each other. In the spirit of the Valentine’s season—yes, it’s now a season according to the red, pink and white explosion of hearts at Target—I sat down with them to talk about the secrets of a long-lasting partnership. Here is the wisdom that they shared.

Know what you’re getting into. Walking down the aisle is just the beginning of your lives together, and most people at that time have no idea of what love entails. Vows can present a real challenge to some—it’s easy to say the words, but hard to live up to them. It requires effort, compromise and sacrifice.

Face your challenges head on. After 50 years of marriage we look back and wonder about how we overcame the challenges that we encountered—but we did. We persevered through the bad times because we were committed to each other and to making our marriage work. We both agree, that is has never been dull!

Embrace the commitment you make to each other. Some of the qualities of a good marriage are patience, kindness, and respect. A sense of commitment is essential. Today it sometimes seems the true sense of commitment is missing when people marry.

Stay cool and carry on. Marriage, like most life experiences, has its ups and downs. At least one of the parties has to remain cool and calm. Both parties have to know when to say I am sorry. There should be balance in the relationship and mutual respect is essential.

Marriage is built on shared values. You need to be open and honest about what you value most and have shared ideals. You don’t have to agree on everything—just the big things. The core of society is the family and the family needs a solid marriage to thrive.

Have a sense of humor. Know when to laugh at yourselves and at each other. And most importantly, be sure to laugh together.

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