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My Parents Have Been Together 44 Years: Here Are Their 3 Tips for Love That Lasts

Photo: Mark Smith

When you're a kid, you believe in the fairytale love you see in Disney movies or hear in those bedtime stories about soulmates finding each other against all odds — even if that means slaying a dragon or two.

But my favorite — the one that convinced me true love actually is real — is my parents' story. 

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My parents, Mark and Christine Smith, both 60, have been together for 44 years. In October, they will celebrate their 34th year of marriage. 

They met in 1978 when they were just 16 years old in Ridgefield, New Jersey, a small town about 40 minutes outside of New York City. 

My dad played football and my mom had just joined the cheerleading squad. The cheerleaders decorated the football players' houses before a big rivalry game, and my mom was tasked with decorating my dad's house. She had no clue who he was — my dad was still considered to be the new kid in town, despite having moved to Ridgefield a few years earlier.

Photo: Mark Smith

When they saw each other at a party, my dad approached my mom to thank her for the creative posters ("Crown 'em Curly!" and "Smith knows how to tackle!" are just two hilarious examples) and offered to walk her home. They started dating just weeks later.

Together, they've experienced the worst and best life has to offer, from the death of my dads' parents right after their wedding to raising me and my sister Madison.

Their marriage has stood the test of time — and while no two marriages are the same, my parents' relationship has set my bar for love extremely high.

To celebrate Valentine's Day, I asked them how, exactly, they make their relationship work. Here are their three secrets for finding, and building, a love that lasts: 

1. Maintain trust

My mom decided within the first month of dating my dad that he was her forever person. Why? "I knew I could always depend on him," she told me. 

He drove my mom and her younger brother to school every morning, was never late for a date and always showed up when he promised to, she recalls. 

Even after she moved to Washington D.C. for college, and my parents were in a long-distance relationship for five years, they found creative ways to show up for each other, whether it was care packages in the mail before an important exam or spontaneous visits. 

When things go wrong, they're both willing to admit their mistakes and always be truthful with each other, my dad adds. 

Ultimately, "your partner should have your back, and you want to consider them one of your best friends," my mom says. "I've never met someone that I can count on as much as I can on Mark." 

Photo: Marquee Studio

2. Have shared core values

My parents don't agree on everything — they have different hobbies, tastes in music and stances on certain political issues — but they do have the same views on issues that are important to them, like love, travel, family and communication. 

"It's probably been the most important thing for our relationship," my dad says. 

That's because having shared values has made decision-making and problem-solving within their relationship much easier to navigate. 

For example: Both of my parents grew up in households where the partners divided chores evenly, and they wanted the same out of their relationships. In 1980s, after moving in together, my mom volunteered to take the lead on cleaning if my dad cooked every day, and that system has continued to work well for them even decades later.

3. Don't forget to laugh

Past research has pointed out that humor plays an important role in long-term relationships, namely, supporting bonding and intimacy in couples — my parents' relationship is living proof.

"I really think a common sense of humor is foundational to any relationship," my dad says. "What the hell is life without humor? It's just boring."

My parents will still dissolve into a fit of giggles remembering inside jokes that began 40 years ago. The oldest one might be from their first date at a movie theater, when my mom thanked my dad for taking her to the movies.

Now, any time they're out together, my dad makes a point to thank my mom for the date, poking fun at her over-polite gesture from that night. 

It might seem simple, but as my dad will tell you: "There's nothing more fun than laughing with the person you're in love with."

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