It’s tough to know for sure if you’ve found “the one” when the only tough times you’ve been through together are your landlord raising your rent or your puppy peeing on everything you own. And even when you’re married you may find yourself wondering. No matter what stage of a relationship you’re in, the truth is there’s no simple, surefire way to predict how and if you two will succeed on the long road ahead.
That’s why we turned to the pros—couples who’ve been married for over 25 years—to shed some light on how to know when you’ve found your forever person.
1. You love and like each other.
“After 39 years, my husband and I still like each other a lot. In fact, right now we’re nearing the end of a year-long trip around the world. We’re together almost every moment of every day and still find laughter. I knew he was the one for me because he’s a free spirit. We never worried what people would think about our lifestyle. As newlyweds, we didn’t want a baby so we adopted an 8-year-old. Then we decided to have a biological child. When she was 12, we got an RV and traveled the country for a year. We fixed up old houses before the term ‘flipping’ was popular, marketed a novelty computer key and sold 200,000 before websites were popular, had several jobs as brand ambassadors and, all in all, we still wanted to be near each other.” —Silvana Clark, married 39 years.
2. You have the same goals and values.
“Jack and I volunteered at an elementary school together while in college and he was so great with the kids. I found that very touching and knew he would make a great dad. He doesn’t fold the bath towels over the rod like I fold them, but that’s not important. Too many people expect perfection from their spouse, but people aren’t perfect. The fact that we wanted the same things out of life was the sign to me that we were meant to be.” —Nancy Hughes, married 41 years
3. You do little things to make each other happy.
“After almost half a century together, I would marry my husband all over again. From the few first dates when he’d only kiss me on the forehead, to his playing basketball and shooting pool to tide us over between military paydays, he’s always gone the extra mile for me and our family. He used to take me shopping and wait patiently while I tried on clothes; and even today, he buys lottery scratch-offs and hides them around the house for me to find. He knows how much pleasure I get in finding them, so he comes up with the most unusual places, like the toilet paper roll in the guest bathroom and in my lingerie drawer. After all these years, he still adores me and I adore him.” —Carol Gee, married 43 years
4. You accept the parts of each other that you can’t control.
“My husband and I came from polar opposite backgrounds. He was used to a ‘proper’ family, where members were not very involved with one another, while I came from a big, Italian family who were not at all shy about getting involved and giving opinions. He always accepted me with the baggage I came with. When I look at my husband today, I see the same guy I fell in love with 53 years ago.” —Elisa Sheronas, married 51 years
5. You’re each other’s biggest fan.
“My husband and I met, got engaged a week later, and were married in 10 months. I couldn’t believe such an amazing man was still single and knew instantly he was for me. I’ve always been in high-stress industries professionally and now own my own business. I’ve always known that no matter how tough things get or how much I question my path, my husband is always right there beside me. One of my favorite things he says to me is, ‘If you ever question how successful you’re going to be, look into my eyes, because I’ve never questioned it.’ He’s my rock and my support system.” —Cathy S. Tooley, married 31 years
6. You support each other’s crazy hobbies.
“When my wife and I got married, I was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. While my wife isn’t the adventurous type, she knew from the start that I was. Over the years, she’s supported me in some pretty wild activities—from a 30-day backpacking trip through western Europe to traveling through remote villages in Guyana, South America. She also supported me on trips I’ve gone on without her, like when my dad and I drove 3,700 miles from Florida to Costa Rica and when I traveled to Haiti after the earthquake. Because she understands and meets my needs, she’s absolutely the one for me.” —Monte Drenner, married for 34 years
7. You feel like you’ve known them forever.
“I was brought up to never talk to strangers and certainly not trust them enough to hop in a car with them, but the night I met my husband, that rule went out the window. My friend and I had just broken up with our boyfriends, so we went to a nearby bar to play shuffleboard. To reserve our spot, we had to put down quarters on the machine, but there was a group of men who put down quarters at the very same time. They were gentlemen and said we could go first. After the game, two of them bought us drinks and I ended up taking an interest in my now-husband. At the end of the night, he offered to drive me to pick my sister up at work. It didn’t even cross my mind to say no, even though I had just met him. I knew in my gut that he was no stranger, and that intuition was totally right.” —Patricia Kumor, married 31 years