Former president Jimmy Carter was on break from the U.S. Naval Academy and home in Plains, Georgia, when he first met Eleanor Rosalynn Smith. He asked her out to the movies and, after just one date, knew he was going to marry her.
Carter graduated from the academy in June 1946 and married Rosalynn a month later, on July 7.
The couple has been together ever since and recently celebrated their 73rd anniversary.
The key to their happy marriage of more than seven decades boils down to "a couple of rules that we follow," Carter, 94, told Bill and Melinda Gates.
For starters, "we give each other plenty of space. She has a lot of interests that I don't share," and, vice versa, "I have a lot of interests that she doesn't share," said Carter. He spends his mornings in his study or swimming, while Rosalynn, 91, prefers tai chi and meditation.
"We get together whenever we can," he added. They often cook side by side and enjoy watching their home baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, play.
Secondly, the Carters never go to sleep angry. This is a rule that "we follow pretty meticulously, sometimes with great difficulty," said Carter. "We have 21 grandchildren and four children so we have a lot of arguments about our family. But we try to get over that argument before we go to sleep."
Who you choose to marry may be one of the most important decisions of your life. Billionaire Warren Buffett even says it's the most important choice you'll make because "you want to associate with people who are the kind of person you'd like to be. ... And the most important person by far in that respect is your spouse. I can't overemphasize how important that is."
Melinda Gates, who runs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband, agrees. "If you choose to have a partner in life, whoever you choose is probably the most important decision you make," she says. It's "even more important than what career you have, where you go to college, where you go to high school."
That said, if you don't make the right choice initially, don't panic. "You can have a do-over. People do have a do-over with partners in life, but it's easier to have a do-over in your job and to change careers a lot than it is to change partners," Gates says. "So I say, try to pick very carefully and wisely."
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