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Jimmy Carter: Being married for 75 years is 'an extraordinary thing' — here are his secrets for a successful relationship

Photograph of President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter dancing at a White House Congressional Ball. Photographed by Marion S. Trikosko. Dated 1977. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Universal History Archive | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Former president Jimmy Carter, 96, has said that his marriage to Rosalynn Carter, 93, is "the most important thing in my life."

The couple, who married in 1946 a month after Carter graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, celebrates 75 years of marriage on Wednesday, making them the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history.

The oldest-living American president said there are only two secrets to a long and successful marriage: "First of all, choose the right person to marry," Carter told ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday. "And every night, we try to make sure we're completely reconciled from all the arguments during the day."

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Former President Jimmy Carter (L) and wife Rosalynn Carter arrive at the 2015 MusiCares Person of The Year honoring Bob Dylan at Los Angeles Convention Center on February 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin | FilmMagic | Getty Images

Beyond that, Carter said he's learned that it's important to spend time together as a couple but also "give each other plenty of space to do our own thing." The pair enjoys fly fishing, bird watching and going to church together, they said. They also have a routine of reading the Bible together every night before bed.

Rosalynn Carter described their relationship as a "partnership," in an interview with the Associated Press on July 4. When the couple worked in the farm supply business together, "I knew more on paper about the business than he did," Rosalynn said. "He would take my advice about things."

Time — and being at home together in Plains, Georgia during the coronavirus — has only strengthened the Carters' relationship. "For 75 years of marriage we've always gone deeper in our love for one another," the 39th president told "GMA." "I think that's a kind of extraordinary thing. Doesn't happen to very many couples, but it certainly happened to us."

Other high-achieving people in lasting relationships have a similar view as the Carters that your marriage has a significant effect on happiness and success.

Eighty-nine-year-old billionaire Warren Buffett, for example, believes marrying the right person "will make more difference in your life," he said at the 2009 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. "It will change your aspirations, all kinds of things," he said. (Buffett has been married to Astrid Menks since 2006. His first wife, Susan, died in 2004.)

Science also suggests that these couples might be onto something: Research out of Harvard has shown that relationships enhance people's wellbeing and boost longevity by buffering some of the effects of aging.

"It's hard to live until you're 95 years old," Carter told People magazine in 2019. But having a supportive spouse certainly helps, he said. "I think the best explanation for that is to marry the best spouse: someone who will take care of you and engage and do things to challenge you and keep you alive and interested in life," he said.

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