Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher have had what may very well be the best reason to be on the books at Guinness World Records: The North Carolina couple went down in history for having the longest marriage. For 86 years, 9 months, and 16 days. That’s eighty and a six. Years. That’s a lot of laundry, dinners, dishes, and—goodness gracious—bills. A lot of learning how to kiss and make up and enjoy each other and be a partner. Granted, they got hitched back in 1924, when folks stayed together out of a sense of duty as much as they did for love. But what an inspiration, particularly because there are more folks treating divorce as flippantly as a high school breakup than there should be.
Mr. Fisher passed away in February at a remarkable 104 years old, leaving his 101-year-old wife for the first time in almost nine decades. But the precious pair with the priceless story shared some relationship advice for their admirers and marathon marriage wannabes to mill over. On Valentine’s Day a few years ago, they took to their Twitter page (yes, they have a Twitter page) to share their secret for building a long marriage.
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The secret is there is none, according to them. No a-ha discovery. You just have to be invested in it and make it work the way you need to make it work. Here’s a little of what they said:
What made you realize that you could spend the rest of your lives together? Were you scared at all?
H&Z: With each day that passed, our relationship was more solid and secure. Divorce was NEVER an option—or even a thought.
What is your advice to someone who is trying to keep the faith that Mr. Right is really out there?
Zelmyra: Mine was just around the corner! He is never too far away, so keep the faith—when you meet him, you’ll know.
What are the most important attributes of a good spouse?
Zelmyra: A hard worker & good provider. The 1920s were hard, but Herbert wanted & provided the best for us. I married a good man!
At the end of bad relationship day, what is the most important thing to remind yourselves?
H&Z: Remember marriage is not a contest—never keep a score. God has put the two of you together on the same team to win.
Does communicating get easier with time? How do you keep your patience?
H&Z: The children are grown, so we talk more now. We can enjoy our time on the porch or our rocking chairs together.
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But above all else, they said, you have to be willing to stick it out. Well, that’s obvious. I’m pretty sure Mr. Herbert plucked Ms. Zelmyra’s nerves somewhere along the line just as much as I’m certain that Ms. Zelmyra rubbed Mr. Herbert the wrong way in 86 years. That’s a mighty long time to know a person, much less to grow and cohabitate with them. But 5 kids, 10 grandkids, 9 great-grands, and one great-great grand later, they made it work and stick. That’s the program I’m trying to be on. So along with my grandparents, Wayman and Mildred Harris, my pastors, Revs. Harold and Kellie Hayes, and Cliff and Claire Huxtable, I’m adding the Fishers to my inspiration list.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how different couples operate their love, how they make it last, how they grow together, even through life’s changes and challenges. Last year, I interviewed Niecey Nash (who is cute as a button, by the way) before she strolled down the aisle, and she had one of the best pre-nuptial ideas I’ve ever heard. Instead of having the standard bachelor/bachelorette shindigs—and probably all of the drama that goes along with them—she and her fiancé decided to host a dinner party with couples who had been married 20, 30, 40 years.
I let her know, at the end of our conversation, that I would be stealing that idea when it comes time for me to be a bride. I’m willing to sit at the feet of any older person. They’re so full of hard-earned wisdom, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
Which couples in your life give you relationship inspiration?