What they say about their own marriages' ability to endure:
Francine Klagsbrun (who declines to give her age -- "It's my one area of vanity"), and her psychiatrist-husband Sam married 30 years ago while both were still in college. They have a daughter. She supported him through medical school:
"Those early years were very hard. I was always an A-plus student. He was struggling. He showed great determination but it was hard for him. The problem had to do with how I saw him. It would have been easier for me to go to medical school than for him. We had a lot of battles about it. But he has a kind of calm confidence about him . . . He is always creative about what he does. Me, I'm always unsure, questioning myself . . .
"Another difficult time came -- it's very typical, just ask any one who's been in medical school -- when he finished, and the world was open to him, and here was his wife who had supported him . . . The way I handled it was I just sort of sat tight . . . Then he consciously made the decision that yes, this is the person I want to be doing this with."
There were other crises: a serious illness, difficulty in conceiving a child.
"I think what happens is you choose again and again to stay married. I think this is true of all marriages. There are things that come up . . . but the underlying assumption is that you will get through it."
Family therapist and Episcopal clergyman William Baxter, 61, has been married 39 years to his wife, Jean. They have 4 grown children:
"We've had very painful differences. We've both undergone a lot of changes. Sometimes our marriage has been in such a state that the only thing that held it together was that we had a history together neither one of us wanted to give up. We had shared rituals. It was inconceivable that one of us would have Christmas with the children and the other have Thanksgiving.
"To me, the idea of marrying the girl next door with similar tastes and similar views increases the possibility of great boredom . . . We share a lot of things together, but we operate quite differently. She's a historian, finishing her doctorate at age 60. I'm continually being educated by her, sometimes reluctantly, because I'm enough of an egotist to think I'm the the only one who can be a teacher . . ."
How does he explain the duration of his marriage?
"How we find each other again when we're alienated is sometimes a mystery to me. It's just that we need each other, and nobody else is as interesting."
San Diego sociologists Robert and Jeanette Lauer (he's 51, she's 49) have been married 30 years. They have three grown children. Says Robert:
"We've both changed a great deal . . . in ways that have made us more, rather than less, compatible . . .
"Everybody goes through rough periods. That's one of the things people need to recognize, though I can't say there was ever one so rough we doubted we would stay together."
What in particular has held them together?
"I would say basically the kinds of things we reported in the Psychology Today article. From my point of view, when I think about her, I greatly admire the kind of person she is. I enjoy being with her . . . Over and above that, there's still the same passion for each other that's always existed."