It’s February, and that means love is in the air. If you’re married, used to be married or are in a long-term relationship, you know how hard (and what a blessing) it can be. It’s not as simple as cupid shooting an arrow into your heart as Valentine’s Day may lead some to believe. Or is it?!

To honor one of life’s greatest mysteries and blessings I interviewed three married couples seeking their definition of love. Of the three couples; one is newlywed, one has been together more than 20 years, and one is celebrating 50 years together. These are the experts when it comes to commitment, romance and making it work. I presented them all with similar questions and enjoyed comparing their answers taking into account how long they’ve been married.


Our newlyweds are Corey and Callie Parks are in their mid-20s. They’ve been married two years. They have two dogs. Both are working on advancing their careers and/or finishing graduate degrees. 


Best piece of advice you got on your wedding day? Has it helped?

Corey & Callie: Give 100-percent even when your spouse isn’t able to; and continue dating throughout your marriage.


How do you like to spend Valentine’s Day?

Corey: I usually surprise Callie early in the morning with breakfast, flowers and gifts or a card. Then we have a nice dinner that night. It’s one of our favorite holidays; so I try to ensure she feels loved and appreciated. 


What’s the most romantic thing your spouse has done for you?

Corey & Callie: Neither of us is the Hollywood romantic type at all. Our primary love languages are words of affirmation and acts of service. That means it’s usually actions or what we say to each other that we find more romantic. 


When you hit a “rough spot” or disagreement, what’s the best way to work through it?

Corey & Callie: Put yourself in your spouse’s position and try to understand why they are feeling a particular way about something. Let your guard down and have honest conversations. Don’t get defensive. Be willing to admit you’re wrong and apologize. 


How do you define “love?”

Corey & Callie: Love is wholeheartedly going through life with your person. Be willing to celebrate the good time and face any challenges together.


How do you carve out time for just the two of you?

Corey & Callie: It’s a challenge as we work and attend school. We have a no phone rule during our time together and really strive to be in the moment and enjoy each other’s company.

Is marriage exactly what you thought it would be?

Corey & Callie: Marriage is an aspect of life where it’s hard to understand until you’ve been there. Books, movies, relatives, friends all try to describe how it should be but every relationship is different. For us, it has been finding the person you want to do life with. Develop our system as a team, challenge each other to be their best as an individual and as a couple, working through the hard times, laughing in the good times, and unconditionally loving each other through it all.


What do you like to do together in your free time?

Corey & Callie: Cheer on the University of Central Arkansas Bears football team, walk the dogs, read books, binge-watch Netflix, have a Redbox double feature with candy and popcorn, or a date night out with friends.


What plans do you have for the years to come for your marriage?

Corey & Callie: We’ll check off some professional and personal goals, go on a vacation or two, and hopefully add a baby to our family.


Where would you eat and what would you do for a favorite date night in Central AR?

Corey & Callie: Pasta Grill or Wunderhaus, followed by bowling and a movie.


Tiffny and Brian Stewart have been married 25 years. They both are in their 40s. They have four beautiful children ranging in age from 6 to 14. The Stewarts have spoken on marriage panels at their church and recently took an incredible anniversary trip to Bolivia. 


Best piece of advice on how 

to make a marriage last?

Tiffny & Brian: A full-size bed! It’s small enough that we can’t go to bed angry! 


How do you like to 

spend Valentine’s Day?

Tiffny: We have a scavenger hunt with our kids. Brian doesn’t like the materialism of Valentine’s Day so he usually buys me flowers on another day in February. 

Brian: We usually have a nice dinner but I refuse to send flowers on that day. I send them earlier and sometimes after as well. The hype drives me crazy!!


What’s the most romantic thing your spouse has done for you?

Tiffny: Brian writes me beautiful poetry. I have a journal full of his writings. 

Brian: It’s not one thing, but it’s the gifts she buys me. She puts so much thought into any gifts she gets me and is always getting me something awesome!


When you hit a “rough spot” or disagreement; what’s the best way to work through it?

Tiffny: When you are able: listen, discuss and forgive quickly. Laughter helps, too.

Brian: Knowing how the other person needs to process what’s going on – Tiff needs time to think and not be pressured to have resolution now.


How do you define “love?”

Tiffny: Commitment for the long haul!

Brian: Putting the needs and wants of someone else ahead of your own. 


How do you carve out time for just the two of you?

Tiffny & Brian: We try to find time to sneak away for lunch when I’m home in my office, have a date night, or “ride the tractor” (just talk about whatever is on your mind) whenever we can. 


How do you keep the romance alive years into marriage?

Tiffny: It’s important to remember what attracted you to your spouse. We like to go away alone together once a year to have time to reconnect.

Brian: It’s making sure you do the little things that lets your spouse know you are thinking about them. It can be a quick text, a note, holding the door open, or saving the tiny, crispy French fries at the bottom of the bag.


What do you like to do together in your free time?

Tiffny & Brian: Travel, hike, camp, spend time with friends and family, eat great food and drink great wine. Just hanging out and talking. 


How has your marriage evolved or changed over the years?

Tiffny : We are very comfortable with each other after being together almost 32 years. We have been through many seasons together; some tougher than others. We know that we are dedicated to Team Stewart. 

Brian: I think the longer we are married, the more we continue to appreciate the work and commitment that it takes. I don’t think any of us realize that in the beginning. 


What plans do you have for the years to come for your marriage?

Tiffny & Brian: Enjoy our children while they’re still at home and travel. We can’t wait to watch the kids grow up, graduate, go to college, and see where life takes them. 


Where would you eat/what would you do on your favorite date night in Central AR?

Tiffny & Brian: I prefer a lunch date while the kids are in school. It would be a meal at Wunderhaus, a glass of wine and a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie for dessert. 


Jim and Carolyn Dunbar (my parents!) are celebrating 50 years together this year. That’s a HUGE accomplishment and I could not be more proud of them. They met in elementary school, which I always thought was precious. My dad talks about how important it is to know each other’s families, and how having families with many things in common is helpful. I credit our family’s successes and blessings to my parent’s long-term marriage and faith in God that they passed to my brother and me. I believe long- term marriage is an incredible gift to pass to your children. 

How old were you when you got married? 

Jim & Carolyn: We were 21 years old.


Best piece of advice on how to make a marriage last?

Carolyn: Put the other person first and always be trustworthy and honest.

Jim: Know the person you are marrying and know their family. Communicate to your spouse and be honest and trustworthy. Apologize when you are wrong. Count to 10 before blaming your spouse for something.  


How do you like to spend Valentine’s Day?

Carolyn: We have spent many Valentine’s Days apart due to Jim’s work travels so any Valentine’s Day we spend together is special. 

 Jim: Dinner and a movie.


What’s the most romantic thing your spouse has done for you?

Carolyn: There is nothing better than hearing ‘I love you.’ 

 Jim: Marry me.


When you hit a “rough spot” or disagreement, what’s the best way to work through it?

Carolyn: Open communication is important. When that is immediately difficult, take time for each to consider the issue at hand and discuss later. To paraphrase James 1:19, “be quick to listen but slow to speak and anger.” Forgiveness is so important. 

 Jim: Stop, take a breath, and let things cool off. You don’t need to have the last word. Apologize if you are wrong. If your spouse doesn’t apologize just go on. It’s just a bump in the road.


How do you define “love?”

Carolyn: Love is caring for someone so much that you put their needs before your own. Along with that comes trust, honesty, kindness, patience and joyful laughter. 

 Jim: Early in our marriage love was a passionate marriage. Over time love becomes deep love – a caring love for one of the most precious things in your life.


How has your marriage evolved over the years?

Jim & Carolyn: It’s evolved into a trusting, caring, honest relationship that continues to grow with experiences.


What do you like to do together in your free time?

Jim & Carolyn: Spending time with family and friends, and having grandkids is the icing on the cake. We enjoy going to Starbucks, movies and dinner.


What do you attribute your long lasting marriage to?

Carolyn:  We have strived to have a Christ-centered home filled with family always making new memories. 

Jim: A patient and understanding spouse. A strong spouse that could be alone as I traveled; and could travel alone to see her family when they were ill and I was traveling for work.


What plans do you have for the years to come for your marriage?

Jim & Carolyn: We hope to continue an active lifestyle with family and friends, sprinkled with travel. Next up is a Danube River cruise. 


Where would you eat and what would you do on your favorite date night in Central Arkansas?

Jim & Carolyn: We always enjoy eating locally at Mike’s Place, where the staff feels like family. From there we might attend a UCA Reynolds program or a movie.


I love that each couple has found what works for them and what maintains their marriage. So as love is in the air this month, or if Cupid shoots an arrow through your heart, remember if you put the other person first you will be truly blessed in return.