By Melissa Locker
April 21, 2019
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Credit: aldomurillo/Getty Images

As any single person will tell you, finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is hard. However, as any married man or woman will tell you, maintaining a happy marriage can be pretty hard, too.

A few years ago, ABC News asked a group of couples to share their secrets for a long and happy marriage. They were all in a good position to know, because each of the couples had been in mostly blissful wedlock for over 50 years. Another thing about the couples? They all had strong ties to the South and while that's not necessarily the reason for their happy lives, it certainly can't hurt.

ABC News's panel of relationship experts included Sammy and Macie Waller, who spent 75 years together after they met as teenagers who lived on the same street in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Frank and Thelma Hoffman of Savannah, Georgia spent 67 years together. James and Virginia Wilson of Orlando, Florida were married 63 years and John and Betty Mattocks spent 51 years together after meeting at college in Salisbury, North Carolina. The couples shared their 256 years (!!) of collective knowledge with ABC, passing along the pointers that helped them through the rough spots, what kept them together for so many years, and offering advice to younger couples looking for the same success in their own married lives.

Here are the secrets that they've learned over their many years together:

  • Don't sweat the small stuff. "Try not to stay angry over little things," said Betty Mattocks.
  • Communicate with each other. "Try to understand each other," said Virginia Wilson.
  • Talk through issues that arise. "Just talk it over and straighten it out," said Macie Waller.
  • Be patient. "[The secret is] a lot of patience, and knowing what's important in life," says Thelma Hoffman.
  • Remember that your wedding vows are a promise. "Understand the sincerity of marriage," says Macie Waller. "It's important to remember the vows you said when you got married ... and go back to them."
  • Choose someone who has the same interests as you. "Your relationship should be one that you like to do the same things or you think about doing the same things," said Frank Hoffman.
  • Trust each other. "Trust in the Lord and trust each other," said James Wilson.
  • Have a sense of humor. "[Try] not [to] take things too seriously," said Betty Mattocks.
  • Empathize with your partner. "Try to feel the way the other person is feeling," says Betty Mattocks
  • Love one another.  "Love and a wonderful companionship. That's the great secret," says Frank Hoffman

WATCH: Marriage Advice From Couples Who Know

What is your secret to a happy, healthy relationship? Did your mother or grandmother share her advice with you before you got hitched? If so, tell us your top relationship tips and we may feature your story in a future article.