Although some of their peers have traded in spouses and struggled to blend families, mortgaged themselves to divorce lawyers and haggled over who got the kids at Christmas, Joyce and Michael Steier of Bowie have lasted 30 years and raised four children.
"It's a whole mindset," said Joyce, 54, as she sat waiting for the ceremony to begin, Michael's arm around her. "You know that you're committed. Everybody has their ups and downs, but you know that you're going to stay together."
That same attitude has kept Betty and Ray Lankford, 81-year-olds who own a plumbing business on Solomons Island, going during their 62 years of marriage. (Her father predicted it wouldn't last.)
Their only fights, they said, were about the kids.
But they had 10 kids.
So, Ray said, they had an agreement. "Never go to bed mad and always kiss and make up," he said. "And when you get up in the morning, say, 'I love you.' "
Bent and gray-haired, their walkers stowed nearby, Silver Spring residents Edwin and Helen Johnsen gripped each other's hands for support as they faced each other.
Helen wept as Edwin repeated the words he had used in their small wedding ceremony in Savannah, Ga., in 1944, when she was a petite brunette in a white dress with gold trim and he was a young Army lieutenant about to ship off to the South Pacific.
"I, Edwin," he told Helen as she looked into his eyes and the years fell away, "take you to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health."
Then Edwin also began to cry. He patted his wet cheeks briefly and continued.
"I will love you and honor you," he said, "all the days of my life."
I know it made me sad because it reminds me of my grandparents. But it also made me think of my mom -- who has always claimed to be a firm believer in the "never go to bed mad" thing. I guess it works.
(And yes, this is exactly what I meant when I referred to my "gooey marshmallow center.")