Throughout our search for America’s greatest marriages, the record for the longest interview Jason (my best friend since third grade) and I have done goes to Ruth and Eddie Elcott, a feisty and vibrant couple married 62 years.

Three hours into the interview, I wanted to know the Holy Grail of marriage principles, the real juice that kept their marriage flourishing. I asked Ruth and Eddie, “In your opinion, what are the most important things to do or to practice in a marriage to keep it healthy.”

“Your top three,” Jason quickly added.

We leaned in, ready to soak up their secrets like a couple of sponges.

“I think Eddie brought that out very beautifully,” Ruth answered confidently.

“So you have commitment, that’s one,” I prompted, hoping to get a different response.

Then Ruth began counting on her fingers as she said, “And then you have commitment, and then you have commitment, and then you can think of the next thing.”

As Jason and I, two relationship clueless bachelors, traveled over 12,000 miles across the country, interviewing couples happily married over 40 years in search of their secrets to lifelong love, virtually every couple we interviewed spoke about the power of commitment.

Half way through our tour I found myself frustrated. It wasn’t that I didn’t think they had the right answer (although to a Gen-X, single male the word “commitment” sounds like fingernails raking across a chalkboard). I knew great relationships took solid commitment, but it’s the how I wanted. How do these couples stay committed through the tough times? As we dug into the interviews, persistently asking how, couples consistently replied, “You just do it.” We heard “you just do it” so many times, I thought we should send the footage over to Nike and get a million dollar ad campaign going for a new line of geriatric jogging shoes. But finally the digging paid off when one couple described commitment as a mindset, a decision to love his partner even when he didn’t feel in love.

Wait. Wait. Wait a second…This was not good news for me. “There were times you didn’t feel in love anymore?!” I wanted to cry out. Their words ignited one of my biggest fears. I can’t imagine being stuck in lifeless, loveless marriage for the rest of my life. I’d been in relationships that had gone stale before and only one word summed it up—agony. I’d rather be tied down and eaten by hoards of South American fire ants before I’d live out the rest my days in a stiff, frigid marriage.

These couples explained that just like an ocean tide, marriages have an ebb and flow. Sometimes things are great, you feel connected and wrapped up in that magical feeling of love. That’s the flow (which I enjoy very much, by the way). But then other times the relationship will ebb. The connection isn’t as strong and the magic that once felt so intoxicating seems to be MIA. The phrase “Just do it” comes from a foundation of trust. These couples demonstrated that true commitment means trusting the marriage will get better—trusting the ebb will once again become the flow. Commitment means enduring the ebbs and having faith that the magic and the connection will be resurrected. The key, they explained, is making the decision to not give up when the marriage is ebbing.

I had believed that once the magic in the marriage faded, then it was all over—there was no chance of ever getting it back. I can’t say whether the decisions my parents, aunts and uncles made to divorce were right or wrong, but what I would have taken from these role models was this: an ebb in marriage is an end to marriage. I now know better.

One Marriage Master of 42 years named Greg explained how years before he had experienced a time when it seemed the passion was completely zapped from his relationship. He’d look at his wife and the void in his heart made him sick to his stomach. He had absolutely no feelings for her whatsoever. But instead of giving up, he waited. A few months went by and all of a sudden, “like a flower blossoming again, the feelings rushed back” and he fell in love with his wife again. He recalled thinking to himself, “How could I have ever wanted to leave this woman? I love her so much."

“I’m so glad that I didn’t throw in the towel too early, like so many people do, and lose the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

The Marriage Masters (couples happily married over 40 years) taught us the secret to bringing the flow back in a marriage, they taught us the secret to their commitment. They told us over and over again: “Just do it.” Well, here is what they “Just do.” The secret to bringing the flow back in a marriage is to act loving even if you don’t feel loving. Marriage Master David Epstein, married 50 years, says, “Love is not a feeling, it is decision you make every day. Feelings follow thoughts and behavior. If you act loving and give to your partner, then what follows is the feeling of the very love you are expressing.”

The Marriage Masters blew my old paradigm apart. They showed me that it’s possible to experience ebbs – lack of passion; bickering, turmoil -- and still return to love. All we have to do is commit.

Author's Bio: 

As a special gift for you, we'd like to share with you one of our favorite segments from our documentary film:
"Ruth and Eddie Elcott"

If you're like us, you'll fall in love with their relationship...and the wisdom they've gained from 63+ years of devoted marriage.

If you’re interested in this project be sure to watch the bachelors on the Today Show June 5th, as Jason and Mat talk about their new book: Project Everlasting: Two Bachelors Discover the Secrets of America’s Greatest Marriages. For more information go to: www.ProjectEverlasting.com