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What is the Secret to a Wonderful Marriage?

(ARA) - What is the secret to a wonderful marriage? "If more people knew the answer the divorce rate in this country wouldn't be so high," says Gerry Leeds, 85, of Long Island, N.Y.

At a time when statistically, between 40 and 45 percent of U.S. marriages end in divorce, Gerry and his bride, 80-year-old Lilo, have been happily married for 58 years. "People often ask us what the secret to our success is and I tell them it's simple really. The secret lies in the long lost principles of love and respect."

Gerry and Lilo met quite by chance back in 1950 at a ski lodge in the Adirondacks. "I was there with another date when I saw a pretty girl sitting on the floor playing an obscure European game I knew with another boy," explains Gerry. "She said, 'Do you know how to play?' I said, 'Sure!' She won the game, but I won in the long run."

After that chance encounter at the Speculator Ski Lodge, Gerry couldn't stop thinking about Lilo. "We had so much in common, I knew she was the one for me, and that we had to be together," says Gerry. It took him six weeks to track her down again and, you could say, the rest is history. They were married a short time later.

Gerry and Lilo raised five children together, and now have 15 grandchildren. "Like any other couple, we've had plenty of squabbles over the years, but unlike most, we always kiss and make up before going to bed. That's our golden rule," laughs Gerry.

Over the years, they've been asked for advice on how to build a marriage that, like theirs, will stand the test of time so many times that they recently decided to write a book on the subject. "Wonderful Marriage, A Guide to Building a Great Relationship that Will Last a Lifetime (BenBella Books) hit store shelves on April 1, 2008, the date of their 58th wedding anniversary.

The book is divided into three sections, each offering great advice to people in the various stages of a relationship: looking for love, starting a great relationship and building a joyful life together.

"No matter what stage of the game you're in, it's imperative that you have a lot in common with your significant other if you want the relationship to grow," explains Gerry. When he and Lilo first met, both enjoyed skiing, and had similar beliefs about what Gerry calls "The Big Six."

1. Religion: You have to agree on and feel comfortable with what role religion plays in your lives.

2. Money: You have to share common views on money -- how you'll earn it, save it and spend it.

3. Sex: You both have to enjoy sex together and feel that sex between you is important and great -- and be willing to make it even better.

4. Children: You need to agree on whether you plan to have children, when, how many, how and where you plan to raise them, and what to do if you can't have them.

5. Recreational activities: You have to share ideas about how you will spend your time together -- what recreational activities you both enjoy -- and how you'll sometimes spend your time on your own.

6. Unacceptable behavior: You have to be totally comfortable with each other's behavior and agree on what is acceptable -- and what is not."

"If I had to add a 7th rule," says Gerry, "It would be: Don't settle for a relationship that isn't great. Before you get married, make sure the person you are pledging to spend the rest of your life with is definitely the one for you."

"You know you have a great marriage when 10, 20, 30, even 58 years down the road, you can still say to each other, 'I'm glad you married me,'" adds Lilo.

"Wonderful Marriage, A Guide to Building a Great Relationship that Will Last a Lifetime" is available in bookstores everywhere, through online retailers or on the publisher's Web site:

Courtesy of ARAcontent