Carol Coonrod, 67, Washington DC

Someone once told Carol that being in love is a choice. She was skeptical at first, but her 26-year marriage to John has taught her that love really is more choice than chance. It’s a fire you light daily.

“I choose John everyday,” she says. “It can get old or stale, but if you choose the person over and over, you choose them as they are. You choose to love them with their shortcomings. And there’s a wonderfulness about that.”

When they met in 1985, she’d been married once, and he’d been married twice. She was 39, and he was 34. But there was no room for cynicism. They were active people with full lives and a wry but compassionate sense of humor. And both were devoted to a shared cause — ending world hunger through the nonprofit where they were worked.

Their courtship was straightforward: After the final event in a grueling schedule of staging 19 events in 11 days for a book launch, Carol and John “we went out drinking margaritas and fell into bed together.” They’ve never looked back.

Throughout their relationship, work has dominated their life — and that’s been a good thing. Their shared commitment to end hunger unites them in shared values; it also helps put marital disputes into perspective. 

“Issues between us always looked petty compared to the real issues,” she says. “How can you be petty about him leaving his socks out when you’re busy ending hunger? We just never had the energy.”

She adds, “I treasure the fact that we have a partnership. I’m committed to him with my life, and he knows that. I miss him when I’m not with him. But I celebrate the times when I’m not with him because I have time to myself, which I treasure also.”