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The secret to happy marriage, told by couples married a combined 609 years

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...

Photographer captures the true meaning of marriage with photo series

Photographer Stephanie Jarstad has always been in love with love.

"My mother recalls that even as a small child, I would ask her multiple times to share stories of how she met my father and about their wedding," the Seattle-based artist tells SheKnows.

More: Heartbreak inspires baker's brilliant photo series

But society — especially millennials — have largely grown apprehensive about marriage, given the high divorce rates. So, Jarstad documented the lives and marriages of different couples married for as little as 23 years, to over 70.

"I believe the world needs strong, healthy marriages and families. I felt called to use photography as a vehicle to document these strong couples," she adds. Don't assume it's all romance and wine, though. "Throughout this project, I've realized how a relationship begins is far less important than how it endures. Some couples knew they found 'the one' in an instant, others struggled and toiled, and some didn't like each other at all in the beginning."

More: 17 pictures of couples in love that prove it doesn't discriminate

Take Robert and Patricia. Sparks didn't exactly fly when they first met. "We met on a blind date. My niece set us up and we went to Chuck-a-rama. She didn’t like me at all and I didn’t like her dog," Robert said.

Photographer captures the true meaning of marriage with photo series
Image: Stephanie Jarstad Photography

Then there was family influence that factored into marriage decisions.

"My family worried about Steve being from a broken home and tried to talk me out of marrying him," Cheryl said of first meeting her husband of 49 years. Having a very difficult time making decisions for myself, I let my mother influence all of them. I prayed about marrying him and my answer was like lightning. So, he drove all the way out to Utah from California and we decided to elope that Friday!"

Photographer captures the true meaning of marriage with photo series
Image: Stephanie Jarstad Photography

And, of course, there are some good, old-fashioned love stories.

"We met when I was working at a women’s dress shop in California, and he was working next door at a men’s clothing store," said Norma of her husband of 57 years, Andrew. Every morning we’d both go out to sweep the sidewalk. One day our brooms met. Day after day, we fell in love on that sidewalk in front of those stores. He swept me off my feet!"

Photographer captures the true meaning of marriage with photo series
Image: Stephanie Jarstad Photography

If these couples don't make you realize that true love can endure, then nothing will.

More: Woman uses Facebook to track down the owner of lost wedding photos

"Hollywood provides countless stories of effortless passion and falling in love," adds Jarstad. "Romance need not be effortless. In the end the effort and grit is what endures. These couples also retained a gleam in their eye when they talk about their partner and how they met. May we all roll up our sleeves and work hard to polish and preserve our love stories."

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