The Truth About Jimmy And Rosalynn Carter's Decades-Long Love Story

Politics and romance are not typically two concepts one would expect to exist next to each other, but when better to tell a tale of love and ambition than during this, the era of unprecedented times?

This modern tale of star-crossed lovers begins nearly a century ago — yes, that far back — in the small town of Plains, Georgia, where future President Jimmy Carter met and fell in love with Eleanor "Rosalynn" Carter (née Smith), his wife of 75 years and counting. The Carters' meet-cute feels like it's plucked from the pages of some sort of rom-com manual. Girl next door? You've got it. Whirlwind courtship? For sure. Fateful first kiss? Of course.

According to Biography, Jimmy Carter's mother, Lillian, was the first person in the Carter family to meet Rosalynn. Literally. Lillian, a local nurse, made the short commute next door to help neighbors Wilbur and Allie Smith deliver their first child, Rosalynn, into the world.

Although the two grew up next door to each other, it wasn't until almost 17 years later when Carter was home from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis that something would shift between the pair.

"She's the girl I want to marry."

"She's the girl I want to marry," Jimmy Carter proclaimed the night after his first date with Rosalynn Smith (via The White House). Despite having grown up next door to each other, it wasn't until one fateful day, when Carter saw Rosalynn walking down the street with her best friend, who happened to be Carter's younger sister Ruth, that he — on a whim — decided to ask her to the movies.

Truth be told, Carter had another date fall through that night, so Rosalynn was a backup plan of sorts. However, put this detail through the lens of enduring love, and it becomes a perfectly serendipitous twist, sealing the fate of our two protagonists.

After the movies, Jimmy and Rosalynn shared their first kiss and he immediately knew she was going to be his wife one day. In fact, Carter was so certain that Rosalynn was his soulmate, that he proposed that very same year, according to Biography. After rejecting his first proposal in order to finish school, Rosalynn could no longer deny their chemistry and eventually agreed that, yes, they should get married. On a warm Sunday in July 1946, the two said their "I dos" at the Plains Methodist Church, clutching hands in the same town that raised and introduced them.

This is where the Carters' love story diverges from the traditional, small-town cookie-cutter narrative.

Jimmy Carter's military career ends abruptly

While Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's early life as a married couple continued to drip of saccharine details fit for a Hollywood blockbuster, their marriage was not immune to difficulty. After a blissful eight years filled with babies, exciting deployments, and career ascents, Jimmy Carter's military career abruptly ended after his father died of cancer.

Carter immediately resigned from the Navy in order to return home and run the family's peanut business. For the first time in their marriage, Rosalynn was not on board with his plans. What followed was an admittedly rocky period in the Carters' life. To Rosalynn, it felt like she was moving back in time, to a town that harbored memories of a difficult childhood.

However, Rosalynn dutifully followed her husband, and the two worked through the rocky period — even banding together to stand up against a racist group of farmers calling out Carter for refusing to maintain the segregated status quo of the South, per the Miller Center

All hail the longest-married presidential couple

It is Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter's dedication to family, their strong moral compass, and commitment to combatting racist institutions that eventually resulted in this underdog couple — let's face it, running for President is a family effort — to win the 1976 presidential election. While Former President Carter only served one term in office, he made sure to make it a productive one at that; publicly advocating for civil rights, consistently shirking the status quo, and sharpening a previously blurry focus on human rights when drafting American foreign policy. 

Quite possibly, the most impressive title the Carters have earned is "longest-married presidential couple." With more than three-quarters of a century under their joint belt, the duo has beat themselves the past three years in a row for that elusive title. If you're looking for the secret to fostering a decades-long marriage, Former President Carter shared his advice in Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue's book (via People), "What Makes a Marriage Last." According to Carter himself, the key to a happy relationship is to "give each other plenty of space."