Sarah Feist
Rochelle Williams and her husband, Dana Orf, have built their own model of enduring love. After meeting online, the couple lived in Los Angeles before settling in Orf's native North Dakota. (DeAnne Billings)

Part of a healthy relationship is taking time to get away, dance, laugh and be silly. Rochelle Williams and Dana Orf love practicing what they preach. (DeAnne Billings)

There is no perfect man. And it's hard to believe, but we ladies aren't (always) perfect either. Falling in love can be easy, but maintaining a healthy marriage and following through on the promise to love, honor and cherish through good times and in bad, for richer or for poorer and in sickness and in health takes work and proper maintenance.

Rochelle Williams and her husband, Dana Orf, have been blessed with a 15 year relationship that has weathered online dating, moving thousands of miles, three cancer challenges and simple everyday struggles. Rochelle and Dana's story began with "meeting" online in 1999. Since then they have transitioned through face-to-face dating, living together in Los Angeles and finally moving back to North Dakota, where Dana is originally from, to settle in Bismarck.

This couple isn't afraid to have fun and incorporate travel and activities into their relationship. They love to dance, attend music and comedy shows, go on weekend roadtrips, visit festivals and eat way too much good food. Williams notes, "It's important to make the time for adventures. Once we flew into Albuquerque, flipped a coin to determine our destination and spent a week driving through New Mexico."

While these adventures keep married life feeling fresh, real life happens and things do get tough. When the couple was faced with multiple cancer/health struggles, they learned together how to continually support each other.

"Catastrophic illnesses put you on an emotional rollercoaster, and then there's the reality of ongoing financial obligations and responsibilities of just plain living," Williams says. "We gave each other a lot of room to be frustrated with our respective illnesses and love each other through it."

Professionally Williams is an employment training coordinator for Experience Works, and she has been a member of Bismarck Toastmasters since 2007. After her recent appearance at the Women's Health Conference in Bismarck, Be Magazine sat down with Williams to collect her tips for establishing enduring love and building a strong relationship.

1. Dana and I agree the three most important components of a strong marriage (ours and those we've observed and respect) are communication, respect and trust. We agree that a lasting love evolves from those three.

2. It's amazing what marriage can endure. When you're with the right person, it's incredible the things you can survive. Not only do you survive, but the love between you gets to a place you wouldn't have experienced otherwise.

3. We got married the week before I turned 40, proving that love can be an unexpected surprise and come from out of the blue any time in life. The key is being ready and open for it when it comes -- an individual has to be in a good emotional place, happy with herself and her own life first!

4. It's unrealistic for there not to be any conflict in marriage. Trust yourself to be able to tell your spouse what you need. Our motto is "everything begins and ends with love." In other words, no matter where the conversation goes, we start out knowing that we love each other and end with that same thought.

5. Marriage is work, but it's like anything else: If you do proper maintenance, you're less likely to have problems. Pay attention to the people, situations and issues that can damage your relationship.

6. Marriage is a living, breathing thing that changes over time. Through the last 15 years we've learned that love has to hold up to the unknown. Sometimes you get tested in ways you never saw coming, but you look at your partner and say "Are you ready? Let's do this!" There will be times when one of you has to pick up a lot of slack.

7. When we've had to have difficult conversations, we start with the understanding that when it's over we're still going to love each other. Having that mindset requires you go into the discussion respecting your partner, choosing your words carefully and for clarity, and working toward what is best for you as a couple. It's no time to be petty, prideful or petulant. It's not a time to bring up every irritating habit or something from the past you just can't let go of. You, your partner and your marriage require better.

8. Make time to get away. Dance! Laugh! Get silly!

9. Protect your marriage from all intruders.

10. Having a man cave helps!

Note: Williams notes these responses and tips have been "husband approved."

Sarah Feist is a lifelong North Dakotan who lives in Hazen. She blogs about her passion for food, travel, exercise and more at