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Jim Cuddy and Rena Polley.

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Forty years ago this month, Rena Polley and Jim Cuddy had their first date (breakfast) at a diner in Kingston. They say the secret to long-term love is an equal partnership and romantic gestures big and small.

Who: Jim Cuddy, musician, Blue Rodeo and the Jim Cuddy Band. Rena Polley, actor, founder of theatre company The Chekhov Collective

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Location: Toronto

Relationship status: Married since 1984

The girl at the track

Rena: We met while we were both students at Queen's. I had a roommate who was always setting me up and one day, she brought me along to meet Jim, who was friends with her boyfriend. They were playing guitar. I remember thinking – what am I doing here? And I left.

Jim: I had no idea it was a setup! About a month later, I was running on the track and I saw Rena. She had this huge head of curly hair and when she smiled I was just taken aback. I called around to find out who she was. We had our first date at Morrison's diner on a Saturday morning because it was reading week and she was going back to Toronto.

Rena: We were so earnest. I think we talked about the existence of God, art, life. I remember thinking the conversation was interesting, but not exactly intimate.

Jim: I remember thinking – that was exhausting!

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Leave the Rodeo at the door

Jim: When we first got together, we were both aspiring artists, me with music and she pursuing acting. Neither of us expected that my career would take off and when it did, that was great, but it put stress on our relationship. I was away all the time and Rena was left having to keep our life together.

Rena: People ask about our "secret." I think for us it's that when the challenges come, you reinvest in the relationship. One thing we decided is that we wanted our house to be a neutral zone.

Jim: And that was smart. I know guys whose homes are like a monument to their careers – and it's like do two people live here? I never minded. I needed a break from my career, too.

The party's about to begin

Rena: Jim is the romantic one. On our 10th anniversary, he showed up at my work with 10 red roses. I said, "What are you doing here? I'm in rehearsal!" He had called to get me the day off and rented this little red car –

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Jim: I think it was a blue Miata. It's true, I am more attuned to the high holidays, but Rena has kept our relationship going. She has made sure that we have time as a family and time just the two of us. And her smile still kills me.

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