Some Secrets for Long Lasting Love
I am just returning from a European vacation with my wife, celebrating 40 years of love together. Wow! It is sometimes hard to believe how many years we have known each other. I consider myself fortunate. Diane and I get along with each other really well. After several weeks of travel, we feel even closer than in our everyday life. And, she isn’t even sick of me! (Or at least that is what she tells me..)
I think most everyone yearns for a life partner. Of course, when we first meet someone, fall in love, and make a commitment to each other (not always in the form of marriage) we are hoping and expecting that it will be for the long run. But, in modern life, we all know the facts. Marriage or commitment is not always forever. Close to 40% of marriages ends in divorce.
I am not sure that I know all the secrets to long-lived relationships. Some might even question whether long-term love is of value. Certainly, in many instances, second and third marriages may be far superior to first love.
Here are some of my thoughts on finding and keeping love.
Choose wisely. I think one of the reasons that second marriages are often better than first committed relationships is because we are simply older! As we age, we grow in maturity, experience, and judgment. And, we come to know ourselves better. When very young people (18-21 years old) form committed relationships, they are filled with confidence and clarity about what they want and who they are. But as we age, we have more doubt. This is good! It is important to question your judgment. Don’t always trust your “gut”—use your head!
Clarify your values. This can cover a lot of territory. What is truly important to you? --And to your potential partner? Joe has strong religious beliefs but his potential partner Mary spurns religion all together. This may not be a big problem today, but what about if and when kids make an appearance. For Sally, material possessions are very important. But her intended sees himself as a “hippy”. How is this going to work out? While opposite personalities are often attracted to each other, major value differences can be very challenging to reconcile.
I think one of the reasons that my wife and I have managed so well is that we are remarkably similar in our basic values, despite our vast personality differences.
Cultivate patience. This is very hard for me. It can be hard to be patient with your partner when you are tired, hungry, or stressed. It is easy to let your frustrations with your loved one turn into irritability and bad temper. On our recent long trip, I found myself on several occasions becoming impatient and irritated with Diane. In each instance, there was no good reason for my grumpy behavior. I guess I am still learning….
Nurture acceptance. This is central to long-lived relationships. We are attracted to an opposite personality, and then spend the next 20 years trying to get our partner to be like us. Let it go! If your partner wants to change, it has to come from them.
Know when to speak and know when to shut up. Now, we are getting into the nitty gritty! There is a fine balance between addressing important issues (usually about money, children, in-laws, sex, and housework) and letting something unimportant go. Sometimes we get stuck in the small spaces. It’s usually a mistake. Don’t let important issues go! But try to discern what is really important to you and what is petty. Sometimes is can be hard to tell.
Long lasting love takes work, work, and work. Love is easy. Conflict is not. It takes work to resolve conflict. The key element is not to give up! Keep trying! And then try some more!
Always take the high road. There is a high road and a low road in human intercourse. Play fair and don’t hit below the belt. Make a commitment to always take the high road even when you don’t want to. Sometimes, even when you have nurtured patience and acceptance and worked hard at resolving conflict, you realize that it is time to let go of your relationship. That is ok too. Life is for learning. Staying in a bad situation for too long is going to be bad for you.