What do you do when you think you’ve found “the one,” “the love of your life,” “your soul mate” and you want the relationship to last for the long term? What steps can you take to increase the likelihood that your love will stand the test of time? I asked some key questions to a couple who have been married for nearly 60 years and they had a lot of amazing advice and insights to share. We’ve summarized them for you, here.
Never go to bed angry.
Resolving any issue you may have between you is important. Don’t let it fester. If you need to talk about it more than once, do it so you can settle a problem and move on from it. Good communication is very important, so it’s necessary to listen to each other and always be willing to hear each other out.
Remember that your spouse is your best friend.
The reason many successful long-term relationships stand the test of time is that they are based on a foundation of friendship. Be an independent person, but also very dependent upon each other. This means you are two whole people when you come together, with your own interests, passions, and paths in life. But when it comes to everything else, it is you as a couple against the world. You need to depend upon each other to make it through and always be a team of two. Long-term relationships take work like anything else worth having. Solid, stable, and loving relationships don’t just happen. It takes two to make it work and it will take both of you working together consistently to make it last.
Think before you speak.
These means don’t say everything that comes to mind as soon as you think it, especially when you are upset or when emotions are running high. It takes time to develop this skill, but if you are able to take a beat before responding, your conversation will be a lot more productive and focused actually on the issue at hand and not just the feelings you feel. Along the same lines, you must be open and honest in your communication, but don’t be intentionally hurtful. This is suggesting that you should always try to “keep it real” with one another while at the same time attempting to avoid hurling verbal slings, arrows, and recriminations at each other, which aren’t productive and, in most cases, derail the conversation into unnecessary arguments.
Expect the spark to change over time.
In the beginning, it is a “hot” spark that attracts you. This changes as the comfort zone in your relationship deepens. The spark widens into much more in your relationship and it is important to remember where you were and where you are.
Communication really is key.
The wife in this nearly 60-year marriage said that couples must always be open about how they’re feeling and ways they’re changing in a long-term relationship.
“I was totally surprised when two couples, very good longtime friends who seemed to be fine on the outside, divorced after about 25 to 30 years of marriage. Our children were so shocked that one of them asked me if we were okay,” she said. “One couple had not communicated and listened to each other well. I think in both cases it was a matter of just growing apart because their interests grew apart, they were busy raising children, and they made no effort to work out the why and how they might recover the relationship. So, again, it goes back to good communication, listening to one another, and finding ways to enjoy each other. When children are involved it is easy to just constantly be involved in raising them. Remember your relationship. Remember while raising children to set aside time for yourselves. The children will be gone someday and you need that relationship to be strong as you become empty nesters.”
Respect and like each other, not just love.
The husband said that something that has helped them make it so long is that they genuinely appreciate one another.
“In addition to my love for her, I deeply admire and respect her. We seem to each have a role in the relationship, and I think we each respect the other when a decision is made by one of us,” he said. “I really don’t recall that we ever had a serious disagreement in our nearly 60 years of being married. Neither one of us likes to argue and we tend to avoid it at all costs. We have our discussions and debates, but not arguments. I think we just enjoy being with each other and generally like doing the same types of things. We have not spent much time apart in all these years, and I think we miss each other when separated for even a short time. We both really enjoy travel, the arts, good wine, and meeting with friends.”
For me, I have been in a long-term relationship for nearly 20 years and married for 16 of those years as of February. It hasn’t always been “easy.” But let’s be honest, no relationship is “easy” all the time. Nevertheless, it has always been worth it to do the work to keep our relationship on track and the spark of love alive and thriving. My husband and I had a conversation and came up with some great ways we think we make our relationship strong and are able to weather the storms that inevitably come in life. One way is to stay interested in one another. This doesn’t mean you need to like all the things they like or do all of the things they do. It means simply to remain interested in each other by actively listening, asking questions, being curious about each other’s interests, and paying attention. Another way is to stay intimate with one another. This doesn’t just mean sexual or physical attraction. It means, hug, kiss, hold hands, caress, cuddle, snuggle, shower together, lay hands on one another, give massages, among other things that show you care. A third way and one my relationship gurus have already mentioned several times earlier in the article is that communication is the backbone of all relationships, especially long-term relationships. Be open, allow yourself to be vulnerable, and always be transparent. This level of communication is truly where the key to longevity lies. Finally, take care of yourself. In order to take care of others, you have to take care of yourself. Exercise, eat properly, get enough rest, do things that feed your spirit. By taking care of yourself, you are then able to bring your best self to the relationship and to your partner, and they in turn can bring their best selves to you.