“Tthere were times when I think we could have been on the verge of parting ways, ”says academic David Christian. Author Chardi Christian, his wife of 50 years, agrees. “[But] we work hard on no [splitting]”David says,” and I actually think neither of us wanted to separate. “
Being in a long-lasting relationship is something many people aspire to: the romantic ideal of having someone walk you through life’s countless ups and downs. And research shows that there are very real benefits to having a successful long-term relationship: couples who stay together are healthier, richer, happier, have more sex, and live longer than their lonely peers.
Despite this, most romantic relationships fall apart – whether you’re Bill and Melinda or Kim and Kanye, having a long-lasting relationship seems to be one of life’s most difficult trials.
So how do some people do it? What does it really take to make love last? For the past 18 months, I have been conducting a not-so-covert investigation into these questions with my weekly column How We Stick Together. Nearly 70 couples of varying ages, demographics, and orientations have enthusiastically participated. And about once a week, they have invited me into their homes (usually through technology) to ask them a lot of curious questions.
Each couple has their own charming infatuation story. Like a cheeky romantic, he adored their stories of cute encounters: how he gave her his jacket while they waited in the dark, how they flirted with the copier, how she walked into his ice cream parlor on the other side of the world, and the rest was history. Some fell in love right away, others took years and years to get together. There are few things more magical than the beginning of a love story.
But I was more curious about what happened next: how they got over the irritations, frustrations, and those inevitable crises. To their credit, most of the couples were happy to share their secrets.
Now that the series is coming to an end, I have tried to draw some conclusions from all those conversations. There were many variables: some couples argue furiously, others have never exchanged an angry word. Some admit the romance has faded, others say they still love each other very much. Some disagreed on money, others on how to raise their children, and curiously many had pets, usually a dog.
But I noticed that there were some things that came up over and over again. And these are the things that I think make the relationship last.
Whether it’s a passionate belief in social justice like Ron and Mary, a desire to explore the world together like Mike and Trish, or just being determined to laugh in the face of adversity like Gary and Jayne, common values and a shared worldview are recurring. theme in almost all my conversations with long-term partners. And often, they discovered those values early on.
The art of compromise
Liz and Morie come from different cultures, Michael and Alyce from different generations, and Paul and Lisa are as different as possible. However, what these three couples shared with many of the other people I spoke to is that they have learned to commit to each other.
A little sand
The number one thing almost every couple talked about was commitment: a shared agreement to hang on, no matter what. Many of the couples, including Sarah and Mark, John and Marjorie, and Kevin and Warren, have been through some of life’s greatest challenges together, but everyone involved knew that the other would be by their side.
These conclusions are not particularly groundbreaking (call it the Anna Karenina Principle) but it seems to me that they are the key ingredients for lasting love: shared values, being ready to compromise on everything, and a pure and stubborn determination to stick together above all else.
I also learned something else: that, in a world full of doubts and fears, love is real. She is simple and strong, a beauty that often disguises herself from everyday life. And despite life’s many challenges, it can last.
As Max Ehrmann wrote in his much-quoted 1927 poem Desiderata: “Don’t be cynical about love; because in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as grass. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism