Yay! It's the season of love. Let's be inspired to strive for long-lasting love no matter the road ahead. There is a lot that we can control if we just put our mind to it and make an effort.
A recent study found that a surprising number of people are still very much in love with their partners after being with them for 20 years. My wonderful parents, John-Michael Sr. and Phyllis Scurio, for example, are about to celebrate 54 years of marriage this April 12, 2023. What a wonderful milestone to have achieved this kind of long-lasting love. Although I don't see them every day of my life, as they live back in Massachusetts - the state where I grew up - they know that I love and adore them and admire them both very much for their endurance, strength and loyalty to each other. They also know that, although I didn't follow a traditional path of life with a wife and kids, I still learned the power of love from them. They offer my life-partner Jeff their genuine love just as they do to any other member of our family and for that I am forever grateful.
Long-term romantic love stimulates regions of the brain that quell anxiety and pain. This suggests that well-worn romantic love offers a unique combination of benefits: happiness—plus a sense of calmness.
Here's what science tells us are the secrets to living "happily ever after" --
You Get More Bees With Honey
Relationship expert John Gottman, Ph.D. says that "for every unhappy exchange, we need at least five happy ones to nourish love." I really believe this is true because, thankfully, I experience this every day with Jeff and it has a resounding impact on things for us. He will do such simple things for me that always add up. (...and I will for him, too!)
Allow me to indulge in some gratitude as I share with you what Jeff has done for me lately:
He goes out into the cold weather (while I'm in the shower in the a.m.) only in his PJs and bathrobe to start my car so it's fully warm inside when I get into it on a wintry day to drive on my 1-hour commute to my office in Springdale, Arkansas.
He takes time to clean the bedsheets, comforters, pillow cases and sprays them with lavender or some other kind of wonderful aromatherapy scent each week so that when I crawl back into bed for another week of amazing sleeps, it's so inviting.
He takes my car to the car wash to clean it when it's dirty.
He prepares a special request dinner or breakfast when I ask. (He's an exceptional cook!)
He lights candles around the house (before I arrive home from work) so that the house feels cozy before I get there.
According to Gottman's research, relationships are stable and happy when the ratio of positive to negative interactions is at least 5:1.
In short - do nice things!! It's amazing how it makes the other person feel, but also, how you feel for having done it for them.
Do Your Share of the Dishes
OK. So in our home in Dallas, we had a lovely, state-of-the-art dishwasher that we never used. When we got our house here in Eureka Springs, it didn't come with a dishwasher and that was absolutely no problem for us. Why? We have discovered that we never use dishwashers. Not sure where this came from for us, but we both tend to share the household chore of simply doing our own dishes by hand.
Sharing household chores is surprisingly important for a successful marriage.
That said, even among couples that do split the workload, chores tend to fall to one partner more than the other. If you're the lazy bones at home, simply saying "thank you" can help to limit your partner's resentment and ensure relationship satisfaction.
Because I commute an hour to and from my office each day, I tend to be the lazy bones partner when it comes to the chores. I own that I am this way and I will make an effort to help our when I am able. Yet, this doesn't prevent me from giving Jeff the well-deserved praise for all that he accomplishes for our life together, like when he:
mows the lawn (countless times in Spring, Summer, Fall.)
shovels snow paths (in Winter.)
tends to home repair needs
takes care of Kirby's medical needs (Kirby is our handsome Chihuahua.)
sees to the maintenance needs of our pontoon boat
keeps a wonderful cozy home for us
Watch Your Words
Communication is key to a successful relationship—even if we're not so good at it.
Here's a really good trick: use more "couple-focused" pronouns, like "we," "our" and "us" when you're having a conflict with your better half. One study published in the journal Psychology and Aging found that these words helped partners get through disagreements with more affection, less anger and lower stress, while pronouns like "I," "you" and "me" increased marital dissatisfaction.
For those of you with kiddos, be even more mindful. Words have power. Take heed and watch what you say around the little ones. They're so impressionable.
Go On an Adventure
If your routine feels like the same old same old — restaurants, bars, local gossip and TV shows — well, it's time to mix things up and have some fun.
Couples that play together stay together!!
Studies from Arthur Aron, Ph.D. show that participating in new and exciting activities as a couple increases relationship quality. That's because being able to experience what he calls "self-expansion" alongside your partner makes the relationship more fulfilling and helps to stave off the boredom and staleness that contribute to so many breakups.
So the next time you're about to go to Chelsea's for the hundredth time, why not opt for some live music at another venue instead, or take a hike around Lake Leatherwood or a stroll around an unfamiliar neighborhood? Or, be real crazy and book a trip to Mexico! Whatever you do to mix things up, do it together - you both won't be disappointed.
Stick With Your Friends
Think back to the last time you needed advice about your career or a conflict with someone.
How many people did you talk to? The number of people relying solely on their spouse to discuss important matters doubled in the last few years; and while this may seem like a positive trend, too much togetherness can actually be harmful because it puts too much of a burden on the relationship, says Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College and author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage.
The takeaway: Pursuing friendships, support and interests outside of your twosome will actually help keep you together. Get some besties!
Remember your ex who always called your best friend Mitchell instead of Michael, or who always suggested sushi despite your allergy to fish? Oblivious things like that can be damaging to a relationship.
Start paying more attention to things that matter to your partner: their quirks, their specific food preferences, the names of their colleagues, cousins, friends. Also, do not forget your anniversary date, or their favorite weekend spots, and take them to see that band they like the most.
Partners that remember specific details tend to be highly satisfied in their relationships.
Yes, love is a choice. Love is an action.
“Happily ever after” has been made out to be something that happens magically when you’re in love. People don’t tell you how much work it takes to understand one another in everyday life. Love is a choice and one that isn't always easy. It can be difficult to set aside your own opinions and truly hear your partner’s opposing view. No one prepares you with the necessary skills, such as how to express emotions without hurting your partner or how to calm your emotions.
Endeavor to support your partner and encourage them to grow and reach their full potential. Focus on the positive and highlight all the good and kind things they do.
You're well on your way to long-lasting love.