7 (Surprising!) Secrets to Lasting Love

7 (Surprising!) Secrets For Lasting Love

By Lisa Murphy

We polled relationship-advice experts for tips on avoiding breakups and divorce

We all imagine that we’re in, or just about to find, that happily-ever-after, fairy-tale forever relationship. But with so many people divorced or in unhappy partnerships, clearly statistics don’t bear that out for the majority. In fact, it’s perhaps surprising how many people stay together given the differences that most of us have even as we begin our relationships! “Men and women enter marriage with different expectations, and that’s a very big part of the problem,” say Dr. Lawrence Birnbach and Dr. Beverly Hyman, co-authors of How To Know If It’s Time To Go: A 10 Step Reality Test for Your Marriage. “Men describe that they get married for ‘sex, home and children’, while women say they marry for ‘relationship, companionship and romance.'”

Given those differences, it makes sense that many relationships don’t necessarily falter as a result of infidelity or abuse, but more often stem from irreconcilable values, inflexibility, immaturity or squabbles over money. “Chemistry, timing, and common interests may bring couples together, but they do not guarantee long-term success,” adds Dr. Jan Hoistad, a licensed psychologist and author of Romance Rehab: 10 Steps to Rescue Your Relationship. “At some point, all couples stumble upon differences that lead to conflict.” That said, knowing what some of those common challenges are and how to overcome them can put you and your partner ahead of the game. So, read on to discover some intriguing ways to keep your romance strong over the long haul.

1. Wash the floor. It sounds ridiculously simplistic, but resentment over housework is one of the top-five relationship challenges that Dr. Hoistad sees in her work with clients. “One spouse may do most of the household chores and the other participates minimally–and this can occur whether or not both partners work outside the home.” If you’re not willing to do housework yourself, pony up and pay for a cleaning service, because this really can become a deal breaker. In fact, research shows that men’s risk of divorce decreases with every extra hour of housework that they do.

2. Learn from that old couple next door. “Many couples marry without an image—or picture of what a good marriage actually looks like,” explains Elizabeth E. George, a relationship expert and co-author of The Compatibility Code: An Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Dating and Marriage. Today, only a minority of marriages can be classed as successful or exceptional. “Therefore, watch for couples you know who seem to have strong marriages, spend time with them, and read material together on successful relationships,” she says.

3. Admit that parenting isn’t easy. “I see a lot of couples who disagree over how to discipline children or who have different values surrounding homework, after school activities or sports involvement,” says Dr. Hoistad. “Those who have a child challenged with a disruptive behavioral problem often end up fighting between themselves and blaming one another, too.” As the saying goes, kids don’t come with a manual. Show how much you care by being brave enough to take a parenting class or take advantage of parental support services in your community.

4. Redefine what it means to be “in love”. Our culture has taught us to believe that the giddiness of falling in love will last a lifetime, when research shows it typically lasts only about two years, says George. Long-term love requires commitment–in terms of improving yourself, improving as a couple by reading, vacationing or doing counseling together, and building a shared purpose or passion strong enough offsets everyday irritations, she adds.

5. Kiss and hug each other. A lot. As couple’s lives get busier and busier, expressions of affection like hugs, kisses and appreciations often become scarce, says Dr. Hoistad. All of the physical distance and time apart leads to either withdrawal and disengagement, or blaming and fighting. “It becomes exponentially worse if only one partner expresses a need for more connection,” she says. Same goes for sex: if you’re not doing it, start working on it or seek counseling.

6. Create a bill of rights. Articulating what you expect and hope to offer to your partner is a great first step to a successful long-term relationship, as well as important rite of passage for a couple that’s in trouble, say Dr. Birnbach and Dr. Hyman. They recommend creating a “Marriage Bill of Rights” that outlines the right to loyalty, protection, affection, help with tasks, caregiving, support, companionship, respect, honest communication and some freedom to pursue your own interests. Although giving all of these things through thick and thin may not always be easy, they are necessary ingredients in any lasting love. “As Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled says, ‘love is a discipline,’ adds Dr. Hoistad.

7. Be a better person. “To sustain love, look at yourself and work on yourself,” says Dr. Birnbach. “Be the best person you can be in every way. That includes being a compassionate human being and a forgiving one. If you want that from your mate, be willing to give it—first.”

Originally published at Sympatico (Website) (Dec. 22nd, 2009) ( Canada )—> http://lifestyle.sympatico.ca/Relationships/secrets_to_lasting_love.htm?paginationenabled=false

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