Why do some couples make it long-term and others don’t?
2023 marks the 32nd year that my husband and I have been together (dated for 7 years, married for 25 years). As I reflect over the decades, I can see the evolution of our relationship from its infancy to present day.
It seemed like we were kids when we first met. We pretty much raised each other. During our early years of dating, we were naive, selfish, and immature. Courtship was about attraction, novelty, fun, and entertainment. We would go out all the time and plan new adventures together.
Given our immaturity and lack of foresight, it’s really a miracle that we’re still together after all these years. What should have happened after the novelty wore off and boredom set in was the inevitability of conflict and separation. But that wasn’t the case for us.
So how did we survive and even thrive, after 32 years of being a couple?
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years to keep our relationship close and connected.
1. What you desire in the early years of your relationship is very different than what you will want over the decades. Each stage is a milestone for the next.
When we first met, it was about fun, infatuation, and attraction. We craved attention and wanted to feel desired. We were driven by interest, curiosity, and friendship.
Today, we want depth of understanding; to being seen, heard, and known by the other. This is grounded in acceptance of the other for who they are, forgiveness of wrongdoings, and grace to be human.
What we learned from one stage was the steppingstone into the next. This is how a relationship matures and grows deeper.
2. What you want isn’t necessarily what you need.
In our 20s, what we wanted was someone who made us feel special and chosen. What we needed was grounding, growth, and depth of character to make it in the long run.
After 32 years of seeing each other’s good, bad, and ugly, today, what we want is to know that we’re still loved and loveable. What we need is the humility to know that our partner is doing their best.
This is backed by the commitment to focus on the positives about the other person (because believe me, there are a lot of negatives we can nitpick about with each other).
When we focus on the good, this is what we’ll see. By expressing gratitude for this goodness, we inspire our partner to be even better, which in turn, creates mutual fondness and admiration.
3. The focus on self (individualism) evolves into a focus on the collective.
In our younger years, it was much about “what can my partner do for me to make me happy?” If they make me happy, then I want to make them happy in return.
Today, it’s about “what can I do for my partner to make them happy?” How can I show that they are cherished, appreciated, and loved?
Our relationship is a collective. Thus, the wellbeing of our relationship depends on the wellbeing of both partners. So, it’s in my best interest to act like a team by doing what I can to nurture this collective.
Wherever you are in your relationship journey, pause for a moment to reflect. Take inventory of how you’d answer the three points above. Commit yourself to the collective, so your relationship won’t just survive, but thrive in the long-run.
To learn how to deepen and strengthen your relationship bond, sign up for the upcoming 2023 Close & Connected Couples program.