A gerontologist from Cornell University conducted a project that studied nearly 400 Americans who were 65+ years old and had been married for 30+ years . Extensive interviews were designed to capture the wisdom and insights of these people who had managed to overcome the common marital challenges and problems of their shared life and keep their unions intact. Divorced individuals were also interviewed for their experience with breaking-up and how others might avoid the problems they encountered.
The Cornell Marriage Advice Project’s conclusions are detailed in the book by Karl Pillemer, the project’s author. In 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and marriage; Pillemer presents a list of the most frequently selected lessons for successful, long-term relationships.
Here are his top five lessons:
- Learn to communicate. Couples who talk things through openly and candidly usually work them out.
- Get to know a person well before making the commitment. This came even from those who married young and after a short courtship. Their bottom line, you can’t change anyone, ever.
- See marriage as a lifetime commitment, not just a limited contract that you can break when it’s no longer fun and/or easy like it was. It’s important to hang in there and work through your problems, not walk away.
- Be a team. If you treat marriage as two individuals, it will be every man for himself when the going gets rough. You are in it together and this attitude leads to mutual support and happiness.
- Choose someone who is similar to you or compliments you. It’s important that your interests, values, and world view are compatible—especially when it comes to handling money and raising children.
This study is important not just for those who have already walked down the aisle—but for those who are out there dating and in relationships moving towards commitment. It starts with who you choose and why—then it’s using both your head and heart when you make that important choice and once made—staying true to that commitment through thick and thin.