By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
People are often amazed by couples who continue to be loving after decades of being together. This is truly an accomplishment, but it is not a miracle. Rather, these couples build it day by day. If you would like to enjoy such a relationship, you and your partner will need to do the following:
Be loving: It is not enough to feel love; you must also act to show your love. You can do this in innumerable ways, such as with a bouquet of flowers, a thoughtful card, or by making your partner’s coffee each morning.
Nurture closeness: Feeling emotionally close is an experience that couples must nurture. It means listening to each other, really caring about each other’s experiences, and sharing your inner experiences, such as your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and disappointments.
Accept differences: No two people are exactly the same, so even “ideal couples” must negotiate differences. Some differences in partners complement each other easily, such as when one partner likes to talk a lot and the other likes to listen. However, other differences require tolerance and an appreciation of qualities that can be a frustration.
Keep it interesting: This applies to each of you as individuals, as well as to you as a couple. When partners are actively engaged and interested in life, they are more interesting. And, when partners do new and interesting things together, they naturally continue to enjoy spending time together.
Invest time and energy into physical affection and having sex: Without this aspect of your relationship, you can still be quite emotionally close. However, your relationship will be more platonic than romantic.
Toughing out the difficult times with tenderness: All relationships go through difficult periods. When nerves get raw from life stressors and relationship problems, it can be easy to snap, turn your back, or act in other ways that can damage a relationship. Instead, remember all the reasons you love your partner and then choose to be caring. Ask yourself what you want for your relationship in the long run and take action to make it happen. If you are unsure, then take the time to figure this out rather than allowing the wave of difficulties carry you to a future that you might not want.
Commit: As much as you and your partner may love each other, relationships only last for the long haul in part because of a commitment to stay together. This is a decision that must be renewed on a regular basis. So, whether you are having problems, in a neutral zone, or enjoying a time of heightened intimacy, keeping an eye on your goal of maintaining a close relationship can help make it happen.
The above suggestions are some key ways that can help you and your partner become one of those couples in their ‘golden years’ who clearly love each other. Consider them carefully and then dive into whatever it takes to achieve your dream of growing old together.
The Art of Relationships blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.