Here’s What A Couple Who’s Been Married For 50 Years Has To Say About LoveJan 26, 2016
Chances are, if you hang out in this space, you’ve heard me talk about the Real Love Course by Terri Cole. It’s a five-week program that was a huge eye opener for me (and no, I’m not an affiliate, I just really enjoyed it). While there were some serious parts to the course, I genuinely had bucket loads of fun playing around with it.
Towards the end of Terri’s course, as part of my homework, I was required to connect with “love mentors.” Basically, I had to find a couple I respected and admired, who seemed to have it all together. And of course, I picked the best one! (Seriously, though? I’m convinced they need to be writing the book on relationships.) They’ve been married for almost 50 years and are oh-so-in-love.
To be totally honest, I’m in awe of these two people. We’ll call them John and Jane. Meeting someone and falling in love? Not so hard. But sustaining a great relationship is a whole different ballgame altogether—full of hard work, but that hard work pays off. During my time with the love birds, I learned that in a healthy romantic relationship, you challenge and support each other to reach higher heights and attain enlightenment. Your partner becomes your mirror.
So, what’s their secret?
During my conversation with them, I was lucky enough to be able to dig in and unearth the essence their thriving and evolving relationship. Here’s what I found out.
- Opposites attract, but you need to share the same core values: John is driven, purposeful and funny. Jane is luminous, serious and can be playful. They both carry different traits that balance each other out, but at their core, they’re pretty dang similar. John and Jane’s values include being of service to others, being in tune with nature, and they’re natural coaches, dedicated to helping others grow. These values also make them great business partners, which they are. (Incredible, right? They’re literally partners in all things.) Quick aside: There are lots of tools out there that can help you both determine what your values are.
- Be your partner’s best friend: Too often we forget to treat each other with respect. Partners are taken for granted. If you were to treat your partner like you treat your best friend, you’d notice a difference for the better.
- Be interested in each other’s happenings: Along the lines of being each other’s best friend, take a genuine interest in each other’s happenings. Jane noticed that a lot of couples had no clue what their partners were up to, simply because it wasn’t an area of interest for them. Keeping up to date on what’s happening in your partner’s life (i.e. not in your shared interests only) sends the message that what they do matters, while deepening the connection between the two of you.
- Regular check ins are a must: Jane talked about a period in their relationship when John was working away from home and the only time they had to together was Friday nights, which they obviously cherished. Friday was their date night and it was totally non negotiable. That said, check ins are just as important even when you see each other every day (and maybe even more so because you get fooled into thinking you’re connecting daily). Think about it. How often are you so caught up with the day-to-day stuff that you forget to really connect with your partner? To this day, Jane and John have a regular practice for check ins, because if you’re not deliberate about it, it’s easy to lose that unbreakable bond.
- Acknowledgements: After 10 years of practicing gratitude and thank yous, Jane and John regularly and authentically acknowledge each other—something which they consider to be the highest form of gratitude. John and Jane share formal acknowledgements at least twice a year for their business and quarterly for their relationship, and informally, whenever the heck they feel like it. Not only do they acknowledge each other, but they extend these acknowledgements out to one another freely in order to share the love. They suggest being specific in your acknowledgement. For example, Jane will say to John, “I acknowledge you for taking on that project, and I really appreciate how you used your humor to lighten up the room when the meeting got tense.”
- Be open to couples counseling: There was a period of time when John and Jane experienced significant marital strain, 18 years into their relationship. Jane had just graduated from a masters program, was teaching and had a new job, so in a nutshell, she was super busy. John was tied up exploring his options and worked some weekends. Communication halted and they encountered a rough patch. Both decided to get some professional counseling, and all it took was two sessions of couples counseling and one session each of individual counseling before the two of them started to work towards re-establishing healthier dynamics. While it still took them about a year to rebuild that trust with each other, the counseling helped accelerate the whole process. John swears that this “18 year hiccup” ultimately strengthened their relationship in the long run. There shouldn’t be any shame in counselling. After all, when you find the right counselor, it works.
- Pay attention to the small things & bring in an element of surprise: John makes smoothies daily for the two of them and Jane says a heartfelt thank you for it each and every time. (Note: heartfelt is important.) He even created 14 days of Valentine’s and expresses his gratitude for his wife in the form of daily small gifts leading up to V-Day. (Ummm…where can one find a man like this? He’s off the market ladies—sorry!) No matter how often it happens, it’s important not to take the little things for granted and to express your appreciation for them always. Surprise your partner with words, small tokens of appreciation or acts of service. As is my mantra, a little goes a long way.
- Celebrate: Celebrate income, time together, health, children, and even the not-so-positive events that help you learn. Don’t wait for big celebrations. Celebrate your togetherness. John and Jane even indulge in what they call DWE (dirty weekends—wink) once in awhile to keep their romance alive, and alive, it is!
All that said, I’m extending a special thank you to my love mentors for inspiring me to never settle for the status quo when it comes to matters of the heart.
A special thank you to my past romantic relationships for teaching me how to be better, both alone, and as a partner.
And a special thank you to you, for being here with me, for joining me basking in glow of John and Jane’s story, and for opening yourself up to the universe, growth, and the ever-important love.