Ingredients for a lifetime of marital love

Given the high rate of divorce, some people assume that a lifetime of love is a hope but seldom a reality. Interestingly enough, this assumption is incorrect. The reality is that, indeed, about fifty percent of marriages do not last, yet, those who stay together seem to be cherishing their union and finding their love and connection a blessing and a delight. So the question is why do half the marriages fail and half succeed?

Anthropologist Helen Fisher, the author of “Why We Love,” writes, “We are born to love, that feeling of elation that we call romantic love is deeply embedded in our brains. But can it last?” Obviously, it lasts for half the original pairs. So the question is what do the couples who part do differently than those who stay together?

In my long practice of working with couples, I observed that for some pairs the passion has faded with time and familiarity, life’s routines have replaced their “courting behaviors” with “burdensome tasks” souring their original euphoria about being unconditionally loved. Also, when they encounter a disinterest or lack of support for their opinions, preferences, interests, hobbies, recreational activities, or child-rearing practices, the original belief that they are really a “perfect match” begins to disintegrate. The “us” is denigrated to “me and my needs” and this may lead to staying together but abandoning their “unique bond”, or looking elsewhere for the missed affirmation, or seeking a divorce when they no longer feel that they matter to the spouse. In exploring this situation, I bring the couple to focus appropriately on a phrase I developed, “We need to matter — not to shatter”. When one or both mates do not feel the full support, kindness, sensitivity and enthusiasm from the partner that had been flattering, appealing and reassuring in their early years of marriage, he/she will gradually withdraw. That is a point where some spouses are vulnerable to engage in affairs to recapture their sense of desirability.

When the hurt of having lost their individual “luster” and primacy to their mate and the excitement about each other has faded, many individuals may be led to feel that their efforts to sustain this relationship are no longer viable.

Interesting research from the University of Geneva of nearly 500 compatibility studies reported that the only criteria that predicted long-term romantic love was “one’s ability to idealize and maintain positive illusions about their partner, seeing him/her as good-looking, intelligent, funny and caring, or generally as a “catch”- remained happy with each other on nearly all measures over time.”

So, now you know the magical formula of preserving your marital bond as you delight in your mate:

  • Frequently affirm your partner for his/her pleasing traits, from looks, to behavior, to intellect, artistic talents, sense of humor, wit and more.
  • Do so with sincerity and honesty. Empty adulations only hurt the listener and discredits your opinion.
  • Exhibit your pleasure with your mate often and state your delight.
  • Sincere emotional affirmations are likely to be well-received and reciprocated.

Related Articles

About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

(0) Readers Comments

Leave a Reply