Recently I read an article from USA Weekend describing “7 Secrets of Lasting Love.” As the name suggests, they give those 7 secrets (see below). All but two secrets (secrets # 2 and # 6) were right on target.
As a marriage and family therapist for over 25 years, I have encountered hundreds, probably thousands of marriages, with a variety of presenting issues, which for the most part if five of the seven secrets were accomplished, marriages would indeed be based on lasting love.
So what did the writer for USA Weekend were the seven secrets to lasting love? The first secret was to have realistic expectations of your partner. Most people, marrying young, will not have had much time to develop realistic expectations, but listening to the older and wiser, and those in second or third marriages, could be of great help to the young and inexperienced lovers.
Secret # 2 was “sweat the small stuff”. At first, I read it as “don’t sweat the small stuff”, which I believe is an ultimate goal. Sweat the small stuff, refers to not letting meaningless little things that bother you build up and cause you to explode with irrational thoughts about your spouse. True, it is important to discuss things that are bothering you, but if you are constantly, nagging or complaining about this and that, rather then focusing on the positive aspects of your marriage, you will have many arguments that can lead the “one picked on” to become an avoidant partner.
Secret # 3 was “Consider yourselves a team”. I definitely agree with this concept. Team work in the lives of busy partners, absolutely is necessary. Sometimes, certain learned gender role expectations need to be reassessed. These days, dad may be the one at home, doing the laundry or grocery shopping, while mom is out mowing the lawn. Seeing each other as equal partners and working as a team, dividing up responsibilities according to ability and convenience are success secrets.
Secret # 4 “Accentuate the positive”, actually argues my point in secret # 2, in which I state that we need to focus mostly on what is right rather than what is wrong. Don’t get me wrong, here. I am all for communicating your feelings, but partners can get into a nasty habit of trying to fix the other to fit exactly into their “ideal” mate model.
Secret # 5 “Remember the little things”. Oh yes, girls, even the guys like us to remember the little things. We live in a me-ism society, and have been taught in the last couple decades, to strive to make ourselves happy. The bible speaks to this concept, of loving others before ourselves. When we look outward to the needs of our partner, we are showing our love. Yes, even the very small things we do, can be “big” to the receiver.
Now, we come to Secret # 6 “Have strong friendships with both sexes”. I disagree with this, for one reason – Infidelity. I have seen too many relationships that have gone down the drain due to strong “platonic” relationships with the opposite sex, turning into romantic relationships. I don’t care if you are a pastor, a strong leader in the church, a mature human being, you are still vulnerable. Check out my resource list for books that speak on this issue. “Not ‘Just Friends’” by Shirley P. Glass is a great resource on this topic. Having a good social network, girls with girls, guys with guys, couples with couples, is a plus, but close friendships with the opposite sex often leads to trouble. The article states “Close friendships with the opposite sex aren’t necessarily a sign your marriage is trouble”. I’m saddened to say that it would be hard for me to count the number of times I’ve met with couples after infidelity where the guilty spouse has said that their affair started in just that way.
Lastly, #7 is “Spend time apart”. Yes, but not too much! I guess the word “balance” would be appropriate here. It is important to have your own interests and to take time a part. Having to do everything “together” and never separate, might be called an enmeshed relationship, but too much time separate, might be a disengaged relationship. The secret here is: BALANCE.
Dr. Judith Needham-Penrose PhD, LMFT