Contrary to the opinion of the uninformed, a marriage lasting a lifetime is the norm, not the exception. And the truth of the matter is this—most all successful marriages thrive based upon the relationship between the two people in love, not on other people or extraneous variables.
Recently, we reviewed a body of research that addressed the issue of how to make the “romance” of a marriage last. While the research generally reflects what we have found in our own 32+ years of research on all seven of the world’s continents, we take issue with some of the findings researchers have posited.
First, the notion that happy marriages are based on good communication, shared values, a sturdy support system of friends and relatives, happy, stable childhoods, fair quarreling, and dogged determination is mostly true, but not completely true.
Here is what we know—successfully married couples have NOT reported to us that having a sturdy support system of friends and relatives was a prerequisite to their successful marriage. Quite the contrary, they have reported to us that the strength of their personal relationship with each other was based on their relationship with each other, irrespective of their friends and relatives! Imagine that! Having friends and a supportive family is nice, but it is certainly NOT a prerequisite to a blissful, happy, and successful marriage.
And here is the second area we disagree with the findings of several researchers—stable childhoods are NOT a prerequisite to a successful marriage. We have interviewed couples that have been successfully married for 30-77 years and virtually none of them have reported that a “stable childhood” was the defining element in their successful marriage.
In fact, most of the successfully married couples we have interviewed suggest to us that their childhood experiences didn’t matter much with regard to their marriage. Their marriage depended, more than anything else, on their relationship with each other. The success of their marriage was determined by the strength of their relationship with each other, nothing more, nothing less. Let’s leave the blame on childhood experiences—for good or bad—behind as unworthy when it comes to a successful marriage.
Now, on to the next problem, so-called love blindness, self-deception, or positive illusions. These notions don’t hold much water based upon our three decades of research.
Present in the mind’s-eye of the most successful marriages we have studied is the simple notion that a person’s spouse is eternally beautiful or handsome. And trust us on this, these aspersions of beauty and handsomeness transcend time and place.
The simple and endearing truth is this—would you really expect anything different? To see the one you love in the most positive terms throughout your enduring marriage should come as no surprise to anyone. Having “positive illusions” is not a bad thing—it is not something to ridicule—and it is certainly not something to dismiss as unimportant. “Love blindness” is something to embrace!
Some who study marriage have reported that there is no particular combination of personality traits that leads to sustained romance.” Frankly, we find such a conclusion invalid and not supported by our own research. Here’s why.
Our research of successfully married couples on seven continents of the world—reflecting different ethnicities, different cultures, different religious traditions—reveals seven personality traits that leads to “sustained romance” and to a successful marriage that transcends time. To suggest that there are no personality traits that lead to sustained romance is to ignore overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
All of this now leads to this inescapable question, why do so-called “experts” report such “findings” as truth when there is so much evidence to the contrary? One only knows!
Here is what we know to be true, there are recurring themes in successful marriages around the world. In a nutshell, they are: togetherness/oneness of the relationship; truthfulness and honesty; mutual respect and kindness; a focus on healthy living and good health; the sharing of important financial decisions; daily tactile communication (frequent touching and intimacy); and surprise and unpredictability (great marriages are never stale or boring). These time-tested relationships speak to the notion of how to make the romance of a marriage last. It really is that simple. Simple things matter in love and marriage. They really work!
As human beings, we have this amazing capacity to love and be loved. In a successful marriage, this notion is multiplied ten-fold! Successful marriage represents an accumulation of the reciprocal notion of loving and being loved.
Until death do us part is not a cliché. People who enter a marriage do so with the full confidence that they will do so for a lifetime. Do you want to have a great marriage that will transcend time and lead to a Golden Anniversary? In fact, we took hundreds of tips from the thousands of happy couples we interviewed and put them into our award-winning and bestselling book, Building a Love that Lasts and our just released book, How to Marry the Right Guy.
By Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz
America's #1 Love and Marriage Experts