This is a great post, and reminds me a lot of a feature article I wrote a few years back on the idea of ‘lasting love’. I interviewed a bunch of very different people with very different circumstances: a couple who had been married for 60 years, a couple who never chose to get married but have had kids and have been together for 40 years, a lady who was married only for a few years but divorced and has spent a large portion of her life single, and a lawyer who herself is happily married, but has dealt with family law issues and divorce day-in and day-out for the past 20 years.
What was clear from talking to all these different kinds of people was that the idea of what makes love lasting is the same- no matter whether you have failed at it or are the perfect living, breathing example of it.
I am definitely not an expert on love, but the major themes that came out from my research (and we all know this to a certain degree) were:
- Knowing what and who are most important: with this being a shared and mutual understanding. (This includes being vulnerable enough to have what deeply matters to you known by that other person)
- Expressing gratitude and appreciation of one another daily. And this doesn’t mean in grand and romantic gestures (if it’s too big too often, it actually does the opposite because it’s totally unsustainable).
- Good communication (obvs) — this includes the heated arguments, and the wild disagreements but with the willingness to say ‘I was wrong, I am sorry’ or ‘it’s okay, I forgive you’ and to practice the first two points before.^^
- And this last one is my favourite. I’ll quote him directly (he is part of the couple who never chose to marry but has been with his lover for 40+ years). He said…
“Change is inevitable. It is in our ability to accept and adapt to the change we see in one another that allows a loving relationship to last.”
The conclusion I came to at the end of this research was that if we can all get really good at being able to do all of these things, not only will our romantic relationships strengthen, but so too will all of our relationships in our lives. And as you say- if we can do this independently of anyone else, our capacity to love and give of ourselves wholeheartedly inextricably grows.
The key isn’t in how we mould together that necessarily holds our relationships together forever (although sharing values and interests does matter, they too can change over time). It’s rather our own abilities to be aware of what matters to us and vulnerable enough to share this with the world; to practice gratitude and to appreciate the little things in our lives; to be unafraid to communicate how we feel and think about the world around us; and to be willing to change and grow and better ourselves.
We nail this, we nail everything else in our lives.