After a disastrous long-term marriage, I had, first, one happy loving relationship and now another one, which continues to chug along beautifully.
I like to think I’ve learned some things about what makes for a truly happy, healthy relationship.
Across that span of about 45 years all together, including two dating stints in there totaling about 2 years, I didn’t really “get” what a healthy relationship was until I had put my marriage and a serious drinking problem behind me.
When I started dating seriously after my divorce, my head still wasn’t quite on straight and I made some dumb choices in men.
Finally, after several months into my first dating go-round, I came to the realization that I was attracted to men who weren’t good for (or to) me.
I knew I had to rethink who my ideal partner was and, first and foremost, who I really was, and what I wanted my third act in life to be.
I began developing dating strategies to help me determine what kind of men to focus on, and what kind to avoid.
Once I got on the right path I quickly found Sam, with whom I had a happy relationship for 3 years.
After he died, and I was ready to date again, I used the same strategies from the beginning, and found Cosmo.
It turned out that Cosmo had used some similar dating strategies.
Here are some of the things that worked for both of us.
5 Things That (Almost) Guarantee a Lasting, Loving Relationship
1. Being kind and considerate to your partner . . . always.
I’ve listed this first because, to me, it’s the most important thing . . . actually it’s essential for a healthy, loving relationship.
And I’ll add in these similar requisites – respectfulness, empathy, patience, sensitivity.
Positive traits like these, and others, go a long way.
If you’re with someone you have a hard time being nice to, maybe something is wrong with the relationship . . . or your partner . . . or you.
- When you truly love someone, you WANT to be kind to them.
- You WANT to hold back a nasty or insensitive comment.
- You WANT to do little things for them that will make their day brighter or easier.
I never understood couples who thought having fights with each other was normal, and even healthy.
Fights typically come with harsh words, recriminations, and saying things in anger that, once out there, can’t be unheard.
Of course, arguments and disagreements happen in all relationships, but out-and-out fights?
I think part of the problem is, some people don’t know how to be happy, or don’t allow themselves to be happy.
And they relish stomping on other people’s happiness, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Being happy is a decision we all can, and should, make.
Unless we truly have miserable lives, with no hope of improvement, most people should be able to find things in their lives to be happy about and grateful for.
Think about this – if you’re still holding on to your unhappy ways after 60, when are you ever going to find happiness?
My recipe for a successful relationship:
Even if you don’t particularly feel like being kind to your partner – because you’re having a bad day or feeling stressed or they’re irking you – MAKE yourself be kind.
You know that saying, “Fake it til you make it”? That holds true in relationships.
. . . With one important caveat: If you’re in an abusive relationship – whether it’s you or them being abusive – no amount of forced kindness will lead to a healthy, loving relationship.
Physical and/or verbal and emotional abuse never figure into a healthy relationship. You need to remove yourself from the situation and each work on yourselves.
2. Having similar values and sensibilities.
If you don’t have a moral compass similar to your partner’s, the relationship is probably doomed.
Sharing most of the same values means you navigate your life and the world in similar ways, so you’re better able to emotionally support each other.
You may have experienced relationships with people who were tight with money, but you’re not. You have a healthy respect for money, but you spend money, in moderation, on things that make you happy.
Things were probably strained between you, right?
Money and spending habits are one of the biggest value issues that tear relationships apart.
Examples of core values include:
The following issues tend to put core values to the test more than others:
- Religion or spirituality
- Lifestyle habits
- Social mores
For instance, I was dating and eventually met Cosmo during the 2016 Presidential campaign. I clearly stated in my online dating profiles that I wasn’t interested in dating men who supported the Republican candidate.
Not because he was a Republican, but because of WHO he was and is. I can’t imagine having a harmonious life with someone who actually respects him.
So, before you make any kind of commitment to someone you’re dating, be sure most of your core values are aligned.
3. Being willing to compromise.
Some people have a hard time compromising, or just aren’t capable of it.
You should be able to pick up on this fairly early in the relationship. Pay attention to how flexible they are or aren’t, with you and others, in every day life.
How do they react when you have changes in plans or scheduling? Or when things suddenly go wrong?
Do they fly off the handle easily, and lash out at you or others?
People who have a hard time compromising usually also suffer from right-fighting. They vehemently defend their position on any given matter, even if they know they’re wrong.
An overall generosity of spirit drives people to be better able to compromise.
Maturity is also a key component in this ability.
If you see a stubborn inability to compromise in someone you’re dating, think twice about continuing the relationship.
4. Taking care of any addiction, before seriously dating.
I don’t think you should even date casually if you’re an addict. Addiction is SO all-consuming, you really don’t have the bandwidth to fully allow someone into your life. You’re not capable of having a healthy, loving relationship.
In his post, Why Dating and Addiction Don’t Mix, Cosmo outlines 5 perils of addiction that sabotage dating success:
- Secrecy and lies – hallmarks of addiction, secrecy and lies eat away at relationships.
- Anger and/or abuse – as noted in #1 above, these shouldn’t be tolerated in any relationship.
- Impact on family – addiction damages your children emotionally and negatively impacts the entire family.
- Financial issues – addicts pour lots of money into their addiction, and are at high risk for unemployment.
- Illness, death and/or arrest – All 3 of these are inherent risks for addicts.
Before dating, clean up your act and, as advised by addiction experts, plan to be in recovery for at least a year before you even consider dating.
Maybe it goes without saying but, when you’re ready to date after dealing with your addiction, it’s probably best to rule out dating addicts. You’re just asking for trouble.
5. Sharing at least a few common interests.
Although you don’t HAVE to like doing the same things, it sure helps if you have some common interests.
Otherwise, you could find that you don’t spend much time together, because he or she is doing one thing that they love, and you’re doing another.
Some people in long-time relationships swear that it makes no difference that they don’t share many pastimes. They say it doesn’t detract from the strength of their loving relationship.
I find that hard to believe.
How can you have a healthy, loving relationship if you hardly spend any time together?
I guess it’s a matter of how much time each of you spend at activities without the other.
Shared interests are a way to get closer to your partner. You learn a lot about someone by participating together in a hobby or favorite activity.
Cosmo and I enjoy cooking together. We visit our local farmer’s market, stock up on beautifully fresh produce, and go home and plan what to do with it.
Working side by side in the kitchen keeps us connected. And, of course, the payoff in delicious meals is a big added bonus.
If you’re over (or approaching) 60, you’re probably either in, or near the retirement years. Hopefully, you’ll want to spend a good chunk of that extra time connecting with, and learning from, your partner.
Do You Speak the Same Love Language?
Once you’ve known each other for a while, especially if you’ve moved in together, you’ll come to understand how each of you expresses love, and what you need in a loving relationship.
According to author Lisa Taddeo, some couples (including her own marriage) don’t speak the same love language.
Citing Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, she surmises (with some levity) that, in marriage, most people express love in these ways:
Words of affirmation
Complimenting. “I didn’t think you needed help with the USB cable because you’re so smart.”
You want your husband to watch everything you want to watch with you, and you expect him to know which things you would never watch and those are the things he can watch by himself.
This can sound materialistic and less noble a language. But it’s just another way of feeling loved or known.
Acts of service
That means you want your husband to show his love by, for example, taking out the trash and disposing of the dead Christmas tree and building the bench and wiping the exoskeletons of ladybugs from the top of the light fixture.
I have found this one is a favorite among men.