Cosmo and I both survived bad marriages and were smart enough to do some necessary soul-searching to keep from making the same mistakes again. We were both determined to have a great relationship when we met each other.
We’re several years into our relationship now. Our instincts back at the beginning were correct. The more we know each other, the more we know we were meant for each other.
An in depth conversation we had recently confirmed this all over again.
A recurring family problem that also had to do with relationships in general had been nagging at me. So I went to Cosmo, seeking his advice and support, knowing I always feel better when I hash things out with him.
Sure enough, drawing from his own experiences and relationships, he patiently and empathically offered many words of wisdom.
He is always willing to spend time talking through my problems, just as I am with his problems. We both come out of these conversations feeling better about ourselves, having been heard and cared for.
One of the main things that keeps our relationship healthy is our mutual comfort in being vulnerable with each other about our deepest feelings.
We both know that we can trust the other, that we won’t be judgmental, that we’ll be a soft place to fall for each other.
How I Had 2 Great Relationships in My Sixties
I was fortunate. I had two consecutive love relationships starting in or near my 60’s.
My first was with Sam. Unfortunately, he died suddenly after 3 years.
Two years after that, I met Cosmo, and we’re still going strong.
No doubt part of it was luck. Maybe luck is always involved when you find your soulmate.
But also, I went into the dating experience with a game plan that I put together based on my other career as a job search strategist.
I treated my dating life like it was a job search.
You can read about my story in my article, How Online Dating at 60 Led Me To Find True Love Twice.
Find Your Soulmate. Cultivate a Great Relationship.
I’ve written about what a soulmate is and why it’s so hard to find one.
I described how, on my first date with Cosmo, I felt like I was home:
“I didn’t know why “home” was the word that came to mind then, until some time had passed, and we’d had a few dates.
We quickly came to have a level of comfort together that I’d never had with anyone else . . . sort of like that cozy feeling you have wrapped up in a blanket on the couch on a cold, cold day, watching the snow fall and grateful to be inside, safe and warm.
Quiet times, just sitting together over lunch or breakfast, or sitting outside enjoying nature – even without conversation – may be the times I relish and look forward to the most.”
In the same article, I noted a Huffington Post article by Dr. Carmen Harra, who listed elements of a soulmate including:
- It’s something inside.
- You just “get” each other.
- You fall in love with his or her flaws.
- It’s intense.
- It’s you two against the world.
- You feel secure and protected.
- You look each other in the eye.
Research Shows That the Quality of Your Relationship Is Most Important
A recent landmark study reported on CNN.com shows, not surprisingly, that “It’s not who you’re with, but the dynamic you have with them.”
For decades, scientists have studied couples to determine what makes for a good relationship, but most of those studies only measured a few variables at a time.
This research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, spans 43 longitudinal couples studies involving more than 11,000 romantic couples, tracked for an average of a year.
“Your own judgment of your relationship – meaning, how satisfied you feel your partner is or how appreciative you are of your partner – says more about the quality of your relationship than either of your personalities.
In other words, don’t focus so much on whether a person fits your type or whether they check all your boxes. Instead, think about how you’re engaging with each other and whether your relationship leaves you feeling satisfied.”
Justin Lavner, a psychologist at the University of Georgia who interpreted the results, summed up some takeaways:
Pay attention to the dynamics of your relationship
“The relationship is more than the sum of its parts. It’s that relationship dynamic itself, rather than the individuals who make up the relationship, that seems to be most important for relationship quality.”
It’s also worth paying attention to your current feelings about the relationship.
“Another takeaway message is that although these perceptions were most predictive of relationship quality measured at the same point in time, the same pattern was found at follow-up, suggesting that how you feel now can be somewhat diagnostic of how you’ll feel later on.”
Money Issues Can Preclude a Great Relationship
Another factor that can make or break a great relationship is how you each deal with money.
The time to get into financial details with each other is once you’re in a committed relationship, whatever that means for both of you.
Studies show that financial compatibility is important to the success of long-term relationships.
Money and Relationship Statistics
A 2017 study revealed some interesting marriage and money statistics:
➤ 94% of couples in great marriages discussed their financial goals compared to 45% in just fine or problematic marriages.
➤ 87% of spouses with common long-term financial goals expressed greater satisfaction versus 41% without common goals who expressed average satisfaction or were in a marital crisis.
➤ Another study from Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, quoted in the article found, “The possibility of divorce increases by 45% among couples who think that their partners spend money irresponsibly.”
The good news for those in our generation, according to a story on PR Newswire, is that 44% of married adults 18 to 54 years old cited money as the number one stressor, while only 23% of adults 55 or older said money was the key point of stress.
Read more about this in Cosmo’s article, Money and Dating Over 60 – How to Avoid Relationship Mistakes.
Emotional Baggage from Past Relationships Needs to Be Addressed
It can be tough to recognize emotional problems in oneself. Many people have a hard time identifying their own feelings, never mind the emotional baggage they may be carrying. Some people are afraid or averse to looking inward deeply enough to see and understand it.
Types of Emotional Baggage
Some of the symptoms of emotional baggage can include:
- A pattern of relationship problems at home and work
- Persistent fears, doubt, insecurity, or even paranoia
- Feelings of guilt
- Chronic anger or resentments
- Inability to set your own boundaries or accept others’ boundaries
Recognizing the types of baggage you carry is the first step to addressing them.
5 Things That (Almost) Guarantee a Lasting, Loving Relationship
When I started dating seriously several years 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. 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, making for a loving, lasting relationship.
- Be kind and considerate to each other . . . always.
- Have similar values and sensibilities.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Take care of any addiction, before seriously dating.
- Share at least a few common interests.
What Really Matters in a Great Relationship
Social psychologist Amie M. Gordon, Ph.D. says that good relationships do more for us than make us happy. They can keep us healthy.
In a Psychology Today article, she cited a meta-analysis that found that
“Social relationships were more predictive of warding off mortality than quitting smoking or exercising. But it wasn’t just the presence of other people that mattered, it was the presence of supportive others — toxic relationships may be worse than no relationship at all.”
These days, with so much negativity swirling around in the world, we need love and great relationships more than ever.
She suggests we need to do 3 things to accomplish this:
“First, we need to be open and honest with the people we care about. We need to share our thoughts and feelings with them. We need to ask for their support rather than always trying to go it alone. And we need to tell them what we appreciate about them.
Second, we need to be there for our partners. We need to listen and acknowledge what they are feeling, to provide support for them in both good times and in bad. We need to do it in ways that are helpful. And we need to allow ourselves to feel appreciated by them.
Third, we need to give each other a break. No one gets it right every time. We need to forgive the small grievances. We need to let it go when the other person makes a mistake. And we need to promise to learn from our own mistakes and try to do better next time.”
It all starts with paying attention to each other . . . in little and big ways.
Researchers who tracked couples for many years found that the happiest ones made bids for each other’s attention. They may share an anecdote from the day, or even just a gentle touch as they walk past the other. Bigger bids are things like asking for help solving a problem or requesting a weekend away together.
Can You Predict the Trajectory of a Great Relationship?
If you’re in a relationship now, are you wondering how yours stacks up against others?
A study (Lavner & Bradbury, 2010) used data from 232 newly married heterosexual couples, followed over a 4-year period and 172 over a 10-year period. They identified five different types of relationships with unique trajectories:
Stable: High Satisfaction
About 13% of husbands and 20% of wives enjoy a rare and special kind of romantic relationship, the kind that keeps on delivering high relationship satisfaction even as the years go by. These couples reported high relationship satisfaction at each measurement time point.
Minimal Decline: Moderately High Satisfaction
More than a third of the sample (36% husbands, 34% wives) reported strong relationship satisfaction, with only slight declines over time.
Moderate Satisfaction. Some couples start off decently happy and only drop off a bit from that initial starting point. Both husbands (32%) and wives (28%) in this category indicated moderate relationship satisfaction at the start, with only somewhat of a negative trajectory in satisfaction over time.
Substantial Decline: Moderate
About 12% of husbands and wives reported moderate satisfaction, but this was fairly short-lived. Over the four years of the study, the decline in relationship satisfaction was steep and substantial.
Substantial Decline: Low Satisfaction
Some relationships struggle right from the beginning. In this study, 6% of participants started off with low relationship satisfaction and reported rapid decline from there, ending with the lowest satisfaction across the different relationship groups.