Discovering the secrets of long-term love: This is one subject where Barb and I have much experience.

It seems to me when we reach a certain age — usually in our late 50s or early 60s — a good portion of our time is spent contemplating either how to cope with or rationalize our behavior with our significant other, or learning just how to have a relationship or keep a relationship with our partner in our senior years that is meaningful.

It seems that over the years whenever Barb and I would actually take a vacation where the parents weren’t on the visitation list, we had our differences of likes and dislikes as to what we wanted to see. If one of us wanted to explore a cave, the other would politely say, “You go ahead; I’ll just stay here and wait.” Now one of us is not benefiting from the cause why one takes these trips. We are predisposed or biased sometimes in what our likes and dislikes are.  What happens now is that one will sacrifice because being close to the other is more important that any activity not mutually liked by the other. Our trip out west would be the exception.  The trip did bring us closer to each other, having a deeper satisfaction in our relationship with and to one another. 

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, gives us some suggestions on having a long fulfillment at any age of life: “It’s enjoying novel and challenging activities together. Like definitely attracts like when it comes to personal interests and hobbies. Spending time together is important, but it’s how you spend your time that influences your relationship satisfaction even more. It has been suggested that couples can improve their love for each other when they spend their time together exploring new and challenging activities.”

When one or both spouses are restricted in their health to the point where exploring new and challenging activities takes on a new meaning. As time flies by and age starts to affect every part or our being it becomes to more than being very intensely in love. Long-term intense love involves thinking positively about the spouse and thinking about the spouse when apart, having positive thoughts about your spouse means that you focus on the good, not the bad, in your spouse’s personal qualities and character. Reflecting about those things that bother you can only lead you to magnify the small shortcomings which will make your spouse even more irritating to you than you would otherwise feel.

People in good relationships engage in “sentiment override,” meaning they remember more of the favorable than the unfavorable experiences they’ve shared together.

Something else we need to consider: When we first were married, we both took our vows of which in part said “in sickness and in health.” Twenty-five years later we renewed those vows.  Time has a way of changing our attitude, and emotions towards our spouse especially when we find that the person we married years ago isn’t here anymore. Relationships can and will change due to long-term intensive love for our spouses. It may cause us to have an emotional impact, not out of love for the other, but out of duty to fulfill our vows.

I have a photo hanging on the wall of Barb when we were engaged. No matter how she may look now, she remains just a beautiful now as when we first were married. It's not the presence of someone that gives life a beautiful meaning; it's the way that someone touches your heart that gives life a beautiful meaning.

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