I found this great story on Reddit and so I’ve curated the best parts below. This really correlates with scientific studies done (check out the book Happiness Hypothesis) on how the longest lasting couple’s mindsets, perceptions, and perspectives on each other and how they react to arguments or agreements and what they focus on makes or breaks the relationship. The studies seemed to show what correlated most with the length of the relationship is what they focused on: if they focused on amazing things in the environment around them or if they focused on the flaws with each other.
Without further ado, enjoy:
A few years ago I noticed that the majority conversations surrounding relationships fall into one of two categories. They are typically either super negative conversations focusing on divorce, infidelity, celebrity scandals, etc. Or they are hyper-emotional, and unrealistic stories like those seen in Twilight, Disney movies, The Bachelor.
I got really sick of being force fed these warped and unrealistic expectations of love. I didn’t think Chris Brown, Anthony Weiner, or Tiger Woods deserved to be the spokespeople for relationships… but they seemed to be the only ones getting any relationship-related air time. So, rather than complain about it, I figured I’d hunt down the most amazing couples I could find and give them the microphone.
My hope was that through talking to these couples, some patterns would emerge… or that I would at least get some pro tips on how to have a successful long-term relationship for myself down the road.
I was not prepared for the world that I was about to discover, or amazing stories I was about to be exposed to.
I’ve interviewed gay couples, straight couples, rich couples, poor couples, religious couples, atheist couples, couples who have been together for a short time, and couples who have been together for over 70 years. I’ve even interviewed couples in arranged marriages and polygamous couples. You can listen to the interviews on his SoundCloud.
Questions asked to him:
Did you find that there were universal characteristics that make a relationship successful across all groups, regardless of religion, sexual orientation, money, etc?
This is how he responded:
The happiest couples always consisted of two (sometimes more) emotionally healthy and independently happy individuals. These people practiced self-love. They treated themselves with the same type of care that they treated their partner… or at least they tried to.
Emotionally healthy people know how to forgive, they are able to acknowledge their part in any disagreement or conflict and take responsibility for it. They are self-aware enough to be assertive, to pull their weight, and to give love when it’s most difficult.
After that emotional health came an unquestioning level of commitment. The happiest couples knew that if shit got real, their significant other wasn’t going to walk out on them. They knew that even if things got hard – no, especially if things got hard – they were better off together. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
Happy couples trust each other… and they have earned each others’ trust. They don’t worry about the other person trying to undermine them or sabotage them, because they’ve proven over and over again that they are each other’s biggest advocate. That trust is built through actions, not words. It’s day after day after day of fidelity, service, emotional security, reliability.
Establish that foundation, and you’re in good shape.
This is the icing on the cake. There’s a difference between the couple who drives through the rainstorm and the couple who pulls their car to the side of the road to make out in the rain. (Yes, that’s a true story.) There’s a difference between the couple who kisses for 10 seconds or longer when they say goodbye to each other rather than just giving each other a peck… or nothing at all. There’s a difference between the couples who encourage each other to pursue their personal goals at the expense of their own discomfort or inconvenience… even if it means their partner has to stage kiss another woman.
The couples who try on a daily basis to experience some sort of meaningful connection, or create a fun memory are the couples who shattered my perception of what was possible in a loving relationship.
Did the amount of financial security the couples had effect how strong their relationship appeared to be?
Most of the strongest couples had undergone times of extreme hardship, many of which included poverty.
For example: Reed and Allene went bankrupt, and ended up selling spoons door-to-door to avoid losing absolutely everything.
What separated couples like Reed and Allene from others is that when hardship hit them, they had each others’ backs, and they went to work and did what needed to be done. Marriage (or any sort of long-term commitment) is about team work, fighting for each other, and using each other to lean on in the hard times.
Finances has very little to do with quality of love. Actions have everything to do with quality of love.
Did you notice any patterns for how successful couples handle disagreements? Any advice?
Yes! Resolving disagreements was one of the topics that came up the most.
Here’s what I learned:
Don’t Fight To Win
A huge number of couples talked about how they didn’t fight against each other. I mean, if you’re in love, you should be playing for the same team. Your goal should be to resolve the issue, not to emerge victorious over the love of your life… and let’s be honest, you just feel guilty when you win anyway.
Seek to Understand
If you’re having a hard time playing on the same team, stop fighting and instead try to understand why your partner is upset. Typically what’s being talked about isn’t the real issue. People are inherently bad at being vulnerable, especially in threatening situations. Be willing to ask sincere questions. Let the answers sink in. If she is complaining that you’re spending too much time at work, maybe the real issue is that she misses you, and wants to feel connected with you. Rather than arguing about how you’re providing for the family, and she needs to respect how hard you work, try to listen to what she’s really saying. Then hold her. Come home early one day, and surprise her with a date, or some special one-on-one time. Reassure her that she, and your relationship, are a priority for you. If you don’t want that same issue to arise again, keep investing in the solution.
Just Be Nice To Each Other Seriously. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t call names. Don’t take jabs. Don’t try to hurt the other person. Argue naked if it helps… but just be kind and civil ad respectful. It will prevent so many bad things from happening.
What was the best advice that a couple gave you?
One woman in Georgia gave some pretty amazing advice. She and and her husband have been married for over 60 years, and after being asked what her best relationship advice would be, she paused and said…
Don’t be afraid to be the one who loves the most.
Do those with similar personalities or dissimilar personalities seem to last the longest, or did that really not have any bearing on whether the relationship worked?
That was actually one of the things I was most curious about when I started my journey, and also one of the things that surprised me most.
It was honestly almost a 50/50 split. Some people swore that opposites attract, and really needed to have similar interests and personalities. Others were convinced that birds of a feather flock together, and that you need to compliment and balance each other out..
I think what was most important was not so much that people had the surface stuff in common, but that they had the same values, and similar goals. (ie: someone who is dedicated to personal growth was rarely found with someone who was happy to be complacent, someone who didn’t want kids was never found with someone who did.)
Values superseded interests.
Do you think that appearance (i.e. how you look) has significant factor in getting people together?
like “That woman/man ‘looks’ nice…I think I’ll go talk to her.”…
in most animal kingdom, looks are what attracts potential mates…like bigger feathers, larger manes, brighter colors, ect ect…
I think that’s absolutely the case, yes. Though there are those who don’t experience overwhelming physical attraction from the get-go. Their attraction builds as their friendship builds.
Favorite couple you met?
I have different favorites for different reasons. The must surprisingly amazing couple was probably Ty and Terri from Omaha. We weren’t even supposed to interview them, but someone we met the night before introduced us. We showed up at their house at 9:00 at night expecting to do a quick 1 hour interview and ended up laughing, crying, and telling stories until like 2:00 am. It was an unbelievable experience.
My other favorite couple was probably Josh and Jenny from Kansas City. They are the couple whose life I’d like to steal if I could. They live more intentionally than anyone I’ve ever seen. They are the kind of couple who does the dishes together every night and then slow dances in the kitchen. They randomly surprise each other with breakfast in bed. They make out in the rain for no reason other than to create a memory. They are awesome. Their story will be published in a few weeks, and it will rock your socks.
Also, Kiran and MeiMei made me realize how in a love a couple can be. One of my favorite quotes of the entire trip was when they said that being married was like a 24/7 slumber party. Every young couple should have a chance to sit down and talk with them for an hour before they tie the knot. They would be so much better off for it.
What was the most important thing you took away from your experiences? I will continue to read through the interview great job!
The most important thing I learned was 2-fold.
First, I learned that a long-term relationship isn’t about making you happy. It’s about personal growth. To put it overly simply, the happiness that we all desire is a result of overcoming challenges and obstacles together and experiencing the thrills of victory and achievement.
I always thought that once I was unhappy in a relationship, something was wrong and the relationship wasn’t meant to be. Classic rookie mistake.
The other thing I learned is that the majority of relationships are ignorant to how mediocre they are. They have absolutely NO idea the levels of happiness, connection, and joy they are capable of experiencing… but it’s only because they don’t know it’s possible.
Most couples don’t realize that with 5 minutes of effort or creativity every day, they could completely raise the level of their relationship in a way that could drastically change their lives.
It’s a matter of changing how we think. For example: Instead of asking “How was your day?” at the end of every day, try asking a question that proves you actually care about the answer. “What made you laugh the hardest today?” or “Was there a point today when you felt alone?” or “What was your biggest personal victory today?”
One couple made it a goal that whenever they kiss goodbye, their kiss will last longer than 10 seconds. They are committed to keeping that romantic passion alive in their relationship… and all it takes is 10 seconds.
On the topic of arranged marriages, what did you notice (aside from the obvious that they didn’t choose to be a couple) was different about their relationships? Was there even something different?
The biggest difference was, I think, their attitude. They both entered the relationship as mature, well-educated individuals. They met, and a week later were married. Rather than be terrified (like most of us from the Western world would be), they looked at it as an adventure.
At one point she said, “Most people get to know each other before they get married. We got married and then got to spend years getting to know each other. It was an adventure.”
They also both entered the relationship with an inherent attitude of selflessness. I know we’ve all probably heard it over and over and over, but it was the idea that “If she’s happy, I’m happy.” (or vice versa).
When I asked them why they thought so many relationships fail, they said, “Your expectation is that you’re expecting stuff, not giving stuff.”
They entered their relationship expecting to give. I think that’s pretty awesome.
Out of all the couples you’ve interviewed what specific event/story were you told about that made you think, “Oh, hot damn. THIS is what love is.”
“At the end of Ty’s life, I want him to be able to say, ‘Terri was the greatest earthly blessing in my life – the best thing that ever happened to me – and that I’m a better man because of how she loved me. And that’s the goal that I live with every day. That’s how I want to love this man.'”
More amazing answers from this amazing man on the reddit link above. Reddit is amazing.