The secret to a strong marriage lies not in the stand-out holidays or presents, but enjoying one another every day, writes Margaret Jennings.
SO how’s your marriage going, now that you are together for a couple of decades?
According to a survey earlier this month of 2,000 over 50s, 67% said they believed that love gets stronger as you get older.
Before you have a sudden attack of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), it appears it takes two to tango and there’s lots you can still do to keep that fire burning — even if it’s smouldering, rather than blazing.
The researchers say they delved into the intricacies of a successful relationship to unearth the most common responses to the question ‘what is love?’
In the final analysis, says Richard Drew, CEO of www.retirementmove.co.uk who commissioned the research: “What the data reveals is that the warmest bonds and most valued memories aren’t necessarily always the big standout things like exciting holidays or calendar moments, but actually in the living and enjoying of one another day to day.
Building a home together proved a central concept to long-lasting love and shows that so much of the way we think about love, comes from that sense of feeling at home and belonging to a place.”
While only 8% agreed that love was “getting jewellery and nice presents” a whopping 60% defined it as building that home together.
In fact two thirds said that the simplicity of their shared times at home overruled memories around big moments like holidays and birthdays.
It would appear that it is the troughs — those ordinary shared times, rather than the peaks of brief excitement, that matter most, when you review what successful partnership is, after age 50.
That would undoubtedly be the case with nearly a quarter of those retired, who said the best thing about not having to work, was getting to spend quality time with the person they loved.
Remaining friends in marriage was one of the key pieces of advice given by more than 1,000 older Americans who were interviewed about life and love by Karl Pillemer, a New York-based university professor.
Those he spoke to had been married, or in a longterm partnership, for 30, 40, 50 or more years and he shared their wisdom in his book 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.
“When asked the question: ‘What’s the secret to a long, happy marriage such as yours?’ a common answer from people in long marriages was: ‘I married my best friend’,” he says.
“Similarly, from those whose marriages did not succeed, I often heard: ‘Well, we were good at love, but we never learned how to be friends’.”
In the British research it may be telling that 40% said they love going for a long walk with their spouse and that the three best things about being in love was happiness, having a true companion, and feeling cared for.
While happiness is too complex to break down, the other two rewards are clearly linked to shared experience and togetherness.
It’s no surprise then that 56% said they defined love as missing their partner when they were away.
Meanwhile, the benefits of living happy ever after, extend further to just cosying up together on the couch at home.
Reseachers continually tout the positive effects marriage has on our health as we age, including a lower chance of cardiovascular disease.
Harvard University researchers, for instance, found married people were much less likely than singles to die of cancer.
However, it’s not always that rosy in the garden.
The health benefits of marriage can be severely diminished if the relationship isn’t solid.
Sociologists at Michigan State University who studied participants aged between 57 and 85 said the effects of a bad marriage — particularly when one partner was critical or demanding of the other — increased their chances of heart disease.
Professor Ted Dinan, head of the Department of Psychiatry at UCC, says that living in an unhappy marriage also radically increases the rate of depression in middle aged people, particularly in women.
Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Georgia found that a predictor of wedded bliss was simply gratitude; when spouses feel valued and acknowledged, it directly influences how they feel about their marriage and how committed they are to it.
So it would seem that those who valued the friendship of their partners in the British survey, are on the right track.
Experts at expo
The 50 Plus expo show will take place in City Hall, Cork, next weekend, March 5 and 6. Formerly known as The Over 50s show, this is the ninth year of the event in Cork.
Over 80 exhibitors will be laying out their stalls offering opportunities such as free health checks, blood pressure checks, hearing screenings, vision screenings and dry eye assessments.
Personal finance advice will be given by the Money Doctor, John Lowe.
There will also be gardening clinics, beauty makeovers, painting workshops, bridge workshops and genealogy experts at the ready.
There are goody bags for all and one person will win a week’s holiday to Portugal.
Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others
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