What's The Secret To Staying In Love



After 73 years of mar­riage, 94-year old Bar­bara Cooper knows how to get through matrimony’s rough patches. The author of Fall in Love for Life shares her hard-earned wisdom.

On mak­ing time to make love
“I don’t under­stand cou­ples who say they are too busy or too tired to sleep together. Unless they are build­ing roads all day or run­ning a multi-national cor­po­ra­tion, I expect they have just lost sight of pri­or­i­ties. If you wish to stay con­nected and happy in your mar­riage, my advice to you is to never be too tired or too busy to feel love for your part­ner. When your life is nearly over, you will regret it if you look back and recall too many nights when you made excuses instead of mak­ing love.”

On bick­er­ing
“The most impor­tant thing for any cou­ple try­ing to get along is to think before you speak. If you are bick­er­ing and find that you are get­ting angry, take a deep breath and change course, and ask your part­ner to do the same. Try say­ing some­thing con­cil­ia­tory like, ‘I don’t know why this is mak­ing me so upset, but it is, so can you just humor me and help me get over it?’ By sim­ply admit­ting you are los­ing your cool, you may find that the anger quickly dissipates.”

On greet­ing your part­ner
“If you want your rela­tion­ship to sur­vive and to thrive, you will have to train your­self to focus most of your atten­tion on the per­son you love. When your sweet­heart comes into the room, whether it’s just from tak­ing care of some chores in the garage or from a long day at work, your job is to put down what­ever you’re doing, look him in the eye, and ver­bally express your delight at see­ing him again. It’s really so lit­tle to ask, and deliv­ers so much — to both of you.”

On hav­ing affairs
“Some peo­ple have affairs because they tell them­selves that they deserve more atten­tion than they get at home. Or maybe they get annoyed because they feel that all of their needs aren’t get­ting met by their part­ner. Well, who­ever told them that one per­son could meet their every need? You can actu­ally live quite com­fort­ably with­out hav­ing all of your needs met. Try think­ing about it that way; you might be sur­prised how lib­er­at­ing it is. You are not per­fect, and nei­ther is your part­ner, but you can make a very pleas­ant life together if you are both seri­ous about pro­vid­ing the love and sup­port that go along with a marriage.”

On going from lovers to par­ents
“It’s true that when your babies are small, there isn’t much time left over for roman­tic ges­tures. But the won­der­ful thing about romance is that it is the qual­ity, never the quan­tity, that mat­ters. So when the baby is nap­ping, throw a blan­ket on the liv­ing room floor, slice some peaches or plums or what­ever you have in the house, pour a glass of some­thing bub­bly, and enjoy a mini pic­nic. Write love notes to each other and slip them in between the clean dia­pers. Be cre­ative, and if you want your love to flour­ish, it cer­tainly will do so.”

On over­com­ing money prob­lems
“The most impor­tant ingre­di­ent for get­ting through tough eco­nomic times is THE TRUTH — it’s so impor­tant it should be cap­i­tal­ized and ital­i­cized. So this means that if you have any finan­cial secrets you are keep­ing from your part­ner, you must put them on the table. Doesn’t that sound scary? I am sure it does, but as with so many unpleas­ant things that only get big­ger and stronger in the dark, these secrets have a funny way of shrink­ing in the light of the truth. And as they get smaller, your stress and worry will fly away. There’s never a bet­ter time to be hon­est with your part­ner and your­self and make a plan for deal­ing with your debts and your excess spend­ing — together. I promise, you will not regret it.”

On tun­ing in to your part­ner
“I think the place where good mar­riages break down is when one or both par­ties begin to take the other per­son for granted. And yet it’s under­stand­able that this hap­pens. Life is com­pli­cated and can be exhaust­ing, so there is always a temp­ta­tion when you get home to just tune out, because home is one place where you should feel safe enough to let your guard down this way. But there’s a dif­fer­ence between relax­ing and dis­en­gag­ing, and while relax­ing is a healthy way to recharge your psy­chic and spir­i­tual bat­ter­ies, dis­en­gag­ing is a drain on you and your rela­tion­ships. Noth­ing is more impor­tant than that you rec­og­nize the dif­fer­ence and stay present for all the peo­ple you love.”

On bring­ing up the past
“The most impor­tant les­son I can teach you from our happy mar­riage is that we did not rehash. If some­thing was unpleas­ant, we got through it, han­dled the fall­out, and did not bring it up again in happy times. So we both knew that once a prob­lem was solved, that was it — we would not have to answer for it again, at least not in its cur­rent form. And know­ing this, we could give all our atten­tion to fix­ing the prob­lems that came along, because once they were fixed, we could for­get about them, which is a very won­der­ful feeling.”

On con­trol­ling your anger
“Have you ever noticed that you can’t spell dan­ger­ous with­out anger? I’m no lin­guist, but I don’t think that’s a coin­ci­dence. When you’re ready to blow, you might say any­thing hurt­ful, things you would nor­mally spare the per­son you love from hear­ing. Don’t say some­thing you’ll regret for­ever. Don’t give your part­ner an excuse to come back to you with his or her own resent­ments. Instead, find a way to get your anger under con­trol. For myself, I sim­ply run through my mind a short movie of how fool­ishly I have been act­ing. You may have bet­ter luck singing a silly song, or pat­ting your head while rub­bing your tummy, or doing what­ever lit­tle trick helps bring you out­side of your­self long enough to regain control.”


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