Do the Right Thing

Spirit, science, and health

Want Love to Last? Then Think Differently About Who Is a Good Partner

If you want love to last a lifetime then think about marrying your best friend.

In much of American culture we have this image of love developing from eyes meeting across a crowded room, your socks roll up and down, and then BANG…love ignites! Love seems to happen that way if you watch a lot of Hollywood movies or read a lot of novels. Sadly, too often people make lifelong marital decisions about who to partner with using this template for finding love. More often than not, this method for finding love seems to be a recipe for disaster.

Additionally, where do people try and find love and a partner (especially after they complete their education when they are with so many single people of similar age and education)? Online? Bars? Health clubs? Do any of these locations really make much sense in terms of finding your soulmate? After all, who can believe what people post about themselves on the internet? Do you really want to meet your soulmate boozing it up at some bar? Do you really want to meet the life partner of your dreams watching themselves in a mirror while working out? Isn’t there a better way to find love that is more thoughtful, realistic, and productive?

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Since the 1970s just about half of all first marriages end in divorce (with the risks of second and third marriages ending in divorce increasing to 60 percent and more). Does anyone ever walk down the aisle on that special marital day saying to oneself, “Gee I have a 50 percent chance of this relationship working out”? The remaining half of marriages who stay together are not always examples of eternal marital bliss either are they? So what can be done to improve your odds of finding lasting love?

Well, some people are pretty negative on this front and argue that fidelity is a concept born of a shorter lifespan. If the average age of marriage is mid to late 20s and the average life span is approaching 80 then that is a lot of time to spend with one person who you thought was pretty hot when they were in their 20s. Some argue that life long partnering is a thing of movies and tradition but not realistic. I beg to differ.  

Of course there are many important factors that contribute to the odds of being happy in love including sexual attraction but one often overlooked element is the notion that you should think seriously about connecting with your pal rather than depending upon who turns you on the most. The day-to-day life of marital partners is so much more about shared interests, values, and perspectives on life and the world rather than who you enjoy looking at and having sex with for a few hours in your week or month. While this notion seems obvious it is remarkable how few people follow the wisdom on this principle.

So, if you are looking for lifelong love you might want to put the brakes on your impulse to connect with who you think is the hottest and accelerate your relationship with those who you just really enjoy being around. Think about it….which strategy is likely to result in a relationship that lasts a life time?

So, sexual attraction is great but you don't want to put all of your eggs in that basket if you want lasting love. What do you think? 

Thomas Plante, PhD, ABPP, is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, SJ University Professor at Santa Clara University and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University.

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