Picture this. You've had a bit of a bad day. You want something--love, comfort, perhaps. But you're not exactly sure what that elusive thing is, or how to get it. If you're in a relationship, your thoughts may turn to criticism of what that relationship is not giving you. And if you're single, you are bombarded with messages about what you need to make you happy.
Much of what you will see and hear are false promises. Let's call it the "fake news" of love.
This includes images of endless adventures, exotic destinations, diamonds and roses, gourmet dinners, perfect people in perfect settings. It's all highly influenced by consumerism and celebrity culture. We're swamped by such messages, encouraged to be discontented so we'll buy more. But somewhere deep down most of us know that we can't buy love and we can't buy happiness. The only place that will get us is in a credit crunch!
This kind of discontent likely also leads to relationships ending before they reach their full promise. We live in a world of the quick fix. When problems happen, when boredom sets in, we are encouraged to look elsewhere. Find something new. Find someone new.
I've been looking for answers to two questions.
- How do people with a great deal of life experience define happiness?
- And what do couples who've enjoyed long lives together have to say about the staying power of love?
I've been reading about and watching interviews with older couples who have been together a long time. Many of them have struggled through many life challenges. And here is some of what they have to say.
- Their relationships lasted because they were committed to each other. Through thick and thin. They knew life was not going to be a bed of roses.
- They were united in purpose, but not joined at the hip. They had their differences and separate interests. They argued, and that was fine. One couple said that it was a big mistake to expect another person to give you everything. It's just too much pressure.
- They talked about laughter. About the need to find joy in simple things.
- "Stay close," a number of them said. And you could tell by the way they sat close, looked at each other, touched, that physical intimacy was huge in their lives. Sex, yes. And everyday, ordinary touch. Physical touch is a powerful force of human connection.
- Some said they touched bases everyday through small habits. A meal, a drink, a walk, talking before bedtime.
What I really noticed was the absence of any mention of luxury items or endless excitement. I think we can learn a great deal from this kind of wisdom and experience. When relationships are not defined by society's expectations, but by a commitment to loving and understanding another person, they have a much better chance of lasting. And of producing the kind of laughter I saw in these people. I suspect there are some good secrets behind the laughter. The other thing I noticed was that at the end of a lot of these videos, the couples did the same thing. They kissed. And for me, that says it all.