All couples want to be happy, but not all succeed. I received this wonderful piece of advice from Elizabeth,  89, who is a 1944 graduate of Cornell University (where I am a professor).

Elizabeth was, as she put it, “in love with my husband for 70 years.” She went on:

We had 9 children,  traveled to over 70 countries, started a few businesses and especially a foundation.   Early in our life, a priest asked us if we would set up a teaching mechanism to advise engaged couples.  What we came up with was the importance of matched values. 

 We made 2 sets of cards for each couple  - each card had one value on it, such as:

EDUCATION

FAMILY

MONEY

CAREER

RELIGION

HEALTH

SEX

We sent the men into one room and the women into another.  Each was to arrange the values in the order of their importance.  Then they got back together and everyone discussed their preferences.  Some immediately realized that they would not get along and broke up!

Regarding her own marriage, she told me:

As for John and me,  God was the most important feature of our life.  When we had differences, we went to God in prayer to help resolve the issue.  Also,  both of us put the other first.  I felt that I devoted my life to him and he believed he devoted his life to me.  We were both correct.

 I helped him in all his businesses.  We always made time for fun in our lives.  We belonged to formal dance groups – and attended a formal dance at least once a month.  We had a real struggle as far as money andactually went into bankruptcy when we had three children in college.  Some of our children also had difficulties. We weathered all these storms and grew closer together.  John died three years ago and I am now living in a retirement home.  I feel his presence daily and constantly ask him   to help me make decisions. 

Why not try the exercise Elizabeth and John created? See how your values match those of your partner (or prospective partner). And let us know in a comment how it worked for you!