How to Be a Happy Couple: Advice from Elizabeth, 89

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:








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!

2 thoughts on “How to Be a Happy Couple: Advice from Elizabeth, 89

  1. i find it very interesting that people who ostensibly know each other so well and care for each other so much should need the visual aids (those cards).
    however, it is also extremely useful to just stop, and consider these factors which are crucial in any relationship
    i really cannot think straight about someone splitting up from this experience and am wrestling with various thoughts such as how silly, what no discussions and perhaps counselling to consider how and if changes could be made, and, most awfully, well that seems to shortcut everything and divorce here we come (speaking rhetorically!)

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