Archives for Love and Marriage

Have You Finally Found “The One?” The Elders Tell You How to Decide

wait for marriageA few weeks ago, I posted about three mistakes people make in choosing a partner. These “warning signs”  came from my studies of over 700 older people, who shared their lessons about love, relationships and marriage (detailed in 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage, just published this month).

Readers now want to know, however: “What should I do to make a smart choice?”  I’m happy to offer you what people who have made it to the finish line of marriage say are the smart moves for mate selection. Based on around 25,000 years of married life, here are three of the elders’ tips for making the smart decision about a mate.

1. Marry someone who can talk. The elders told me that the strong, silent type can be very attractive – but is not so great as a life partner for decades. Instead, they agreed that for a successful marriage you need to talk. Sure, differences exist among individuals in just how open or reserved they are. But the elders say that once you are in a marriage, you need to add one more marital vow: to have and hold, to care in sickness and health – and to talk

The elders agree: There’s no way to be married happily for decades unless your partner is a talker. Not all the time, if that’s not his or her personality. But when there are important issues in the relationship, decisions to be made, disappointment or dissatisfaction that is festering – then things are different. At such times, your partner simply must be able to talk freely and constructively about important issues, or the marriage is not likely to be happy, or even to last.

Cora, 72, told me:

Always, always talk to one another. That is very important because you lose sight of your marriage if you don’t talk. What’s the sense of two people living together if they’re not going to communicate about things that are happening? If you don’t communicate, then you’re not going to get along.

Joshua, 81, was even blunter:

If you can’t communicate, then there’s no intimacy. You’re just two dead ducks.

The elders say that the smart move is to marry someone who can comfortably share ideas and feelings. And it’s not just talking about problems. Equally important, they believe that frequent and vibrant conversation keeps the relationship spark alive. One diagnostic test: Can you go out for dinner and maintain a mutually interesting conversation over a long meal? If so, it’s a very good sign.

2. You’re happy with your partner as is.

There is one issue on which long-married elders are unanimous: Getting married based on a plan to change your partner is a terrible mistake. Treating your potential spouse as a do-it-yourself project is a recipe for failure. Most of them made that mistake themselves, and they have seen their children and grandchildren do it too. People are so much in love – or desperate to settle on a partner – that they indulge in the false hope that they can make their mate into someone new.

The elders are blunt about this lesson. Darren, 79, told me:

Changing someone after marriage? It never happens. Don’t’ try to force your likes or dislikes on somebody. All the things that annoy you – either you can accept them or look for somebody else.

And Melissa, 82, added:

It’s human nature to want to change somebody. But if I want to change you, what got me to like you in the first place? They’re not going to change because the other person wants to make them change.

After talking to the elders, I came up with a list of “Things You May Tell Yourself about Your Partner that Won’t Come True.” It includes statements like this (male and female pronouns are randomly used – these apply to both genders!)

He thinks he doesn’t want kids, but that will change after we get married.

  • She hates my family now, but they’ll grow on her.
  • After we’re married, I’ll get him on a diet and he’ll lose that gut.
  • I’ll put us on a budget so she can’t keep racking up credit card debt.

The list can go on and on – and the elders tell you to that this kind of thinking is all wrong.

The smart move: List out your partner’s personality characteristics or behaviors and ask yourself, “Can I live with them for a lifetime if they never change?” If the answer’s yes, the elders say you are heading in the right direction.

3. Your partner is financially responsible.

First, let me be clear: the elders believe in love. In fact, when I sorted through responses to the question, “What advice would you give to young person about choosing a mate,” the top answer was: “Be in Love!” However, they warn that following only your heart-pounding passion into marriage is a prescription for disaster. I can’t put it any clearer than Stanley, age 66:

The glow of love shouldn’t wipe out all the logic and the rational common sense that you need to make the decision of who you’re going to marry.

Because marriage is much more than the feeling of being in love. Instead, it’s a formal economic and legal arrangement that makes couples financial lives inextricably entwined. Yes, believe in love – but the smart move is not to be blind to practicalities. And one of these the ability to make a living and handle money.

Most couples in our society need two incomes to achieve their financial goals. Therefore, the elders say that men and women alike must ask the question: Will the person I’m in love with be economically viable. Your economic success and standard of living will be connected inextricably to that of another person. The elders suggest you take off your rose-colored glasses for a moment and examine two things.

As Cecilia, age 74, put it:

It’s hard to think about material things when you’re physically attracted to someone; it’s hard to put that aside. But one thing to look at is both of your attitudes toward work. It’s awfully hard to be working all the time and someone else is sitting there watching you. If one has to be carried all the time, that’s hard. Does the person want to succeed in school, or succeed in their work, or succeed period? It’s something you need to take into consideration.

In addition, conscientious money management is diagnostic for the relationship’s future. You will, they say, be truly wedded to your partner’s financial attitudes and behaviors. Eric, age 69, told me:

One of the most frequent reasons for marriage breakups has to do with financial problems. And those are things that people can generally tell in advance. If you’re talking about somebody that’s totally profligate in their spending habits, it’s a warning sign.

So there you have it – three smart moves to compliment the three “dumb” mistakes I wrote about earlier. For many more relationship tips from the elders, take a look at the book and visit us at

What A Week It’s Been: 30 Lessons for Loving is Launched!

What’s exhausting, exhiliarating, fun, and challenging, all at the same time? There are a bunch of reasonable answers, but I can definitely offer this one: Launching a new book!Arise 360

30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage was published by Hudson Streeet Press/Penguin on January 8. That meant a slew of interviews leading up to the date, then a trip to New York City for a fascinating range of appearances. Although the publicity for the book is always great, equally important is the outpouring of interest in elder wisdom and advice. All the media professionals with whom I interacted “got it” regarding the value of elders as sages and advice givers.

A big thrill was appearing on CBS This Morning. I was of course nervous, but hosts Charlie Rose, Norah O’Donnell, and Gayle King made me feel right at home.

This appearance followed a big spread in USA Today about the book, by the wonderful journalist Nanci Hellmich. I’m so grateful to Nanci for beautifully capturing the spirit of the oldest and wisest Americans in this piece.

I was also welcomed by the co-hosts of the interview show Arise 360, for an in-depth discussion about the book (that’s the picture accompanying this post). Wonderful conversation – check out their website for where to view the show.

Few people make an interview more fun than the wise and witty host of AARP Radio, Mike Cuthbert. That interview will air soon – check out their web page for times.

But Shelli Sonstein gives him a run for his money – my interview for “Sonstein Sunday” on New York City’s WAXQ airs tomorrow (January 10). Listen in on 104.3 FM at 7 AM, or grab the podcast on the site soon thereafter (if that’s too early!).

There’s more coming – check out this Monday’s Wall Street Journal, this month’s Elle Magazine, and the Parents Magazine web site, just for starters! Now I’m going back to bed…

Join Me January 8 on CBS This Morning! Publication Day!

The media interest in 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage has been pretty overwhelming. It is incredibly gratifying  to see that elder wisdom strikes a chord with so many people.30LessonsLoving

And I’m thrilled to have the chance to discuss the book on January 8 on CBS This Morning! Please join me – and feel free to comment here with your reactions.

And there’s an article in USA Today on the book, too: Hundreds of Retirees Share Secrets to a Happy Marriage.


30 Lessons for Loving’s Almost Here: Here’s a Preview from ABC News!

The countdown is on for the publication of 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage! The book hits the shelves on January 8, and we’re gearing up for media coverage (more to come on that soon!). We hope you will help us spread the word about this new product of our research on elder wisdom.

Check out the website, where you can watch the new book trailer and explore more about elder wisdom on love and marriage.

Many people have been asking about the book and the Marriage Advice Project, on which it is based. So we thought we’d share this coverage by ABC News that sums it up beautifully.

Thanks to reporter Megan Healey for a sensitive and uplifting report.

 Below is the article that accompanied the broadcast. And you can enjoy the video here.

Alma Bobb has been a widow for more than 30 years and when she talks about her late husband Jim, it’s obvious how much she still loves him.
“He was very special and I still miss him,” she said.
At nearly 100 years old, Alma has always had a lust for life and love. She met Jim seven years before she agreed to marry him, and says her time spent away from home as professional dancer in Europe helped her realize where she truly belonged — in Hershey with the love of her life.
“We were married and I quit my career cold turkey,” she said. “We were married for 44 years — too short. Some people are making it to their 60th anniversary these days.”
“You might call this the triumph of hope over experience,” Dr. Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist at Cornell University, said.
Pillemer says people like Alma are walking Encyclopedias on love and marriage, so he’s using their advice to spread the good, the bad and the downright ugly truths of relationships by interviewing seniors all over the United States. He met Alma while conducting interviews at Country Meadows of Hershey.
“We’re trying to convey it’s lessons for loving from the people I call the wisest Americans who are the oldest Americans,” he said.
Pillemer used that idea as inspiration for his first book “30 Lessons for Living,” in which he spoke with thousands of people, ages 65 plus, about their life successes and biggest regrets. He says this project was inspired by questions that popped up from the book.
“Lots of young people said ‘what I’d really like to know more about is how do people stay married for 60-70 years, happily?’ So they really like guidance.”
Sometimes, Pillemer says, the guidance may surprise you.
“I might get some flack for this, but not to just marry the first man who came along just because she wants children badly,” Alma said during her interview.
Pillemer says he often hears things that seem obvious, but so often don’t happen in relationship.
“To have different experiences before you’re married, to see what kind of person they are — if they stand up to responsibility,” Alma said.
Alma says she hopes her marriage advice isn’t outdated.
“I’m sure that young people today have different questions,” she said.
Pillemer says while that may be true with specifics, when it comes to the big picture, a 99-year-old like Alma is just perfect.
“I think really a lot of us are hungry for more positive images of aging and this is one way of getting it,” he said. “You can see beyond ‘oh that just looks like an old person who doesn’t seem useful to me,’ if you start asking them their advice about living.”

Thinking about Marriage? Pay Attention to these Warning Signs!

In conducting the research for my new book (coming out on January 8), I asked a lot of younger people what they wanted to Choosing mateknow from long-married elders about how to live “happily ever after.” And one of their biggest questions was: How do I know someone is the right – or wrong – one for me? As they so often do, the elders have some great advice.

I’ll be blunt. Even though chosing a mate can seem incredibly complicated, the elders have one very simple rule for you

Don’t be dumb in choosing your partner!

Over and over, when it comes to marriage the elders point to decisions that completely ignore the evidence and show bad judgment. They believe there are a set of signs so strong and compelling that they tell you to get out of the relationship. However all too many people ignore the clear warnings and get married — and, the elders tell us, live through a horrendous period (or even an entire married life), suffering the consequences of that dumb decision.

Sifting through hundreds of responses, I learned about four warning signs that should make you very reluctant to commit to a relationship. Most people know these signs are wrong — but hope that they can change their partner or that they won’t matter. The elders say this self-delusion is a huge mistake. And please note: For those of you already in a relationship, these warnings still apply. They are a diagnostic tool for deciding whether your marriage needs a fix (or an exit strategy).

Warning Sign # 1: Violence toward you of any kind

Yes, this point may seem obvious. But I have to put it first and foremost, because entering marriage after experiencing dating violence is still shockingly common, despite decades of warnings from researchers, physicians, and counselors.

On this issue, the elders are unequivocal: If your partner hits you or tries to hurt you in any way, get out. If it happens while you are dating, they firmly state, it will happen in your marriage. As Joan, age 84, put it

Don’t ever, ever get involved with somebody who is abusive at all physically, because you are asking for trouble. They may say that they are going to change and you may think that you will change them – News flash: you are not going to. I tried changing him and I gave up and left. I don’t care how many times person tells you they’re sorry and they’re never going to do that again. I think you find that they do.

I could spend a long time offering you detailed accounts from the elders who made the mistake of marrying someone who had been violent toward them, only to have the physical abuse escalate after marriage. But you probably know it already – make sure to act on it.

Warning Sign # 2: Explosive and Unexplained Anger while Dating

The elders assert that a huge warning sign is explosive and unreasonable anger. They tell you to beware of a person who seems to “get angry over nothing” or “has a bad temper” — anyone whose anger is disproportionate to the situation.

Most important, be aware that these outbursts initially may not be directed toward you. During courtship, they say, people are can keep their anger toward their prospective partner under control. Therefore, you need to look carefully at how he or she responds to frustrating situations and to other people. Annette, 76, dodged a bullet with a man she was getting serious about. She told me:

I dated someone and I was in the subway with him in the city, and we missed the train because we were on the wrong side of the platform. We were walking up the stairs and he took a whole bunch of change out of his pocket and he said some terrible things and threw all of his money down the stairs because he was very angry that we had missed the train. And when that happened, I looked at that person and I said: “This is not a person I want to spend my life with!”

It only was a minute, but you know, it was very telling. You can tell what kind of a person a person is if you miss your plane, if you lose your luggage, if you are caught outside on a rainy day, or something like that. In those stressful situations if they’re going to just stand there and curse up a storm or throw something, ask yourself if want to spend your life with a person with those coping skills.

In fiction and film, someone like this can be attractive in a dangerous way. But in the elders’ long experience, anger that can’t be explained or controlled — even if directed toward others or toward inanimate objects — is a warning sign that can’t be ignored.
Warning Sign 3: Dishonesty — in things large and small

Everyone tells little white lies (in answer to things like “Do these pants make me look fat?”). But the elders say pay careful attention to someone who is dishonest. Clearly, dishonesty to you is a probably deal-breaker. As Pamela, 91, warns:

All the sudden not coming home. Lying about where they’ve been or been with or what they’ve been doing. Secret phone calls. All kinds of things like that. Trust is a big issue and once you lose that, it’s very difficult to regain. You might put it on the back burner but you’re always going to be suspicious.

The elders also suggest you look for even small kinds of dishonesty in your potential mate. Does he or she cheat on tests? Take small items from work? Routinely lie his or her way out of situations? They believe that these are all warning signs of dishonesty that will spill eventually into your relationship.

Warning Sign 4: Sarcasm and Teasing

The problem with these two behaviors is that they are often portrayed as “just in fun.” When you get angry in response, you are accused of “not having a sense of humor.” The elders advise you to beware of anyone who engages in mean-spirited sarcasm or whose teasing crosses the border into aggression.

Barbara, age 70, left her first husband after a few years because she sensed the dark side that lurked behind his sarcasm:

Pay attention to behavioral signs. Somebody who is persistently, consistently, always sarcastic and critical, that should have been a warning sign to me that I was dealing with somebody who couldn’t function very well in the world. So I think that’s something that a young person can look for — this profound kind of sarcasm.

Margaret, age 90, had to reach an agreement with her husband to end teasing in their relationship. She told me:

Teasing is very dangerous. Teasing is like bullying. It demeans the other person, that kind of mocking behavior. It’s supposed to be kidding, but it’s a good warning sign, because it really devalues the other person.

Sometimes love and marriage seem incredibly complicated. But a great thing about talking with the elders is they make it simple and crystal clear: Far too many people make a dumb decision in choosing a mate, and live to regret it for years. By avoiding these four dangerous traps, you can make an intelligent decision — and one that increases your chances of living happily ever after.

For more information on the book and on the Marriage Advice Project, please visit the website, like the project on Facebook, and follow on Twitter:@karlpillemer.

30 Lessons for Loving Update: Reviews, Giveaways, and More!

Nothing is more exciting for an author than anticipating a new book coming out. And 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the photoWisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage will be out in a little over a month (January 8). There’s a lot of attention and activity starting already.

First, visit our great new website for the Marriage Advice Project. Check out the video on the new book, connect to our Youtube channel with videos of elders sharing their lessons on love, relationships, and marriage, and add your own lessons for loving.

Second, here’s your chance to get a free copy! There’s a giveaway on Goodreads between now and December 8. Enter to win a free copy of the book, hot off the press.

Third, every writer fears those early reviews, so it was a thrill to read this advance review from Publisher’s Weekly. The reivewer perfectly captured the aims of the book:

Gerontologist Pillemer shares findings from his survey of 700 people in “very long marriages” (the shortest here have lasted three decades, the longest, more than five) for tips on maintaining successful long-term relationships. The respondents, charmingly called “the experts” by Pillemer, share “storehouses of invaluable lived experience” on areas including questions to ask yourself before settling down, domestic violence, and late-in-life sex. Communication is discussed at length via six lessons, including being polite to your partner within “the comfortable informality of married life” and choosing the appropriate time for serious conversations. The experts break down conflict by examining the “five major stressors” that affect most relationships, with rules for dealing with the in-laws and properly delegating household labor. In addition to summarizing his survey’s results, Pillemer shares the experts’ own words. One respondent describes divorcing her husband and remarrying him 64 years later, while an 88-year-old “rough and tumble” Korean War veteran suggests taking an interest in your partner’s preferred activities, remarking, “I went to operas. Operas!” The benefits of such a comprehensive study incorporating so many years of experience should be ample, for newlyweds and contemporaries of the respondents alike. The advice is astute, fresh, and well selected by Pillemer. This book would serve as an excellent gift for newlyweds.

Stay tuned for more announcements as we count down to January 8 (including a surprise media appearance…)!

Beverly’s Marriage Advice: “Be in Like!”

We are so proud of the interns who worked with us over the past summer! This post comes from Madeline Weinfeld, backview of senior couple looking over the seaa junior at Cornell University majoring in Human Development and minoring in Business. She reports that she truly enjoyed every interview she conducted during the internship and applies the lessons she learned to her life today. The exoerience helped Madeline realize how important and valuable elders are, and also how important it is that people work in this field. Madeline is excited to be back at school where she can help educate her peers and make Cornell’s campus more aware of both the risk and resiliency within the aging population.

 Madeline shares a lesson she learned from on wise elder: Friendship is critically important in marriage:

Beverly, age 87 is an incredibly upbeat and optimistic lady. She was a pleasure to talk to and was really excited to be able to share some of her life experiences and expertise. Of all of the stories she shared and the memories she recalled, Beverly was most confident and enthusiastic about the importance of family in her life. In particular, she was especially passionate about her remarkable relationship with her late husband.

Right now, I’m widowed. I’ve been widowed for over 20 years. My husband was only 66. He was my childhood boyfriend, lover, friend, everything. And we had a wonderful, wonderful marriage.

Beverly never re-married, and even though she had lost her husband so long ago, you could still sense the love she had for him. I was intrigued by her seemingly unconditional love for a man she had known since childhood. When I asked her what advice she had for having a long and happy marriage, Beverly shared original advice that made perfect sense. She said:

Always find someone who can be your best friend. It is always better to be in like than in love. Love does change. Yes, it stays with you, but it does change. Like never changes. And that is what helps marriages last, to be in like.

This idea of being “in like” is so simple, yet I think it is often neglected in forming relationships because it is so easy to get caught up in the exciting thrill of infatuation. Beverly was confident that being “in like” was the most necessary component when finding a partner with whom you will one day create a family of your own.

Goodbye to a Wise Elder – And Thanks for the Marriage Advice!

Over the course of the Legacy Project, we’ve talked to hundreds of elders, asking them about lessons for living they would like tobluesky pass down to younger people. In the interviews, I often feel a deep connection to respondents, especially over the course of a long conversation about profound and personal topics.

So one of the hardest parts of this project is when I learn of their passing. News will trickle in that one of these sages in our midst has died, and despite their age, I always feel surprised and saddened that this particular light has gone out. But I am also grateful that I was able to record their practical wisdom so younger people can use it.

Antoinette Watkins was one such elder. Her advice for a happy marriage is featured in my forthcoming book 30 Lessons for Loving: The Wisest Americans Advice onLove, Relationships, and Marriage. Then age 81, Antoinette had overcome troubled early years in her marriage and achieved a warm, loving relationship with her husband of 55 years.

Her lesson for younger people is that to keep the spark alive throughout a long relationship, you must make a habit of doing small, positive things. That’s what keeeps a relationship warm, supportive, and fun.

I have never forgotten this suggestion from Antoinette – and one I try to personally practice (not always successfully, but I try!).

There is one practical piece of advice I have givenn to my children. This is just one little jewel that I passed along to them. And that’s when you wake up in the morning, think: “What can I do to make his day or her day just a little happier?”  The idea is that you need to  to turn toward each other and  focus on the other person,  even just for that five minutes when you first wake up. It’s going to make a big difference in your relationship.

She taught me that the build-up of such simple, positive gestures can transform a marriage. And this is why we should be sure to ask our elders for advice about things like love and marriage.



3 Secrets to a Long Marriage – From Those Who Made It

In our society, we have a paradox. Most people want to get married and there is considerable research evidence that marriage has abackview of senior couple looking over the sea wide range of benefits. But too often, the joy that accompanies the wedding celebration turns sour, and nearly half of couples who stand at the altar in hopeful excitement find themselves starting over after the trauma of divorce.

I was particularly interested in long-married elders’ advice about finding a life partner and staying married. In my new book, 30 Lessons for Loving (coming out this January), I surveyed 700 older Americans for their advice.

Here are three major (and somewhat surprising) lessons from the elders for finding a life partner and staying together “as long as you both shall live.”

Marry Someone a Lot Like You

I asked hundreds of elders what is most important for a long and happy marriage and their advice was just about unanimous: Opposites may attract, but they don’t make for great and lasting marriages. Based on their long experiences both in and out of love relationships, their first lesson is this: You are much more likely to have a satisfying marriage for a lifetime when you and your mate are fundamentally similar. And the most important thing to look for is similarity in your core values.

Take Emma Sylvester, who at 87 has been married for 58 years. As she put it with a smile, “It’s quite an achievement.”

I didn’t know it when I got married, but in retrospect I know it’s important to have the same basic values. In other words, if you’re a free spender, marry somebody who understands that. If you’re frugal, you need to marry somebody who understands that, because money is one of the stumbling blocks in marriages. And fortunately we had the same values on most things. Because of this, we really didn’t argue. And we really didn’t agonize over things. We came to our decisions by just realizing that we had usually the same goals. We both believed in education. We wanted to be moral according to society’s standards, to raise our children to be good citizens, and to be responsible in terms of finances.

Arguments emerge over apparently trivial issues, the elders told us, because they really reflect underlying values. Whether the wife purchases an expensive golf club or the husband a new electronic toy is not the core issue in what can become a monumental fight, but rather the deeper attitude toward what money means and whether the financial interests of the couple are more important than indulging an individual whim.

The elders urge people committing to a relationship to ask the question: Do we believe the same things in life are important? If problems develop in the relationship, these experts on long marriages say that value differences are likely to be at the heart of the problem.

Never Expect Your Partner to Change after Marriage

What about taking a leap of faith on the marriage under the assumption that you can change your partner after you’re married? The elders were as clear about this possibility as can be: Forget about it. According to them, entering into a marriage with the goal of changing one’s partner is a fool’s errand.

Rosie Eberle, 80 and happily married for 56 years, had a blunt comment to make about the entering into a marriage expecting to change one’s partner: “It’s just plain stupid.” She went on:

For heaven’s sake, don’t say “Oh, he’s this way now but he won’t always be like that.” Because they usually are, and you have to be careful, that’s all. So don’t marry someone and then think, “Oh, well he’ll change.” Or “I’m going to change him.” Believe me, it doesn’t happen. But people get real stubborn, and believe that can change a person later on, which never works.

Friendship Is as Important as Love

When asked the question: “What’s the secret to a long, happy marriage such as yours?” a common answer from people in long marriages was: “I married my best friend.” Similarly, from those whose marriages did not succeed, I often heard: “Well, we were good at love, but we never learned how to be friends.”

This response sounds peculiar, given that we are schooled in our culture to differentiate between friendship and romantic love. Indeed, television shows like “Will and Grace” and “Sex and the City” popularize the view that cross-sex friendship works best (or only) when one of the friends is gay. We see friends and spouse as two separate social categories that have different functions.

In contrast, the elders say that the special qualities of friendship are exactly what you want in your marriage. We typically look forward to being with friends, we relish their company, we relax with them, we share common interests and we talk openly. In contrast, we all encounter people who do not feel they can talk easily to their spouse (next time you are out for a fancy dinner, observe the couples who manage only a few uncomfortable words over two hours). What the elders suggest is that you look for the qualities of a friend — the capacity to comfortably “hang out” — in the person you choose to marry. As one 87-year old told me: “Think back to the playground when you were a child. Your spouse should be that other kid you would most like to play with!”

According to the elders, all marriages have to undergo a transition from the initial thrill of romantic attraction and — many were honest about it — overwhelming sexual desire to the stages when other things must become as or more significant. After being swept off one’s feet by true love, the elders caution you to ask “What’s next?” Will you wake up next to the same person for five or six decades and still find a person you like as well as love?

Patty Banas, 80, made a go of a first marriage when young, divorced, and then “got it right” in her very happy second marriage. She had one recommendation:

Be sure that you’re really good friends. That is the most important thing. All this — all the romance and the bells and the whistles and stuff is all very nice but it doesn’t last. Be sure that you’re really, very good friends.

As a relationship is moving into a serious phase, a question couples can and should discuss is: If we weren’t in love, would be friends? And when we move to something other than heart-thumping passion, what is there that will keep us together? (Hint: The answer should not be kids.) The answer is friendship, and if you don’t have it, don’t get married — it’s that simple.

Marriage will probably never go out of style in our culture. Why? There’s no more evocative summation than that from Ellie Banks, the mother of the most famous June bride of all in the 1950s film classic Father of the Bride:

“Oh, Stanley. I don’t know how to explain. A wedding. A church wedding. Well it’s, it’s what every girl dreams of. A bridal dress, the orange blossoms, the music. It’s something lovely to remember all the rest of her life.”

But after the bouquet is thrown and the last grain of rice is swept up, the realistic approach of those who have experienced decades of marriage can help us make our unions last.

The Countdown Begins – For the New Book!

I have to admit – I wasn’t sure that anything could be as much fun as writing the first 30LL-book-cover-t53bi3book based on the Legacy Project – 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. There’s something special about “firsts” – and seeing my first book on our elders’ advice for living touch the lives of so many people has been incredibly rewarding.

But I learned that writing my second book was every bit as much fun as the first! I had heard from many readers that they loved the whole book, but there was one chapter that really grabbed them – the one on love and marriage. Some folks were buying the book just for that one chapter. Couples used it at rehearsal dinners and receptions, asking their guests to offer their lessons for the newlyweds.

I am glad I listened to them, because it led me on another journey – this time to find out what the oldest and wisest Americans advise the rest of us on how to have fulfilling and lifelong committed relationships. They  told me the good and the bad, offering 30 lessons for loving – and that became the title of the book.

30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage is almost here! It will be published and available in bookstores nationwide on January 8, 2015, and can be pre-ordered now. In the book, over 700 elders (some married for 60 years and more) talk honestly about the joys and difficulties of getting and staying married. They provide detailed advice that you  can use right away on questions like:

  • How do I know someone is right for me?
  • How can I improve communication with my partner?
  • How can we avoid and resolve conflicts?
  • How can we deal with stress – from jobs, kids, in-laws, chores, money?
  • How can we keep the spark alive – for a lifetime?

Please stay tuned, as over the next few months we”ll be highlighting findings and surprises from the marriage advice of the elders. We’ll be posting new videos – and as ever looking for your comments and feedback!