Many people have asked the age old question; how do you make a marriage last a lifetime? Well, now a team of researchers has sought to finally find the answer to this question by means of conducting various surveys with over 400 Americans, aged 65 and up. The team of researchers involved also conducted more intimate and in-depth personal interviews with more than 300 people who had been in committed relationships and marriages for 30, 40, 50 and/or more years, as well as groups of divorced persons, in order to figure out what exactly went wrong in their unions.
The effort has been named the Cornell Marriage Advice Project and it is officially the largest study of its kind that has ever been conducted of people in long-term relationships. The project has been headed up by Cornell University's gerontologist, Karl Pillemer and can be viewed as being the key or ultimate formula for having a long and successful union.
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In a press release, Pillemer explained the reason behind conducting the study in the way he did as follows: "Rather than focusing on a small number of stories, my goal was to take advantage of the 'wisdom of crowds,' collecting the love and relationship advice of a large and varied cross-section of long-married elders in a scientifically reliable and valid way".
The findings of Pillemer's study have been published in detail in his book, '30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage', which can be purchased at various shops online such as Amazon.com.
In the same press release mentioned earlier in this article, Pillemer shared what he calls "The top five lessons from the elders", along with his (Pillemer's) analysis:
Learn to communicate: "For a good marriage, the elders overwhelmingly tell us to 'talk, talk, talk.' They believe most marital problems can be solved through open communication, and conversely many whose marriages dissolved blamed lack of communication."
Get to know your partner very well before marrying: "Many of the elders I surveyed married very young; despite that fact, they recommend the opposite. They strongly advise younger people to wait to marry until they have gotten to know their partner well. An important part of this advice is a lesson that was endorsed in very strong terms: Never get married expecting to be able to change your partner."
Treat marriage as an unbreakable, lifelong commitment: "Rather than seeing marriage as a voluntary partnership that lasts only as long as the passion does, the elders propose a mindset in which it is a profound commitment to being respected, even if things go sour over the short term. Many struggled through dry and unhappy periods and found ways to resolve them -- giving them the reward of a fulfilling, intact marriage in later life."
Learn to work as a team: "The elders urge us to apply what we have learned from our lifelong experiences in teams -- in sports, in work, in the military -- to marriage. Concretely, this viewpoint involves seeing problems as collective to the couple, rather than the domain of one partner. Any difficulty, illness, or setback experienced by one member of the couple is the other partner's responsibility."
Choose a partner who is very similar to you: "Marriage is difficult at times for everyone, the elders assert, but it's much easier with someone who shares your interests, background and orientation. The most critical need for similarity is in core values regarding potentially contentious issues like child-rearing, how money should be spent and religion."
According to Pillemer, "These unique insights show the value of using rigorous survey methods to uncover the practical wisdom of older people. Although some general studies of elder wisdom have been conducted, no one had researched the specific advice elders have for critical life domains like marriage. Therefore, the study points the way toward the need for future research on lessons we learn over the course of our lives."