6. Successful couples learn and grow together. One couple, after being married for 30 years, decided they would both return to university for master's degrees in liberal arts. "It took us nearly five years. We had a great time being in class together, studying together, reading together. The program allowed us to expand our horizons as we took courses in religion, politics, literature, history, foreign policy. We even persuaded one professor to let us write a paper together: joint authors!" Partners in successful couples play to each other's strengths and interests. If one partner becomes more health conscious, the other joins. If one partner takes up a new activity, the other partner becomes supportive and involved. The end result is a stronger emotional bond and a deeper love.
7. Successful couples never stop dating. That was one of the "secrets" of a happy relationship uncovered by Matthew Boggs and Jason Miller. The duo traveled over 12,000 miles searching and interviewing people they called "marriage masters" — those married 40 years or more. One common element to many marriage masters was their ability to keep the romance going. Some set aside one evening a week for a date, others planned romantic getaways periodically, while others still met most afternoons for conversation at a coffee or tea shop.
8. Successful couples bring each other joy. In his book, The Real Rules of Life: Balancing Life's Terms with Your Own, Ken Druck, Ph.D, tells about a workshop he gave to his wife as a birthday gift. "She had a beautiful voice that she rarely used. What better gift than to unleash the joy she already possessed." In the workshop, participants of every age and background were encouraged to "vanquish the wagging finger of self-condemnation and sing their hearts out." The workshop high point was a live concert for family and friends. "With the exception of our children's births, I can never recall my wife as having been so joyful and happy."
9. Successful couples adhere to the 60/40 rule. Boggs and Miller also discovered that "marriage masters" have a high level of selflessness. "Walter" whom they interviewed, told them, "I'll never forget what my mentor told my wife and me before we got married 42 years ago. He looked at us and said, 'Most people think marriage is 50/50. It's not. It's 60/40. You give 60. You take 40. And that goes for both of you." It was a principle Walter and his wife adhered to faithfully.
10. Successful couples have shared values. When asked about her successful relationship of 58 years, "Emma" age 87, smiled and proudly said, "It is quite an achievement. It's important to have the same basic values. In other words, if you're a free spender, marry someone who understands that. If you're frugal, you need to marry someone who understands that because money is one of the stumbling blocks in marriage. Fortunately, we had the same values on most things. We usually had the same goals — we believed in education; we wanted to be moral; we wanted to raise children to be good citizens and to be responsible in terms of finances."
Poet Robert Browning put the secret to successful couples in a nutshell when he wrote, "Success in marriage is more than finding the right person: It is being the right person."
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