Don’t you get the feeling that today’s couples don’t last as long as they used to? You’ve probably heard someone older say “back in my day, couples stayed together for life.” While that may be true to some extent, it doesn’t necessarily mean the couple was happy or in a healthy relationship. In fact, the reason marriages used to last so long was “because that’s the way things work.”
However, this doesn’t mean that maintaining a long-lasting relationship is any easier for many people nowadays. There are several reasons why it may be more challenging to have a steady partner these days. Let’s start with the basics.
Reasons why couples don’t last as long as before
It’s undeniable that in recent decades we’ve experienced profound changes in culture and expectations around relationships. In today’s society, many people seek greater independence and freedom in their relationships, rather than entering into a long-term commitment with a single partner. On the other hand, access to multiple options has greatly expanded. With the popularity of dating apps and the ease of connecting with people online, it can be more challenging to choose a single partner and commit to them.
Sadly, there are new economic and social pressures as well. Modern life can be very stressful, and financial and social pressures can put a great deal of strain on relationships.
Lastly, expectations are becoming increasingly unrealistic. Movies, television, and social media can create unrealistic expectations about what it means to have a steady, happy, and healthy relationship. And inadequate communication adds to the challenge: the lack of effective communication skills can be a significant factor in the difficulty of having a steady relationship.
In short, it’s not easy to find steady couples nowadays who continue to maintain the spark, enthusiasm, and motivation to continue sharing their lives together. That’s why, in this article, we’ll feature the testimonies of three couples who have been sharing their lives for over fifteen years.
To get to know their stories a little better, I’ll introduce them briefly:
- Bruno and Monica: Both Spanish, they met in school when they were 14 years old (almost 30 years ago) after Monica returned from a stay abroad. For many years, their relationship was purely friendship, but they began to feel something different when they were both accompanying a friend who was hospitalized for a while.
- Pedro and Marina: Pedro is Argentine and Marina is Spanish. They met 20 years ago at a party in a village in the Pyrenees, when Pedro had only been living in Spain for a month. Marina approached Pedro to ask for a lighter, and that’s when the spark ignited.
- Ana and Elena: Both Spanish. Elena invited Ana to her house, and that’s where they met. Shortly after, they both knew they wanted to be together
Testimonials from steady couples: What are the keys?
To make this post accessible, I have reduced the interview questions to ten in order to get to know each couple better. Even so, it has not been easy to summarize such intense experiences as those presented below. That is why I prefer to alter each story as little as possible and give voice to their textual responses.
- What do you value the most about each other?
Bruno confesses that he values many things about Mónica, “In general her personality and, in particular, her unfading freshness, her decisive character, her independence, her ravishing sweetness, and her eyes.” He also adds that the years of friendship have been a key factor in building the trust and complicity they have.
Pedro, on the other hand, values Marina’s creativity, perseverance, and beauty, among other things, while Marina highlights Pedro’s honesty and sensitivity.
Finally, Ana highlights Elena’s sincerity, patience, and understanding, while Elena values Ana’s loyalty and perseverance.
- How would you describe your current relationship in one word or a short phrase?
Bruno and Mónica are “still in love and fighting, forming a great team.” Pedro and Marina are “two free souls who accompany each other and stay in constant work,” and Ana and Elena describe their relationship as “solid, positive, and happy.”
- What are the biggest challenges you have faced together? How did you overcome them?
For Bruno and Mónica, not having lived together before marriage was a handicap. Raising children and balancing work and family have also been challenges they have faced with confidence and the love that leads them to “love each other and be generous.”
Pedro mentions that not being close to his family and friends has been a particularly tough challenge. Marina also points out living in a city without her family network. In addition, both highlight raising their children as another challenge.
Ana and Elena acknowledge that “being a homosexual relationship, our biggest challenge has been normalizing the relationship socially, which many years ago was still frowned upon and was still a very taboo topic.”
- How do you maintain passion and intimacy in your long-term relationship?
For Bruno, it’s evident that “the level of consciousness is fundamental in understanding the evolution of passion and intimacy over time.” After having children, it’s important to value “the opportunities you have to enjoy those moments” of intimacy.
On the other hand, Pedro and Marina claim to still feel the same passion as in the beginning. However, “it’s important to work on communication in such a long relationship.”
Finally, Ana confirms that she’s “lucky, after 40 years of relationship, to still be in love with my partner, and when this happens, neither passion nor intimacy have an expiration date. However, let’s be realistic, you have to adapt them to the different stages of the couple’s life.”
- How do you handle differences of opinion and conflicts in your relationship?
In this response, all three couples point to a common pattern. The need to understand each other. Some couples achieve this spontaneously, while others use couples therapy, but in all cases there is an effort to understand and communicate with each other. It’s clear that in not all arguments do both sides win, even if they try to reach a consensus. Sometimes the only thing that can be done is to respect the other person’s position and accept the differences.
- How do you describe your communication dynamic and how have you managed to keep it healthy?
From these responses, we can also gather some common keys: empathy, active listening, and trust. Each person is unique, and when two people come together, a whole new galaxy of circumstances to take into account emerges. Honest, fluent, and assertive communication helps maintain a healthy couple dynamic.
- How do you maintain independence and personal space in your relationship?
Bruno and Mónica’s situation with children and work makes them value shared spaces the most, as they live their personal spaces “involuntarily.” However, when they need independence, it is always respected.
Similarly, Ana and Elena admit to having very different tastes and hobbies at times, so trust and respect for those personal and independent spaces help them understand each other.
The case of Peter and Marina is somewhat different: their main job is to actively spend more time together, as they already have enough independence and personal space.
- How do they manage to stay on the same path and have similar goals?
In the case of Pedro and Marina, their goal is to “grow old together” although having children in common is something that keeps them very close, as well as their passion for traveling and nature.
Ana and Elena point out that, when sharing life with another person, “goals arise almost spontaneously.” To achieve these objectives, dialogue and understanding are key.
The same thing happens with Bruno and Mónica, since for them “the well-being of the children, enjoying leisure time together as a family, traveling, acquiring a home, or managing friendships with others are common issues at this time… Everything revolves around the same thing, same structures, and a common commitment.”
- How did you manage to reach a joint future project?
Both Pedro and Ana mention something about their relationships: it all started as an adventure, without planning. But at the moment the commitment arises, that search for a common project arises, in which both parties are concerned with taking care of and nurturing the relationship while leaving space for naturalness.
Meanwhile, Bruno confesses that reaching a joint future project has not been easy, but “it is essential to struggle with oneself to evolve as a person.” In addition, he points out that “nothing can be taken for granted and every day you must try to give the best version of yourself.”
- What advice would they give to other couples to maintain a happy and healthy relationship?
Bruno firmly states the importance of “knowing oneself and knowing what minimal qualities your ideal partner should have.” He also clarifies that, for him, educational differences, values, and ways of structuring life can be a major obstacle. Finally, he recognizes that “a sense of humor and, of course, an active intimate life” are very positive for the relationship.
Pedro and Marina’s recommendations are work, acceptance, respect, communication, and of course, “they should learn to listen to each other, live experiences together, and look into each other’s eyes.”
Finally, Ana insists on the importance of caring for and fighting day by day based on the following elements: love, humor, romance, understanding, and of course, commitment. She also recommends that “to check the result, I would take time as a measure. If when you are with your partner, time speeds up and when you are separated from them time becomes eternal, you will know that this works.”
Have these tips been helpful? Finding a steady partner may still be difficult, but now you have the tools to maintain, care for, and strengthen your relationship. However, despite everything, the breakup may be the only option that is considered (even with couples therapy).
Don’t forget that this is a two-way street, and in many cases, a project cannot be built if it is not truly shared by both partners. So what can you do to best deal with the grief of separation? We’ll tell you soon.
Author: Andrés Suro (Sexual Coach at MYHIXEL)
Psychologist specialized in the social area and expert in sexology applied to education.
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