The Single Most Critical Ingredient For A Lasting Relationship
A Fair Question
Boomers enjoy the highest divorce rate of any demographic, which begs the question of whether or not they'll ever find lasting love. Does this ranking simply reflect aging couples growing apart, or does it point to a flaw in boomer character? No matter, because in either case divorcing boomers will need some help if they hope to avoid further disasters.
Chicken Or Egg
A boomer has to date to find lasting love, but even that's problematic according to a hefty number of Huff/Post 50 readers. Apparently there's a manners gap between how boomer men and women approach dating, which may partly explain the relatively small number of divorced boomers remarrying. But assuming two boomers meet, fall in love, and want to create lasting love, both will need at least minimal emotional dialogue skills. Simply put, this means the ability to distinguish between thoughts and feelings and articulate the differences effectively. Absent this skill every disagreement becomes an unresolved circular argument until the partners finally give up, blaming incompatibility for the failure. Perhaps, but without the requisite relationship tools it wasn't an informed effort.
Love Isn't Simple
It's rare for a boomer to find lasting love after just dating a few people. And even after finding a partner, a lasting, loving relationship may feel like a double-edged sword. Sure you're thrilled to have found love, but you realize that sweet feeling is only the beginning of creating a long-term relationship.
It was the number of failed relationships that put fear in my heart and kept it there regardless of whether my partner was loving and sweet with me, because my fear wasn't related to her behavior. My struggle was and still is confronting old demons connected to relationship failures. When I met Sarah I decided to go all in and take a long-term approach to our relationship, which meant being vulnerable, openhearted, and emotionally honest. This took all the courage I could muster. We keep the relationship clean by talking through our conflicted feelings as they arise.
Damn The Demons, Full Speed Ahead
Sarah's failed relationship history makes up the other half of the fear we confront. We're both clear about our failed relationship issues, which enables us to recognize them quickly and avoid prolonged arguments. Our friendship skills, emotional vocabularies, and unconditional trust in each other allow us to work through issues before they become bigger problems. In part, we've created lasting love by sharing our fears openly with each other and working through them like best friends.
Fear Can Overwhelm
When fears come up we remind each other that fear doesn't ruin relationships, but ignoring it will. Still, when Sarah and I talk about our past relationship failures we sometimes wonder out loud, “Will this time be different”? That anxiety triggers the strong emotional intimacy we've developed, and it's that deepened intimacy that gets us through the rough patches.
But we also share our fears to determine if they're grounded in any reality. A common question for serial relationship boomers is whether their feelings of love in a new relationship are authentic or related to the fear of being alone again. Unfortunately, the number of boomer couples able to talk through their feelings isn't as common as the question.
Some boomers balk at the wisdom of sorting through their feelings together. They worry that making emotional waves in a relationship might damage sexual intimacy. Based on my experience, and the experiences of a significant number of Huff/Post 50 readers, the opposite is true. Relationships can't achieve lasting love unless this conversation is embraced. Sexual intimacy is actually enhanced when partners share their feelings with each other regularly. I admit it's a leap of faith sometimes, but we know that we won't be able to respond to each other appropriately if we don't.
It's About Trust
Boomers have lots of ideas about what it takes to create lasting love but the single most important ingredient every successful relationship embodies is trust. “Where there's no trust there's no love,” in the words of my mentor. A relationship built on trust will benefit from shared emotional truth, and it's the combination of trust and truth that creates lasting, loving, relationships. And while I can't guaranty that every couple will find lasting love by having this dialogue, I can guaranty that a couple that doesn't have this dialogue won't.