It has always been the fantasy: To meet the man or woman of your dreams and to live blissfully together until death do you part.
Problem is that half of all marriages end in divorce. And yes, I know that according to some, this particular statistic isn’t all that accurate, but the truth is that breaking up is, at best, a painful process, and most of us have had more experience with it than we care to remember.
It has been known for a very long time that those in healthy marriages or long-term relationships have lower mortality rates and better immune systems, and now scientists are attributing lower stress levels to those fortunate enough to be in loving committed relationships. So who wouldn’t want love with benefits like a longer life and soul-warming affection?
Well, once you’ve had a bad relationship, no matter how it ended, getting back in the saddle can be as daunting as auditioning for “American Idol.” But you can’t win if you don’t play, and going about finding a mate half-heartedly will only get you half a love. Should you decide to jump in again, here’s some great news.
According to an article on Match.com, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSB, Bianca Acevedo, discovered through the use of surveys and brain scans that even after 20 years of togetherness, about 30% of married couples stay “in love.” Another survey said 18% of couples were still “very intensely in love” after 10 years or more.
This blows away the previous studies that say most people only stay in love for six months to three years, long enough to bear a child. I never really bought into that one.
Even after a very difficult time, couples who work at it can put the love back into their relationships. To some, it comes as easily as realizing that they have become distant from their partners and making the decision to change it. Just remember that making this happen takes both effort and desire.
For love to work, you have to believe in it. I know many couples on second and third marriages who say they are happier than they have ever been. Don’t think that a false start or two makes you damaged goods. The truth is that you must have learned something, and chances are you won’t make the same mistake again.
Being in love for life doesn’t mean that you will stay with your high-school sweetheart. It means that at any time you can make the choice to change your situation and make your life one of love and support.
No, you won’t always be right, and your mate won’t laugh at all your jokes. But if you work to create true love, you will have something more precious than jewels. Ask anyone who has lost the love of their life: What they would trade to have that person back? If yours is still here, make it happen. If not, go find one.
Life is too short to stand on the sidelines.
Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is an award-winning therapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of seven books, and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with nearly 27 million readers. He practices in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles and is available for video sessions. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Sundays and Tuesdays in the News-Press.