Skip to content

Long-Married People Give Advice on Marriage

Elderly people (average age was 77 years) who have been married a long time (average length of marriage was 44 years, but one couple was married 76 years!) give advice on marriage and love. The gerontologist  Karl Pillemer details the finding of the Cornell Marriage Advice Project in his book, "30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage."  From Science Daily:

Love, factually: Gerontologist finds the formula to a happy marriage

A gerontologist has uncovered common advice for couples walking down the aisle or decades into marriage. To capture the voice of lived experience, the study included a random national survey of nearly 400 Americans age 65 and older, asking how to find a compatible partner and other advice on love and relationships. In subsequent in-person interviews with more than 300 long-wedded individuals -- those in unions of 30, 40, 50, or more years -- the study captured more insights for overcoming common marriage troubles. The team of researchers interviewed divorced individuals, too, asking how others might avoid marital breakups.

Pillemer uncovered common advice for couples walking down the aisle or decades into marriage. The top five lessons from the elders..:

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.

Treat marriage as an unbreakable, lifelong commitment

Learn to work as a team: ...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."

Chose 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."