On Valentine’s Day, Tara Parker-Pope published a piece in the New York Times exploring ways that couples can make their relationship last based on research and scientific evidence. Two of her points resonated with me.
- Watch movies together and then discuss them. Research has shown that couples can have a much less contentious discussion about issues and ideas on which they have different opinions if they are talking about how characters in a movie dealt with a problem or conflict rather than how they themselves would deal with it.
Dave and I enjoy watching movies together but we have very different tastes and often have very different points of view on the motivations of characters and the value of the ethical decisions they make. Until I read the Parker-Pope article I would never have thought that our post-movie discussions may have helped us stay together.
2. Ask less of your relationship instead of more. Parker-Pope says studies show that people who invest substantial time in nurturing bonds with family members and friends have a stronger relationship with their partner because they don’t depend on their spouse or partner for everything. It eases the pressure on a marriage relationship if people have others they can turn to for emotional support. Relationships can be enriched if couples spend time apart pursuing their own interests and friendships.
This is something Dave and I did lots of before the pandemic. We each had our own friends and interests in addition to the friendships and activities we shared as a couple. However during the pandemic, we had to rely on each other more, and while we have handled it frankly better than I thought we might, I think our relationship will be healthier once we can return more fully to our separate activities and friendships.
Valentine’s Day may have passed but advice about maintaining long-lasting relationships is timely year-round.