Lessons in Love, Learned From Our Elders

Seniors come clean on what’s worked, and what hasn’t, in their romances—from divorces and infidelity to what makes a marriage last over sixty years.

| February 14th, 2012
Lessons in Love, Learned From Our Elders

Love will keep us together. Love will tear us apart. Love the one you’re with.

We’ve all heard the poetic notions of rock stars, but if you’re seeking sage advice about what love’s like when it doesn’t tie up neatly in a rhyme, look no further than this article. We sought the love advice of women and men in their 70s and 80s, who have loved, lived and then some.

Whether you’re popping the cork on a new relationship, trying to stay happily married, headed to Splitsville or spending Valentine’s Day with Ben and Jerry, here are words of wisdom straight from the hearts of those with enough years of experience to tell it like it is.

Take Your Sweet Time: The number one rule—if you’re signing up to spend fifty plus years with someone, never sell yourself short. Sylvia, 87, who was happily married for 66 years, warned her own granddaughter that she was falling into a trap. Don’t take any old guy, “Just because you need somebody. Find someone who really deserves you,” she said. It’s called “meeting your match” for a reason.

MORE: Dating Advice Book: What Works

Susie, 83, agrees, adding “Don’t settle for one person too soon.” Susie took the time she needed to be sure she was right for her husband. When they were teenagers and he was in the service, “He sent me an engagement ring and I sent it right back because I was nowhere near ready to get married!” She kept dating around until she was whole-heartedly convinced he was the man for her—and their 63-year relationship proved to be worth the wait.

Be Friends First: All of the happily married people we surveyed agreed, a real, honest rapport should be there with your partner from the start. “What attracted me to her was that we have a lot of things in common,” Marty, 84, said of his wife of 63 years. They were both from the same area, had similar families, worldviews and could really talk to each other.

When he met her at summer camp, she wouldn’t let him kiss her. But he didn’t give up, “There was a connection right away that had nothing to do with sex.” He knew she liked him, so he enjoyed their verbal back and forth until she was ready to add a physical one.

Know Their Character: One of the most telling signs of a person’s character is body language, according to Anna, 74. After her first husband snuck around gambling and drinking their money away, she learned to read subconscious signs so she wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

MORE: First Impression: Go With Your Gut

“His body language is going to show you if he’s telling you the truth,” she promises. You can spot trouble a mile away if, “They can’t really look at you directly, and they will look down because they can’t face you. It’s a subconscious thing because they’re lying.”

Make Sure It’s Love, Not Lust: Today, Marty thinks it’s easier to confuse love with sex. Those butterflies in your stomach might seem like they’re tangible, but you have to be careful that what you’re feeling isn’t just a sex haze. Because if sex is your major commonality, as libidos wane over the years,  “there’s nothing then to hold you together,” Marty adds.

QUIZ: What Kind of Love Are You In?


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