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Study Finds Older Couples View ‘Commitment’ as Key Ingredient to Staying Married

By Susan Berry, Ph.D./CatholicVote

When younger married couples asked those married 40-plus years about the “secret to staying together,” the number one key ingredient cited by veteran marrieds was “commitment.”

So report Australia-based authors Christian Heim and Caroline Heim in Resilient Relationships,” a book based on the “largest cross-sectional, global study of long-term relationships to date.”

Both the younger and older married couples who participated in the study revealed questions and answers that amount to a piercing “wake-up call” to all of us, the authors wrote Wednesday at the Institute for Family Studies:

[W]e asked younger couples from 14 different countries who had been together 3 to 15 years, “If you could pose a question to couples married over 40 years, what would it be?” The questions they posed should be a sharp wake-up call to us all. Even in our current hyper-individual Zeitgeist, these younger people want their relationships to stay together. We also asked the resilient couples a similar question on what advice they would offer, and the answers they gave are an even greater wake-up call.

The authors found that the top five questions younger couples wanted to ask “resilient” couples were:

  1. What is your secret to staying together? (63.72%)
  2. Is the [sexual] spark still there? (17.64%)
  3. How do you stop arguing? (10.78%)
  4. How do you keep your marriage fun and not boring? (10.78%)
  5. How do you keep connected? (7.84%)

The authors conducted “90 in-depth interviews with 180 coupled individuals married 40+ years,” who ultimately provided answers to the younger couples’ questions. The resilient couples replied with the following answers about the “secrets” of their long-lasting relationships:

  1. Commitment (10.67%)
  2. Altruism (8.41%)
  3. Shared Values (8.09%)
  4. Good communication (8.09%)
  5. Compromise (7.44%)
  6. Love (7.44%)

“[C]ommitment was the number one glue-secret,” Heim and Heim explained as they elaborated on several of the top responses:

Couples told us that commitment was “essential,” “the glue,” “vital,” and “the ultimate important thing.” We were told that commitment encompassed marriage vows, “sticking together” in times of hardship, and actively showing commitment to the relationship “on a daily basis.”
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The authors referred to “altruism” as a “novel finding,” writing that the response “may be a reflection of what older couples feel is needed in the face of hyper-individual pressures, like the relentless pursuit of self-expression, solipsism, and hedonist pleasures.”

As one husband of nearly 50 years said: “Be unselfish, think of that other person’s needs more than your needs. It’s hard … give to the other person more than yourself.”

Read the rest of this story over at CatholicVote.

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