Do you still feel the holiday warmth? Our house for sure still breathes hot chocolate, cookies, spiced goose, gifts, generosity and good company. I love it, and would like it to linger. Can it?
Over the years I have found that what can last without boredom is the inner part, the family ties, the altruism, the generosity - non-material would be too simple an expression; family ties can be very material. But transcendental nonetheless. The consumption aspects grow stale far too quickly. I mean I lurrve chocolates. Really. But I can't look at them right now. Not even the finest brands - which I usually crave all year.
Another phenomenon came up this holiday, and everyone, including president Obama apparently, is going gaga about Fates and Furies. I also enjoy the read. Being still in the first quarter of the book, it's kooky and a little bit crazy, a tasty and lighter bite after Crime and Punishment, which my book club wormed through earlier.
The new book, as many of you may know, dwells on marriage. How it can be something altogether new even after a string of relationships. The book marvels, almost like a distant perplexed observer, about how marriage can last, about passion that lasts.
But it can. Yes it can. Psychologists have found that the kind of passion that typically a new love brings can indeed last decades. In very long-term couples that report still being madly in love, MRIs find brain activity that suggests new love next to other feelings commonly found in older companionate marriages, such as trust, familiarity and a feeling of kinship.
I am actually not surprised. In fact, I am rather happy that someone else provides a good argument to my anecdotal observations and doesn't let me look like a doe eyed dreamer when I claim the same.
So what makes the joy of marriage last? There are six attitudes you need to hold on to and cultivate, according to this research. (Hint, we are onto our seasonal theme again: inner values matter. Intentionality matters. Having friends matters.)
- Have some money, but spend it frugally and don't care if your partner is rich. The couple should have solid earnings (i.e. more than125k for the household). But only little should be spent on the engagement ring and the wedding, and neither partner should care if the other is rich.
- Don't care too much about looks either . People who report caring about the looks of their partner are more likely to divorce.
- Go to religious worship regularly. This one is now well established in the research, and no wonder. Common values bond, a network of friends with the same values supports, and the whole thing is transcendental and non-consumerist = the essence of durability.
- Date 3 or more years before engagement. It sure helps to know each other well, to weed out any remaining information asymmetry, and to have weathered some ups and downs together. But to be honest, this one is a bit of a trade-off with the previous habit. The religiously observant, for whom 'time before engagement' often means abstinence, will not be thrilled by the length of this time. Religious people tend to have shorter pre-engagement and pre-marriage times.
- Have lots of friends at the wedding. People with bigger (but not more expensive) weddings are less likely to divorce. This one may be a proxy for 'have lots of friends' generally. People with lots of friends are probably not dramatically difficult to get along with, plus they have networks for help (with kids, the house) and emotional support. The appreciation of friends for the bride and groom is essential also because its absence would mean that partners would sometimes have to choose whom to spend time with, friends or spouse.
- Go on honeymoon. People who went on honeymoon are significantly less likely to divorce than people who did not. This probably means, don't be too stressed or too workaholic to have a honeymoon at all. Or, in other words, be able to rank your relationship more highly than any other gainful occupation.
In the hope that every reader's joy may last during 2016 and beyond. Happy New Year!