By Erin Bassler
Valentine’s Day is here once more and regardless of whether you are new to a relationship, single by choice, been with someone for what seems like forever, or even prefer a more casual approach — it’s impossible to deny that witnessing a healthy, long-lasting relationship does the heart good.
Dr. Sharon Yang, an English professor at Worcester State University, and her husband, Dr. De-Ping Yang, are one such couple, with 25 years of matrimony under their belts.
What’s the secret? How do couples stay together when the odds are stacked against them? How do you make sure that that a couple that plays together, stays together? There’s no one right answer, but the Doctors Yang have helped us uncover a number of handy tips in order to help the rest of us figure out how to make it last.
1) “Friendship first, and hormones second”
Mr. Yang’s got it right. It’s not like in the movies, where there’s a big wedding, a kiss, and then off into the sunset you go. The story doesn’t stop at happily ever after.
All the love in the world won’t help if two people have nothing in common. Now, that doesn’t mean you both have to love the Beatles or support the Patriots or even like the same pizza topping — you’re a couple, not clones. But if you have nothing in common or if your core values aren’t similar, then when the passion cools, you’re left with a boring stranger.
“Pick somebody you are comfortable with, your best friend, who you trust and you respect,” says Mrs. Yang. “We like each other. That helps.”
2) CCC: Communicate, Compromise, and Care
It’s easy enough to remember, and even easier to forget. These basics are important and tolerance is key. Talk to one another, respectfully acknowledge your differences, and you’ll gain an ally for life.
“You have more confidence. You’re not afraid to tackle more difficult tasks because you know you have someone standing behind you,” explains Mr. Yang.
Mrs. Yang also has one of the best stories for promoting compromise.
“When we got married, he was saying ‘I have to eat at 6 o’clock,’ well I have to eat at 4 o’clock, I’m really hungry, and then I noticed we were just automatically eating a 5 o’clock.”
And, yes – you’ll have to deal with issues more pressing than mealtimes, but the guidelines are the same — be sensible, don’t be afraid to share, and respect each other.
3) Be a 3-D kind of person
It’s not about making yourself seem interesting — you can do that without help. It’s making sure that while your relationship remains a major part of your life, it isn’t the only thing you value.
“We do spend a lot of time together, but we make time for ourselves. We enjoy our work, enjoy talking to students and friends,” says Mr. Yang.
People with miserable jobs come home miserable, so find work and hobbies that you find fulfilling, and a partner that feels the same. It’s ok to have your own world.
Mrs. Yang is grateful to have found someone who shares her passion for teaching and respects her love of writing. “He really supports me in what I do.”
If you can still laugh together after making the necessary sacrifices, then you’re doing something right.
4) Dates don’t have to be fancy-schmancy
When things start to go sour, a lot of couples figure that a change of scenery is the answer to their romantic problems. Unfortunately, they figure out that while extravagant vacations to Miami are nice, you still come back the same people — only tanner and miffed at the airport for losing your luggage. The issues are still there and piña coladas on the beach isn’t the answer.
For couples that aren’t having trouble, don’t worry that you can’t take expensive trips. Go for a picnic in the park, have a blast at your local block party, try that new Chinese place that just opened, take a trip to a butterfly garden, or even watch a Star Wars marathon and hog the popcorn. Go have a mini adventure that fits your budget and invent things to keep doing.
“We enjoy each other’s company,” says Mrs. Yang. “We’re never bored.”
“Every day is Valentine’s Day,” Mr. Yang added. “There’s no need to restrict being kind to only one day.”
5) If something feels wrong, don’t do it.
‘Oh, she’ll stop soon.’ or ‘Give it time. He’ll see things my way eventually.’
That’s not how it works. Change does come to those who wait, but don’t expect to be able to change your partner. You should love them for who they are.
“Don’t just hope for the best,” Mr. Yang cautions.
A relationship is a two-person game and you shouldn’t have to make up for when your partner starts losing points. Give it the old college try, but realize that you can’t force change and if you’re not happy or comfortable, then it’s okay to stop playing.
After all, Mrs. Yang met her husband after a particularly bad burn from a previous flame and she walked away with the grand prize.
“Don’t feel like it’s your last and only chance,” she says.
This list is a work-in-progress. A healthy relationship is just that — a constant work-in-progress. Add to it as you go, make adjustments and find what works for you. Love comes in many forms — the results may surprise you.