Making Love Last Past Sex and a Sandwich

07 Nov 2014

Anita Rafts with HubbyHow can two people get – and stay – on their crazy ride together? Bill Murray crashed a bachelor party recently and offered his advice about lasting love. He said when you think you’ve found “the one,” don’t run for a marriage license. Get a passport. Travel as far as you can together to places that are “hard to get into and out of” and if you’re still in love when you’re done, get married at the airport. My version is a little more localized for those on a budget…

Anita’s recipe for lasting love: Do the pup tent test. No. Not that one. Pack your car with some sandwiches, a deck of cards and a pup tent. Drive out two miles past where Jesus lost his sandals. Pitch your tent on low ground. Wait for rain. When it’s just the two of you with nothing but a deck of cards and your soggy sandwiches, if that doesn’t feel like a good time – don’t marry the guy, or gal.

Choosing the right mate, or even the right date, is daunting and can feel like an impossible challenge for many and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Yet I trust anecdotal evidence, not only in my own life, but in witnessing those around me who’ve made a relationship work for ten, twenty or thirty plus years.

Since there are so many gurus out there trying to sell you the best push-up bra, deodorant, shaving cream, sports car or plastic breasts, I polled a number of friends, straight, gay, different ages and backgrounds to get the real scoop on what works for lasting love.

When I asked what they held most dear about their relationship and what the bedrock of their marriages were, the first thing I heard from each of them was “laughter.” Because when the roof is leaking, the cat pees on the carpet, Mom needs assisted living, or your company just downsized you, packaging is meaningless.

Shared sensibilities, mutual respect and support combined with a “we are a team” attitude is always a winning combination. Then you’re both in on the joke together.

Some of the best relationship advice I’ve ever found came from a quote in the TV Guide (what it was doing there, I cannot tell you). Brace yourself, ‘cause this is strong medicine and it’s tougher than it sounds:

“Until you are willing to relinquish control in a relationship, you will never attract your equal to you.”

Dr. Margaret Paul’s article on Keeping Love Alive agrees with this assessment, stating the biggest relationship killer is the effort to control the behavior of the other person or the choice to opt for constant criticism rather than forgiveness or understanding:

 “Overt control [consists of] anger, blame, criticism and judgment, defensiveness, lecturing, teaching, righteousness, and physical violence.

Covert control [consists of] withdrawal, withholding truth, lying, compliance, giving oneself up, resistance, and denial.

When the intention of your behavior is to change your partner’s feelings or behavior, your behavior will often be experienced by your partner as manipulative or rejecting.

The good news is that love CAN be kept alive, even in long-term relationships. Love is kept alive when each person is more devoted to learning about being loving to themselves and to each other than to getting love. The moment the intention is to get love, controlling behavior takes over.”

Does the need to “fix” or “adjust” someone else indicate an unhappiness or discontent with oneself? I remind myself that every day I have a choice: to invest in my partner, or put him down. Holding on tight to any sense I have, I’ll choose the former.

The couples I spoke with also talked about shared goals and interests – other common answers were living within their means, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and keeping the highs and lows of their relationships in perspective.

Research also indicates that grand gestures rarely work over the long haul. Believe it or not, those who spent less on their weddings typically stayed together longer – adding to the idea that frills are less important than the basics.

Asking the questions of one another that will let you know if you’re on the same page is invaluable, and that too takes courage.

Movies and magazines offer up so many fairy tales about “happily ever after,” but getting to that place starts and ends with honesty, having the courage to let the other person see who you really are, asking for what you want and not turning into a pretzel to please someone else. As a dear teacher and mentor once said, “Your vulnerability is your gold.” Often it is precisely the thing we think we need to hide that will resonate the deepest and most engage a date, or prospective mate. We are encouraged daily to mold ourselves into some phony package. But the real deal is infinitely more interesting.

After mentioning the importance of laughter, my hubby offered his own last word on the subject:

“Communication is at the heart of love. If you can’t share, then what are you doing?”

Great question – one that Jerry Doyle and I dig into and discuss below:

Enjoy our interview and share your thoughts with me!

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Anita Finlay is the bestselling author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin — exposing media bias in a society not as evolved as advertised.  #1 on Amazon’s Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.

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