Experience shows us what makes a relationship work. In my 40s, here are a four relationship truths that I wish I’d known in my 20s.
In our 20s, we launch ourselves into the dating world for many reasons. We want a life partner. Or maybe we just want to have some fun. Regardless, our 20s are our exploratory years in terms of relationships. We learn about ourselves and what we want in our relationships. In my 40s, with experience and hindsight, I recognize four relationship truths that stay true regardless of your individual values or beliefs.
Relationship Truth #1: Kindness and Respect Trump Cuteness
Looks fade. We need to accept that. In our 20s, we place great emphasis on physicality. If he’s handsome, then he must be great, right? But there’s no link between those two qualities! You don’t have to be in your 40s to realize that.
What you appreciate, as you get older, is that kindness is not a weakness. It takes exceptional strength to be kind to your partner through a terrible stretch in your relationship. In my 40s, I see the value and importance of kindness in relationships. We associate a sense of caring and consideration with a kind partner. Kindness can salvage and strengthen relationships.
Looks are an unreliable indicator of a person’s character. Like high school popularity, it loses its value. If he looks like a model but treats you like he’s doing you a favor by being with you, there’s no hope for your relationship. There has to be mutual respect in a relationship. Respect for each other’s wishes is important. If he respects you, he’s saying that he sees you and hears you. He acknowledges you. It doesn’t mean that he likes everything you do.
A friend of mine left her partner after a year of living together. She said that he would invite his gaming friends over every weekend without informing her. There was limited space in their one-bedroom apartment. She retreated to their bedroom when she wanted privacy. She repeatedly asked him to alternate gaming venues with his friends. He repeatedly ignored her. She found that disrespectful because he never acknowledged her concerns.
Relationship Truth #2: Good Conversations Are Important
Have you heard of people who fall in love after talking to someone for hours? In fact, they find a person more attractive after an enjoyable conversation. Conversations provide snippets of your mind, heart, and soul. In my 20s, I didn’t understand the value of an engaging conversation. I remember a first-date with a guy who was interesting and well-read. We spoke about a range of issues over dinner, and the conversation flowed freely. I gauged that we had a lot in common. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a second date. That was my fault.
I reflected on that date a few years ago. From our conversation that night, I knew that he was a kind and caring man. He had a depth and breadth of knowledge. He spoke in a way that was engaging. I was not in a place in my life where I could appreciate those qualities. I heard recently that he’d married a few years after our date. I think his wife is very fortunate to have found him.
How many couples in their 40s and 50s find that they have nothing to talk about when the children have left home? They based their conversational material on all things child-related. Communication is essential in any relationship, but conversation provides an insight into a person’s thoughts. A dearth of conversation in a relationship can signal the end.
Relationship Truth #3: Love Without Trust Has an Expiry Date
Trust in a relationship can be a side-thought in our 20s. It’s not that we think it’s not important. It’s not as important as other considerations.
Broken trust makes you realize that without it, a relationship can flounder. A friend of mine was in a relationship for five years with a guy none of us liked. There was just something off about him. Whenever we were all out together, we noticed that his eyes wandered.
My friend was naïve, like many of us who didn’t have much experience with relationships. What we didn’t realize at the time was that she was more aware than we thought. Years later, thankfully married to someone else, she said that she just didn’t trust her old boyfriend.
She said she knew she had to end her relationship when she started stalking him! She used to park outside his house at odd hours because she suspected him of cheating. He wasn’t, but his wandering eyes created distrust in their relationship. She said it became a matter of not if, but when, he would cheat. She didn’t want to wait to find out.
Relationship Truth #4: Laughter Lightens Life’s Load
A sense of humor is important in any relationship. I don’t like raunchy or seductive jokes- you know, the kind that forces you to smile like the Joker while you’re cringing inside. I’ve enjoyed relationships with people who make me laugh, and what someone finds funny can reveal a person’s values and beliefs. If it doesn’t align with your own, then your relationship won’t work.
A wonderful balance of a sense of humor with a serious side is important. One without the other can drain a relationship. Shared laughter creates intimacy in a relationship. It can relieve stress and reduce sadness.
Have you seen couples in their 70s, who have been together for three or four decades, share a secret smile? Without words, they convey a bond and a level of intimacy. You know relationships are in trouble when forced smiles abound, and laughter is absent.
Relationships need to be nurtured, and nurturing is easier when certain factors are already present. I’ve learned a few relationship truths in my 40s I wish I’d known earlier. What do you think of these truths? Do you have any of your own to add? Leave me a comment and stop back into Love Aroono for all your relationship needs.