Image: Guardian

Wedding planning is a rollercoaster and a half in itself, but once the big day is over, that's not the end of it. You're married! And if you want to stay married, it'll probably take a lot of work through job changes, child-rearing, economic uncertainty, health concerns and whatever other ups and downs life plans to throw at you.

Luckily for us, we're not going to be the first - or the last - people to get married, and older couples have plenty to say about how to have a happy marriage that lasts decades and decades. While your parents and grandparents will have plenty of marital advice for you, but luckily for us, we also have access to the recently released results of the largest in-depth interview study ever done, of people in very long unions. Surveying more than 700 individuals, who collectively had wracked up a whopping 40,000 years of marriage (it was an average of 44 years each, for the mathematically minded among you!), the results were published in Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer's book, "30 lessons for loving: advice from the wisest Americans on love, relationships and marriage".

He compiled all the responses, and picked out the most commonly occurring advice. With wedding season in full swing, many of you will be heading down the aisle in the next couple of weeks, so, listen up! Your elders have some advice!

 

1. Learn to communicate

"For a good marriage, the elders overwhelmingly tell us to 'talk, talk, talk.' They believe most marital problems can be solved through open communication, and conversely many whose marriages dissolved blamed lack of communication."

 

2. Get to know your partner very well before marrying

"Many of the elders I surveyed married very young; despite that fact, they recommend the opposite. They strongly advise younger people to wait to marry until they have gotten to know their partner well and have a number of shared experiences. An important part of this advice is a lesson that was endorsed in very strong terms: Never get married expecting to be able to change your partner."

3. Treat marriage as an unbreakable, lifelong commitment

"Rather than seeing marriage as a voluntary partnership that lasts only as long as the passion does, the elders propose a mindset in which it is a profound commitment to be respected, even if things go sour over the short term. Many struggled through dry and unhappy periods and found ways to resolve them -- giving them the reward of a fulfilling, intact marriage in later life."

4. Learn to work as a team

"The elders urge us to apply what we have learned from our lifelong experiences in teams -- in sports, in work, in the military -- to marriage. Concretely, this viewpoint involves seeing problems as collective to the couple, rather than the domain of one partner. Any difficulty, illness, or setback experienced by one member of the couple is the other partner's responsibility."

 

5. Chose a partner who is very similar to you

"Marriage is difficult at times for everyone, the elders assert, but it's much easier with someone who shares your interests, background and orientation. The most critical need for similarity is in core values regarding potentially contentious issues like child-rearing, how money should be spent and religion."

 

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