Keeping the Spark Alive After Decades Together

Dr. Angela Seabright
Debbie Reinheimer

| 3 min read

Couple in their 50s walking their dogs.
Our pilot light is out. My husband and I recently moved into a new home, and when we tried to get the gas fireplace going, we found the pilot light was out. That got me thinking. This coming June marks our 30th wedding anniversary. How do we keep our relationship’s pilot light on?
It’s a growing challenge that affects many in our age group. In fact, a 2017 Pew Research Center study found the divorce rate for those 50 and older has doubled in the past 25 years.
From a health standpoint, there are many benefits to being in a happy, long-term relationship. Numerous studies have found that happily-married men and women survive cancer and heart disease better than those who are not in a relationship. This may be due to the support – physical and emotional – you get from your significant other.
In a 20-year longitudinal study out of Brigham Young University, researchers found that happily-married couples positively impact each other with support, empathy and encouragement, which leads to healthier behaviors. On the other hand, those in unhappy marriages have the opposite effect. The study found that marital conflict has a negative impact on health.
Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. How do we keep that pilot light from going out?
Here are some words of advice from people who have been with their spouse for 25 years or more. Do you have any tips you’d like to add? Post a comment below.
  • “Try to remember the more playful behavior you had earlier in your relationship. And learn to accept your spouse’s annoying behaviors. They are not aimed at bothering you. Learn to let it go.” – Judy
  • “Remind yourself why you fell in love with your partner in the first place and try to laugh every day.” – Ellen
  • “Getting out for an evening or traveling without your spouse is a good thing for a marriage. I’m happy to get away but always happier to come home to see him. Also, do simple things like hold hands or kiss each other hello and goodbye.” – Debbie
  • “Listen to each other’s opinions with respect even though you may not always agree.” – Arlene
  • “Everyone needs personal downtime, respect the request. Also – breathe first, then react.” – Margie
  • “Communication: Listen more, talk less. Don’t take each other for granted. Laugh a lot. And change things up a bit.” – Karren
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Photo credit: Vesnaandjic

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