7 Secrets to a Successful Relationship After 50
Whether you’ve been with the same person for 30 years or you’re finding new love half a century into your life, it’s always the right time to brush up on your relationship skills or learn new ones. Maybe things have gotten stagnant with your spouse, or maybe you’ve found that dating has changed since you last tried it.
It’s never too late to learn these seven secrets to a successful relationship after fifty.
1. Open your heart fearlessly. To be successful in a relationship, you can’t be afraid to be yourself and share yourself. Real love requires honesty—about who you are, what you believe, how you feel, and what you want. Total commitment to reality and honesty supports the integrity of a relationship. You must be open and willing to share, listen, and understand. A happy relationship and a full life require the intention to learn about your partner and yourself and to continue to grow.
2. Create emotional safety. Healthy relationships depend on both parties feeling safe with each other, trusting that you are there for each other. Your circle of trust gets more important as you get older and as you must cope with the changes and anxieties that aging involves. For emotional safety to exist, you need to feel that your partner truly hears you, sees you, and accepts you as you are and that he or she wants the best for you. And you must be this way for your partner, too.
3. Address conflict in a spirit of love. A successful relationship requires successful conflict. Approach every disagreement with the intention to listen fully and respond in a spirit of love. Instead of responding in a knee-jerk way when your partner says or does something that upsets you, examine your feelings and mindfully consider what the other person said. It may surprise you how big a gulf there can be between what you think you heard—what you feel you heard—and what your partner actually said. Listen as much or maybe more than you talk, focus on common threads rather than differences, and look for a solution that pleases both of you.
4. Practice positive communication. The way you communicate with your partner is vital because what you say—and how you say it—affects how your significant other feels, and emotions drive behavior. Some key principles of positive communication:
- Avoid negative language. When you use words like no and don’t, you invoke your partner’s natural resistance to being controlled. Instead, tell your partner what you want rather than what you don’t want.
- Avoid criticism. Remember: Success builds success. Instead of focusing on the things you dislike about your partner, focus first on what he or she does well and connect that to the behavior you’d like to see him or her change.
- Give your undivided attention. One of the biggest mistakes I see couples make is that even when they both have the best intentions and follow all the advice they’ve read online about communication (“I” statements, etc.), they’ll answer their cell phone or glance at a text message while talking to their partner. This seemingly small behavior has a big impact on how you make your partner feel. As a marriage and family therapist, the advice I give to all my patients is this: Give someone the focus they deserve.
- Tell them what they mean to you. Sometimes you may start to think that your partner can read your heart and you don’t need words. Totally not true. Words are still necessary. Consciously choose to actively show appreciation—finding things to appreciate in your partner to enhance the good feelings between you.
5. Support your partner’s independence. No matter how close you are to your significant other, you remain individuals with your own needs and interests. Spending time alone doing your own thing shows mutual respect, not relationship strain. Advocate for your partner’s goals, and accept and support each other’s life goals.
6. Enjoy special time together. Don’t forget to have fun together. It’s important to go on new adventures and try new things. Don’t have a typical “date night.” Instead of dinner and a movie, take a class together or go on a day trip somewhere. As you grow older and face mortality, your relationship with your significant other provides an opportunity to explore your humanity and seek a better and deeper understanding of life.
7. Build a relationship with yourself. The relationship we have with ourselves is the key to success for all the relationships we build with others. When you are happy and fulfilled independent of others, you are most attractive to the kind of healthy, happy people you want in your life.
If you’re dating for the first time in a long time, don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s the only way people will know what you want and what you’re about. If you’re celebrating your golden wedding anniversary, remember that even though it may feel you and your partner are one person, you still need to say, “I love you” and show your appreciation. Show affection. Have fun. Have sex! Love with the intensity of a teenager and the wisdom that your years on this earth have given you.