love advice from the elderly


After a solid run, I am happy to report that I’ve moved on and gotten a new job. Although I was obviously motivated to seek different employment, there was much that I enjoyed about my former position. (I even wrote about it on this blog).

Throughout a year of working with the elderly, many stricken by dementia, I have heard a lot of interesting stories. My job consisted of essentially torturing folks: administering memory tests to people who came to us because they had lost the ability to remember. I often felt guilty about being the dealer of anguish. So when people went on tangents between tasks, it didn’t bother me much. My patients loved to talk about their spouses. If someone gushingly mentioned that they have been married for decades, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. I would almost always ask, “what’s the secret to staying happy for that long?” This has elicited many responses that I compiled and would now like to share.

What’s the secret to a long and happy marriage?

– “Well, I never hit my wife.”

– “Mutual respect and communication. If he has a problem with me, if I have a problem with him, we try to work it out together. Compromise.”

– “He traveled a lot over many years for his work. So I didn’t get tired of him.”

– “Well, I don’t know the secret to staying happy, but I can tell you we had a baby eight months after marriage and another one ten months after that.”

– “Talking. And respect. We talk all the time, and we respect each other.”

– “I call my wife the queen. And she rules with an iron fist.”

– “She never had to beat me…because I was honest. Always be honest.”

– “We’ve been married fifty years and it’s a lot of work. It’s hard. Anyone who tells you it isn’t hard is lying. And it’s not always 50/50 give and take, either…sometimes you have to give 100 percent and get nothing back!”

– “I married the right girl.”

– “Stay out of sight.”

– “I don’t know how we made it this long, but it probably wouldn’t happen again.”

– “We’ve been married for 70 years, and the secret is patience! Then again, he was also missing at war for a few years. When he came home we were bonded together. I think that kind of thing, if it doesn’t break you, it melds you together. A flat relationship when you just go to the movies, that’s not going to work.”

– “Let me tell you a story. We’ve been married 74 years. She’s been married 38 years and I’ve been married 38 years.”

Take from it what you will. I can tell you this. I’m a child of divorce. We hear lots of horror stories about relationships, and no matter how much you love someone in the moment, it’s hard to know what the future holds. But those people gave me faith. Faith that, while things won’t always be easy, they can be worth it. Faith that forever can really mean forever, that “till death do us part” doesn’t have to end in divorce.

And finally, from my grandpa, who has been married for 62 years:

“The secret is, you’re not the same person you were at first. We’ve each been five or six people since then. But every time one of us changed, we still liked who we became.”


My grandparents, married 62 years!

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