In high school, my then-boyfriend and I were obsessed with When Harry Met Sally. I'm not exaggerating: nightly, we'd call each other to synchronize our viewing of the movie, watching the entirety over the phone. We'd also laugh at the same jokes. Then we'd get to the scene when Billy Crystal's character, Harry, says one of the most romantic quotes in film history: "I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of the life to start as soon as possible."
I'd get teary-eyed... solo.
I thought that quote was speaking directly to my BF and me, but, hey — when I was a kid I also believed in mermaids. If only I'd known how to determine if my first boyfriend and I were truly meant for always, maybe I wouldn't have been crushed when we broke up. Luckily, in 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage , Karl Pillemer Ph.D., a gerontologist who studies how people's relationships and values evolve as they age, demystifies the mate-finding process. How does he unlock the secret of determining if your partner is forever? He interviews "the experts" — in other words, older people.
As he did for 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans , Pillemer answers life's big questions by consulting the 65-plus crowd. By interviewing people who've enjoyed successful marriages — and survived unsuccessful ones — Pillemer mines a "vast reservoir of life experience [that] leads to a special way of thinking about love and marriage." These expert insights will help you determine — or verify — if your partner and you are in it for the long haul.
You're So In Love With Each Other
"The experts believe in love," writes Pillemer. "There were no differences among the age groups in the endorsement of love as the sine qua non of marriage. When I sorted through responses to the question, 'What advice would you give to a younger person about choosing a mate?' a top answer was: 'Be in love.'" Butterflies, intuition, a sense in your gut: the experts think that "in-love feeling" is crucial in predicting romantic success.
Your Partner Makes Sense — To the Rational and Romantic Sides of You
Ah, the heart: it's not the easiest muscle to train. Although the experts tout the importance of following that heart-driven in-love feeling, they also extol the benefits of calm and considerate assessment. "What you need to do before committing to a relationship, the experts advise, is to conduct 'due diligence.'" Your partner should be — or have the potential to be — a good provider, financially responsible, and a good parent if that's something the two of you are interested in.
You and Your Partner's Values Are Way In Sync
Attitudes and beliefs about children, money, and religion are the most crucial, but even opinions about domestic cleanliness (oh, hi, last night's dishes) can be good indicators of compatibility. According to the experts, talking about these topics (as in, "sit down [and] look each other in the eye") is the only way to figure out if you and your partner agree enough to make a commitment like marriage. Worried the conversation's going to be tough? You're right! Talking about core values is deeply personal, but hashing out these matters with your honey will only strengthen your bond —or help you see that maybe you're not quite right for each other.
You're Happy Campers
There's a reason so many wedding registries are packed with pop-up tents and sleeping bags: lifelong partners have tested their compatibility in "challenging and unusual situations," says Pillemer. Rather than simply doing dinner and a movie, the experts suggest "an outdoor adventure ... where you are forced to step out of your comfort zone ... the more rugged, the better." An offbeat experience allows you to see just how adaptable you and your partner are.
You Have Friend-Crushes on Your Partner's Siblings
Or you're best buds with your boo's mom. Or you love hitting the gym with your sugar's dad. The experts, Pillemer notes, stress that when you're making a commitment like marriage, you're not just marrying your partner: you're marrying a family. Even if you don't want to spend all your spare time with the potential in-laws, your acceptance of that clan bodes well for your own marital bliss.
Your Partner's Worth the Gamble
OK, so you and your partner seem destined for eternal love. According to Pillemer's experts, that position — really really really almost certain — is as good as you're going to get. "Close to 100 percent of the experts are in agreement on this one point: You can never be absolutely sure that you have found the right person." True, long-lasting love isn't an exact science: all you can do is be sure that your partner looks like a good bet, and then try your odds. Because, as experts long before Pillemer's bunch were saying, "nothing ventured, nothing gained."