7 Secrets to a Successful Relationship

7 Secrets to a Successful Relationship

Photo Credit: Josephine Murphy

Unveiling the lessons behind a 30-year love story

Josephine Murphy, Opinion Editor 

In a world where marriage rates are on the decline and divorce rates hover around 50%, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find a love that withstands the test of time. For Valentine’s Day, I decided to sit down and interview two individuals who truly understand the complexities of love, dating, and relationships: my parents, who are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary this year. 

Rod and Lydia both grew up in East York, just streets away from each other. Although they had different friend groups, they had known each other since childhood, attending the same middle school and high school. Their paths converged unexpectedly one Thursday night in a local bar called O’Toole’s during their first year of university. Prompted by what I like to call fate, my dad asked my mom out, to which she replied, “I’ll think about it.” 

Six years later, in 1994, they exchanged vows and were wed. Now, 30 years later, they remain happily married with six children. 

I sat down individually with both of them and delved into a series of questions about their love story, dating principles, and the secrets to a lasting relationship. I intentionally spoke to them separately to explore whether their answers would align or differ, and in what ways. To my surprise, their responses were remarkably similar. From our conversations, I’ve distilled seven dating principles. 

  1. You need shared values and chemistry 

According to my mom, when it comes to dating, shared values and chemistry are paramount. She explained, “First and foremost is shared values. You have to actively listen to what the person is saying but be able to ask the right questions. When you’re learning about that person it’s important to probe and ask questions that are important to you. That means you have to know what’s important to you, what are you looking for in life? And what are they looking for? 

Secondly, how does that person make you feel? Do they make you feel safe, excited? There has to be a particular kind of energy that goes back and forth between a man and a woman. There should be chemistry, but chemistry that’s underlined by the shared values.” 

  1. Green and red flags are determined by your relationship goals 

The criteria my dad considered when dating were based on his relationship goals. “Are they good marriage material? I was more selective in who I dated because of that perspective,” he explained. For him this meant looking for someone who was hardworking, attractive, had a good sense of humour, and shared strong family values. Similarly, his red flags were rooted in these considerations, and included “feeling like the relationship isn’t a priority, being unsure of whether the other person is trustworthy or reliable, and someone whose life seems to have a lot of problems.” According to him, these green and red flags stem from the idea that you’re seeking a life partner. “If you’re just looking for casual fun, then the selection process changes.” 

  1. Embrace the art of love letters 

When I asked my mom to share a memorable moment or story from her early days of dating my dad, she fondly recalled, “The thing that stands out to me is the way he expressed his feelings for me and our relationship through writing me love letters. It was so romantic. There were a lot of them. If he went away on vacation or if I was busy studying and we couldn’t see each other, he might leave me a note and drop it off in the mailbox with a treat, a hot chocolate, cheesecake, a muffin…I learned a lot about him through the fact that he was willing to open up and be vulnerable.” 

  1. Relationships are like bank accounts (and no, I’m not talking about gold diggers) 

One challenge in maintaining a lasting relationship is ensuring that both partners’ needs are met. My mom likened relationships to bank accounts, explaining, “You can’t keep making withdrawals without depositing. It’s this constant give and take. Sometimes you may need to give a little more. It’s a compromise. You have to be in tune with the other person. Part of the responsibility of having a lasting relationship is ensuring that the other person’s needs are met as well as yours.” 

  1. Love is a choice, not a feeling 

Both my parents share the belief that love is not merely a feeling but a deliberate choice. My dad said, “You choose to love someone. And then express that love through service. You try to do as much as you can to support that person. You have to start off with being attracted to them but essentially you choose to love them and voluntarily choose not to love other people.” My mom echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that the key to sustaining a loving relationship is “choosing to unselfishly love that person every day and honoring the promises that you made to each other on the day you were married.” 

  1. The relationship with your partner needs to come first 

In discussing potential obstacles to lasting relationships, my dad emphasized, “I think there’s a danger that you lose the perspective that marriage is your most important relationship and all other relationships come second. It’s easy to put other things or people first. In our busy fast-paced world, you figure you’ve got the relationship sorted out, and begin to focus on other things. But really you should keep it in mind that marriage is your number one relationship and a healthy marriage will sort out the other things and keep your life in order.” 

  1. Love changes 

One lesson my mom wanted to impart is that “Love changes; it almost goes through a metamorphosis. Love in the beginning is based on feelings, connection, and energy – it can sometimes almost be electrifying. But the longer you’re together, love becomes deeper. It’s no longer just a feeling. That feeling is expressed through your actions. It’s about what you do day in and day out for that person. Rod once wrote to me in a letter: ‘The loss of that initial chemistry and fire is being replaced with something far deeper.’ I think that’s true.” 

These are just 7 of the many principles I’ve learned from them both. I wish I could share them all, but that would probably take up more space than the entire newspaper. At the very least, I can say that I know the kind of love I’m looking for because of them, and for that, I’m endlessly grateful.