15 Things Relationships Should Teach You By 50, According To Therapists
Relationships can be tricky to navigate, but if you're with the right person, they're more than worth the effort. A fulfilling union requires a delicate balance of selflessness, communication, and picking and choosing your battles, but it also requires knowing when to put yourself first (especially if you're still searching for Mr. or Mrs. Right). To further complicate things, there's no one-size-fits-all formula for long-term happiness, however there are some general rules of thumb. And while there are challenges for couples of any age, there are definitely things relationships should teach you by 50 to help you find — or maintain — a blissful and lasting romance.
Ahead, three therapists share 15 love lessons to learn by middle age, based on their experience working with couples. From knowing what to prioritize, to working on keeping the spark alive, to knowing when it's time to finally let go, these experts zero in on their top pieces of advice. So whether you're single and looking, married and committed, or divorced and looking for a new partner in life, read on. These therapist-approved philosophies will help you achieve relationship success, and perhaps help you find your soulmate — no matter your age.
#1. Understand your love language.
#2. Not everything has the same priority — it’s important to let the little stuff go.
"This is about learning to pick your battles. A shared life will have many challenges and trials, and if you always need to be right, validated, and/or understood, your interactions will soon feel like more trouble than they are worth. Let your partner be right and win some of the time — it’s a great way to bank goodwill that can be drawn on when the issue is one you must confront and deal with." - Toni Coleman, LCSW, psychotherapist, relationship coach, and divorce mediator
#3. Your relationship must be number one.
"There’s no doubt that children need, demand, and deserve your love, time, and attention, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of your primary relationship with each other." - Noah Clyman, LCSW-R, ACT, clinical director of NYC Cognitive Therapy, a private practice in Manhattan
#4. Sometimes your partner is just looking for a sounding board, not a solution.
"A partner is sometimes just looking for someone to listen and offer emotional support. If you jump in with solutions every time your partner vents about their boss or how overwhelmed they have been feeling lately, they'll probably feel as though you don’t want to hear it, are tired of them complaining, or that you are saying the problem lies with them because of how they are dealing/not dealing with it." - Toni Coleman, LCSW
#5. Do small, positive things often.
"Show appreciation and affection for your partner regularly; talk together at the end of each day, give each other a kiss hello and goodbye. These are all the elements of a happy and healthy relationship. Your relationship is built out of the small and simple moments together each day." - Noah Clyman, LCSW-R, ACT
#6. Love yourself enough to walk away from love that isn't fulfilling.
"So often, people stay in relationships because they've already put in so much time. However, if you are solely staying due to the years already spent, are you really happy?
"[Staying in an unsatisfactory relationship] can lead to feelings of resentment, and regret. If you are not getting what you want out of the relationship, and you have expressed this to your partner and no changes have been made, then what is the point of staying with the person?" - Jordan Madison, LGMFT
#7. Comfort is a good thing — it does not have to mean something is missing.
"Happy relationships feel comfortable. Comfort is what friends share, and your partner should be your closest friend. Security, dependability, and predictability are high-value traits as we get older, because having a partner who is easy company and who has your back is everything." - Toni Coleman, LCSW
#8. Date nights should be a permanent part of your relationship and connection.
"The goal is to have a special date once a week, and make that a priority in your relationship. [Date night] is a pre-planned time where the two of you leave your work life and your work-in-the-home life behind, and spend a certain amount of time focusing on each other, and really talking and listening to each other. It’s not sitting on the couch watching television together. It’s a special time set aside for just the two of you to connect.
"In many relationships and marriages, fun, play, and connecting with each other become the last items on the 'to do' list. This is a sure recipe for discontent and growing apart." - Noah Clyman, LCSW-R, ACT
#9. Don't fall solely for potential.
"If your partner never changed, and stayed exactly how they were now, would you be happy spending the rest of your life with them? Of course people can change and grow, that is part of life. However, do not be so focused on what your partner could be, that you are ignoring what they are showing you right now." - Jordan Madison, LGMFT
#10. The grass is definitely not greener in everyone else’s relationship, it just looks that way from the outside.
"When you are going through a rough patch, it may look as though everyone else has it all together in their relationships. From the outside, their lives look porcelain smooth. Isn’t that what many or most of your friends would say about your relationship, unless they knew otherwise? Every [couple] has challenges and goes through hard times. What makes the difference is how they deal with them." - Toni Coleman, LCSW
#11. Avoid judgment.
"Don’t be critical and don’t give advice unless your partner asks for it. In every conversation with our partner, [make it your goal to] communicate respect, understanding, and empathy." - Noah Clyman, LCSW-R, ACT
#12. Financial arguments are the biggest predictor of a breakup.
"Couples need to avoid the dichotomy of characterizing one another in terms of the two most common stereotypes: the spender and the saver. In stereotyping the spender, the saver uses terms like 'impulsive, lavish, or self-indulgent.' And stereotyping the saver, the spender use terms like 'miserly, stingy, or cheap.' [However,] the spender sees himself or herself as wisely using money to live a happy life. The saver sees himself or herself as practical and wise.
"The truth is, we are all savers and spenders at different times, and stereotypes rarely help us come to any understanding about what money means to our partner. The conflict money creates is rarely about numbers; it’s about what money means." - Noah Clyman, LCSW-R, ACT
#13. Pay attention to the red flags.
"Oftentimes, we ignore the red flags, thinking they won't be that big of a deal, or it is too early to say something in the relationship. However, it is better to address the red flags in the beginning. That way, you can communicate how you feel, come to an understanding, or see that the relationship will not work." - Jordan Madison, LGMFT
#14. Seek to repair your arguments.
"Fights are going to happen in any relationship. It’s inevitable and it’s healthy, but research shows that couples who are genuinely happy in their marriage or relationship handle conflicts in a gentle, positive way. They listen to their partner's perspective, they seek to understand their partner, and they work together to find a compromise that works for both." - Noah Clyman, LCSW-R, ACT
#15. It's okay to have boundaries.
"It is assumed that love means you do anything for the person, no matter what. However, that is not always healthy. In a relationship, it may seem scary to set boundaries out of fear that you will make the person upset or push them away. However, if the person you are with cannot understand and respect certain boundaries you have, then maybe they are not the one for you. Giving in to reduce conflict in the relationship can often lead to unspoken desires and [negative] feelings." - Jordan Madison, LGMFT