SOMERSET-—While many people will be thinking romantic thoughts on Valentine's Day, are there any clues why people are attracted to others and why some couples stay together and others become another divorce statistic?
Jim and Shelby Ream, Somerset, and Bob and Faye Glessner, Berlin, were the two couples at the Somerset senior center on Monday who had been married the longest: 53 years each.
"He was a good-looking guy," she said.
Jim recalls that he had to "keep waving and waving" before he got up the nerve to talk to Shelby.
Faye Glessner said she was attracted to Bob because of his eyes. He saw her singing in the church choir and liked her looks.
Both couples said the key to long marriages is to work things out before you become too angry and not to look at other men or women.
Dr. Vivian Diller, a New York psychologist, wrote in "Psychology Today" that the idea that "all you need is love" is a myth. People must develop the real skills needed to keep a marriage alive, she wrote, and talking isn't the key to success — listening is.
Biance Acevedlo, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, studies the neuroscience of relationships. She surveyed 274 men and women in long marriages. She found that the couples still had high levels of relationship satisfaction, with 40 percent saying they were still passionately in love.
Research from Stony Brook University in New York suggests that couples who regularly do new things together are happier than those who repeat the same old habits. The researchers also compared functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of people who were in long-term relationships with those who were newly in love.
"We found many very clear similarities between those who were in love long term and those who had just fallen in love," said Dr. Arthur Aron of the psychology department at Stony Brook. "In this latest study, the (scan) showed greater response to images of a long-term partner when compared with images of a close friend or others. The same region showed greater activation for those in the long-term couple group similar to those reporting new love."
From a statistical standpoint, your risk for divorce begins to fall once you've passed the 10-year anniversary. Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, said that recent Census Bureau data show that an average couple has a 57 percent chance of seeing the 15th wedding anniversary. Only about 4 percent of recently ended marriages involved couples married for 40 years or more. If the parents of the bride or groom are divorced, it raises their odds of divorce by 14 percent. But couples who attend premarital classes or counseling cut their odds of divorce by almost one-third.