Those of us lucky enough to have aging parents who live long and remain nominally healthy are often struck by the wisdom we hear as they ruminate about relationships and love in the past. To really understand what they are getting at we must toss away any notions that our parents are merely clinging to the “good old days” and instead gaze through a prism that acknowledges their wise and long-term perspective.
Karl Pillemer, Ph.D. writes, “What elders have that young people don’t is something special: the view from the end. For them it’s no longer a mystery as to how everything will turn out — it’s already happened.”
Dr. Pillemer is the author of 30 Lessons for Loving. I wrote a short Valentine’s Day post, Elder’s Share Wisdom About Love, sharing a Next Avenue review of the book, and was intrigued. I bought the book and posted it here on this blog as my current read. Now I’ve read the book and have more to say.
Professor Pillemer conducted in-depth interviews with more than 700 elders — people still in long marriages, people who are widowed, people who have lived long lives together as partners, and people who had an unhappy marriage, then remarried, and experienced more love and joy the second time around. The interviewees, he calls them “experts,” offer compelling observations as they look back over many years and think about the lessons they learned, or wish they had learned when they were younger, about relationships and love. What they and the book really offer is a checklist — 30 issues to consider in-depth if a person’s goal is a solid, committed, long-term relationship.
Some people may think this is merely an advice or marriage counseling tome, and it is only in a way. But what is different about the information and advice in 30 Lessons for Loving is that it shares each elder’s advice, experience, and point of view — and the experts have a lot to say. If you or someone in your family is thinking about what it takes to create a quality relationship, or perhaps more importantly, what it takes to recognize an unhealthy one, this is a good book to share. (Note to self: How often have I met a good friend or family members’ significant other, observed serious issues, and not said a word? More often than I’d like to admit.)
Most of us do not get to learn nearly as much from elder relatives as did people in the past, and the major reason is that family members live so far away from one another. As a result, many people today do not have the benefit of advice from an older member of the family. More compellingly, these days so much interaction with a family elder has to do with a medical situation or death.
So that fact that this book offers readers the wisdom that we all used to get from day-to-day family interactions with elderly relatives is significant. 30 Lessons for Loving should be required reading for anyone involved in a long-term relationship who is considering making it permanent. it provides a checklist of sorts — one that encourages individuals to consider values, communication, respectful treatment, humor, money, spending time together, raising a family, trust, and much, much more.
NOTE: At the book’s website is a link to a YouTube channel with interview clips. Here’s one of the videos. I’ve embedded one of them below.
A Few Media Stories About 30 Lessons for Living