2 Things That Are More Important Than Sex for a Long-Lasting May-December Relationship

Important Than SexIf you ask peo­ple what it takes to make a May-December rela­tion­ship really last, you’ll prob­a­bly get a wide range of answers, every­thing from more com­mu­ni­ca­tion to more sex. But one renowned psy­chol­o­gist believes he’s found the secret to a long-lasting rela­tion­ship, and it’s eas­ier than you’d think. Accord­ing to John Gottman, all you need to really make your May-December rela­tion­ship last are two key per­son­al­ity traits: gen­eros­ity and kindness.

Gottman has made a career out of study­ing rela­tion­ships, hav­ing spent the last 40 years ana­lyz­ing cou­ples around the globe to try and uncover what makes and breaks them. And if what he’s dis­cov­ered is true, it can make the dif­fer­ence between hap­pi­ness and heart­break in your own May-December relationship.

In one of his most notable stud­ies, Gottman and his team inter­viewed recently mar­ried cou­ples about their rela­tion­ship, touch­ing on things like how they first met, what con­flicts they were fac­ing, and some of their pos­i­tive mem­o­ries. While being ques­tioned, all of the par­tic­i­pants were hooked up to elec­trodes that mea­sured phys­i­o­log­i­cal responses like heart rate, blood flow, and sweat­ing. Researchers then fol­lowed up with each of the cou­ples six years later. In another follow-up study, Gottman invited suc­cess­ful cou­ples to a mock bed-and-breakfast for the day and then watched how they inter­acted with each other while in a vaca­tion setting.

Through­out all of his research, Gottman’s find­ings revealed one com­mon thing—they all sug­gested that peo­ple who dis­played traits of gen­eros­ity and kind­ness, and who had a more pos­i­tive out­look, were more likely to suc­ceed in love when com­pared to indi­vid­u­als who dis­played less of these traits. In other words, the kinder and more gen­er­ous, sup­port­ive, and atten­tive you are, the more likely you are to reap the ben­e­fits of a suc­cess­ful May-December relationship.

Inter­est­ingly, the one trait that’s most likely to destroy your May-December rela­tion­ship, accord­ing to John Gottman’s research, is con­tempt. Although neg­a­tiv­ity is never a good thing, those who con­stantly cri­tique and pick out their partner’s flaws will more than likely end up caus­ing more harm than good, because they end up miss­ing as much as half of their partner’s pos­i­tive actions and only see neg­a­tiv­ity, even when it’s not really there.

This is cer­tainly some­thing to keep in mind if you’re look­ing for a May-December rela­tion­ship that’s solid enough to endure the good times and the bad. Kind­ness and gen­eros­ity don’t nec­es­sar­ily mean hold­ing the door open or giv­ing lit­tle gifts every now and then. It has much more to do with how you and your part­ner inter­act with one other on a daily basis, includ­ing how you approach conflicts.

What do you think: Do you believe that kind­ness and gen­eros­ity can actu­ally make or break a May-December relationship?


Smith, E.E., “Mas­ters of Love,” The Atlantic web site, June 12, 2014; http://goo.gl/McBLSx.

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About Isabella

I was never patriotic, so when Independence Day came, the last thing on my mind was to go out and celebrate. I was bored and I was lonely, and though they weren’t my normal crowd, thesse girls were friends and family members who I grew up with. But Diana had her man, Marsha had hers, and my cousin Lisa had her own. I was the only one who was single and my taste was just too high; the kind of men they dated did not appeal to me. I wanted the executive, the entrepreneur. I was 22 and unhappy about my life. I yearned to be in a relationship; I felt I had so much to give a man, and yet I was single. My friends and I waited for cab and I was still second-guessing whether or not I really wanted to go out. While we were waiting, an older looking gentleman driving a blue pick-up truck drove up to us. As he slowed, he said, “Don’t move. I’m coming right back!” He drove off, leaving a trail of his cologne, as he sped away to drop off the construction workers sitting in the back of the truck. Literally moments later, he came back, stopped in front of us, asked us where we were going, and told us to get in. It turns out his name was Keith. After Keith dropped us off, I realized I didn’t want to stay and asked him to take me back to where he picked us up from. He turned, looked at me, and said, “You were the reason why I picked you all up. I wanted to get to know you. So, I’m happy you decided to leave with me.”