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Revealed! The Real Secret to Finding 'Golden Love'

What I’ve learned (the hard way) about lasting devotion.

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illustration of open, gold heart necklace with photo of couple inside
Nhung Lê
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Let’s say Cinderella just turned 70, and she dreams of one more spin at the ball.

She can’t dance in glass slippers anymore. But who cares? She’s smarter than your basic Fairy Godmother by now and skilled at seductive stunts.

Our senior Cinderella slips into a skin-tight shapewear “birthday suit” and flashes her still-sexy body at the most eligible older man in all the land, a 72-year-old Prince Charming known now as The Golden Bachelor. Will she win his true love, a 3.15-carat princess-cut diamond ring and a grand wedding televised far and wide?

You bet your bibbidi-bobbidi-boo she will.

ABC’s hit reality show The Golden Bachelor — starring widower Gerry Turner — proved yet again how hard we fall for the fantasy of love. Gerry’s Cinderella — Theresa Nist, 70 — gushed her heart out on Instagram and in interviews: "Truly a dream come true!" "Overcome with happiness!" "So thrilling. So exciting."

And such a surreal, fleeting way to begin wedded life. Real commitment has little to do with producer-choreographed TV. To choose well, we must know ourselves and what we need, then avoid people who exhibit traits destined to break our hearts.

“Falling in love with love is falling for make-believe,” Dr. Gordon Livingston wrote in his book How To Love: Choosing Well at Every Stage of Life.

Secret No. 1: Casting counts. 

The chosen fiancé for the golden bachelor Gerry told Katie Couric that she made a joke about wearing her “birthday suit” during casting, and that’s why “producers picked her for the show. Gerry chose her, he said, because they had both lost spouses and understood what it takes to maintain a long marriage. On “Good Morning America,” the couple each said they valued the other’s “unselfishness.”

A kind person — one who displays unselfishness, empathy, generosity, acceptance and compassion — is the best bet for lasting and “golden” love, Livingston says in his book. Intelligence and curiosity matter, too, he wrote. As we enter Act Three of our lives, and we must wrestle with hard questions about purpose and meaning and legacy, couples are happier when each person is smart enough and courageous enough to go deep.

“We are defined by whom and what we love,” Livingston wrote.

If you have chosen a mate who lies, drinks/takes drugs excessively is passive-aggressive, narcissistic or just plain mean, your heart will break. Those qualities do not start well or age well — but, alas, we heed warnings too late when we are blinded by love.

Secret No. 2: Honesty begins within.

My marriage ended after 18 years because my husband and I strayed in different ways. He chased affirmation from a skirt. I chased it from my work. As creative collaborators and cocktail-party companions, we were a dream team. As mates, we were miscast.

I suspected that when we got married, but I was madly in love with him, enchanted by his charm and talent. Also, I was 34 and already had a toddler from another relationship then came an unexpected pregnancy — by him. Having one baby out of wedlock was one thing. Two was pushing it, even for my open-minded self. My ex and I tried to fix our awkward casting as we went along. We entertained each other, but we could not emotionally support each other.

My divorce forced me to dump my fantasies and confront my fears. Did I prize wit and cleverness more than warmth and comfort? Did I deny my own needs? Did I simply not want to be told what to do? Yes, yes, yes, and then some.

Commitment requires honesty — and that begins within.

My friends Lynn and Scott have been together for 40 years and have a marriage I admire. They laugh a lot, they talk it out, and they just fit. But before they could fit, they got therapy.

“We toasted our therapists at our wedding and told our guests, ‘Without these two people, you would not be here today’,’” Lynn said.

They both had insecurities and doubts, Scott’s mother had “three catastrophic marriages,” and he was afraid of making a mistake. Lynn had been divorced once. And all around them was evidence that even long marriages are not necessarily good marriages.

“We all know those couples who make you think, ‘My God, they’ve been living in a state of war for 50 years’," Scott said.

Secret No. 3: Lasting love is not sweeping, sudden or smooth.

What if you still long for love but you don’t have 50 years? All the more reason to rub the stars out of your eyes.

“Love is not a fantasy, and it’s not sudden,” Scott added. “If it’s sudden, you better be careful.”

What it is: consideration, compromise, communication.

Do you have something to talk about outside of bed? Do you laugh at the same things? Do you have the same values? Are you willing to negotiate and ask: What does it take to make you happy that won’t make me unhappy?

The upside of true golden love, they both said: “The unity. The absolute trust.”

Lynn and Scott approve of my boyfriend of five years, Dan, who is 76 and a widower. We had been dating one month when Scott quizzed Dan: “Are you emotionally ready to start a relationship?” Lynn listened to Dan talk about his late wife, Sue, and how he took care of her as cancer weakened her. Lynn has become Dan’s biggest champion.

In moments of stress, when I’m unsure and insecure, or when Dan and I get on each other’s nerves, it is Lynn who reminds me why he is good for me.

“He’s smart,” she’ll say. “And most of all, he’s kind.”

Have any of you found love later in life? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Relationships
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