What’s the secret to a successful relationship?

We asked and you answered. Here are 14 insights from the UBC community about what makes love last.

I recently read an interview with writer John Vaillant who was asked to share what he thought makes a good life. Reflecting on his 34-year relationship with his wife, he immediately noted how being married was “one of the joys” of his life. 

About his wife (who is, coincidentally, a UBC alum), Vaillant went on to add: “She really, in part, gave me the confidence and stability to undertake writing. And that's a good relationship when you help the other one do the hard thing that they secretly, deeply want to do. You're helping them become more of themselves.”

Love is without a doubt one of the ingredients for a good life and in this Valentine’s Day feature, we wanted to share insights from our alumni community on the topic of romantic love, specifically: What’s the secret to a successful relationship? 

We had posed this question last month and were delighted by the nearly 100 submissions we received (as well as bonus comments from those who had found lasting love at UBC). We heard from alumni who had graduated from every decade since the 1950s and even from current UBC students who couldn’t resist weighing in as well (and to that we say: welcome, we want to hear your thoughts too!).

So, as a nod to February 14th, we've selected 14 insights on what makes love last. From the pithy to the poignant, the humorous to the heartfelt, read on for perspectives from UBC graduates, and graduates-to-be, from each decade. You’ll want to read to the end, trust me. 

What’s the secret to a successful relationship?

From experience? Banana bread.

~ Clark Childerhose, UBC Arts student

Simply seeing each other in person more because texts can be misinterpreted so easily.

~ Amreen Aulakh, UBC Science student 

Being best friends with your partner above anything else. Unyielding honesty even when it’s hard or scary.

~ Niamh McCandless, UBC Arts student

Don’t be afraid to say sorry first and never go to bed mad.

~ Jessica Bie, BSN’14

"Find someone who's weird in the same way as you, or who appreciates and loves the ways in which you're weird." 

You will disagree at one or many points in your relationship. Practice active listening and learn to fight fairly. Think of you and your partner as teammates, learning and unlearning together so you can attack the issue, not one another.

~ Sally Olarte, BCom’07

Try to find the person, or people, who love you exactly as you are. Text them back whenever the heck you want to. Tell them you love them when you feel it. Tell them about your weird hobbies ASAP. Find someone who's weird in the same way as you, or who appreciates and loves the ways in which you're weird.

~ Catherine Gallant, BA’06, BEd’07

The secret to a successful relationship is turning toward one another in difficult times rather than away. Challenges inevitably come and go throughout life and turning towards one another maintains the strength of the foundation you rely upon. Surviving hardships together in this state of attunement deepens your bond so intensely that you can’t imagine your life without the other. 

~ Hannah McCormack, BA’04

"The secret to a long marriage is a short memory."

I have always said the secret to a long marriage is a short memory. Don’t hold on to things from the past, let them go. We have been married for 22 years so I can attest to the fact that this advice works.

~ Andrea Granter, BSN’98

The best advice I received is that relationships can't be 50-50. You both have to strive to give 100% because there will be days where you are too tired, ill, depressed, or otherwise preoccupied to give maybe more than 20%.

~ Julia Ford, BA’81, MBA’84

Take care of physical and emotional needs. Offer reassurance, encouragement to follow their dreams and passions, taking time to really listen. Say I love you and thank you. Practice patience. Build in special date nights and doing nothing together. Laugh lots and do silly things together. Be sure to practice the six-second kiss! Love is wanting the best for your partner.

~ UBC grad, BEd’77

"Laugh lots and do silly things together."

Something I keep reflecting on is my wise younger brother's comment as to marriage being a "commitment" after the initial romantic and heady days of multi-layered attraction. After a near half-century of marriage, I now feel that the aging process changes the dynamics, and having stoked the relationship in many ways, including going on dates even now when we can, I have gotten deeper into that sense of commitment.  

The underlining key is that I see us both doing and thinking of each other in a kind and thoughtful manner even as we find a limit now to the physical aspects, even hand holding. Others seem to relish and maintain the physical touch, but I have accepted my partner's relegating that to being less important for her. That has led me to a fuller acceptance, and my commitment remains strong. The foundational principle is this: acceptance and commitment while appreciating each other's many gifts to the relationship — all of which needs constant effort.

~ UBC grad, BSR’73, MD’80

"My advice: Take your partner's hand."

I was in a relationship where my partner always reached for my hand to hold. It immediately made me feel warm towards him, towards us. It had special significance if we had just argued. Every bad feeling disappeared and I felt loved. My advice: take your partner's hand. Sadly my partner passed away but it is something I will never forget.

~ Lilian Mast, MSc’73

Laugh and fly fish together.

~ Vicki Green, BEd’68

"Today, everything fits like a soft, warm glove."

The secret behind those that endure? My short answer is due diligence. 

My wife (also a UBC grad) and I have been married for 66 years and together for 72 years. When I first saw her, she was in grade 9 and I was a new boy in town going into grade 11. My first reaction was: "That is the girl I am going to marry.”

We are now retired having raised two children who also followed our path by graduating from university and by playing the same sports we both enjoyed. The due diligence part involved making sure we were compatible in all things involving sports and in education. The fact that she was a stunning beauty had also something to do with it. However, I should mention I played the beast to her beauty role. I am now 90 and my wife is 87. We still live in our forever house I designed in 1966. Today, everything fits like a soft, warm glove.

~ UBC grad, BASc’58, MASc’60