Why romance isn't the real secret of a happy marriage
...but don't get the wrong idea, lads, it goes a long way to help, writes Chrissie Russell
Published 17/06/2010 | 05:00
Romance may not be dead but, according to Helen Mirren, it's nowhere near as important as we think it is. The award-winning actress (64) said this week that her marriage to husband Taylor Hackford (65) is based on much stronger stuff.
"Taylor isn't romantic, but what I get on the other side is so much better; loyalty and truthfulness, I'd take those qualities over romantic evenings any time."
Given the couple has been dating since the early 1980s and married since 1997, it seems the proof is in the pudding.
We all love the excitement of romance. It's part of the reason why many of us are falling over ourselves to hear the Twilight men utter lines like "I will love you every single day forever," and "I will fight for you until your heart stops beating." But in real life, such breathless utterances aren't such a priority.
After all, vampire Edward Cullen may be hot stuff and come out with all the right lines, but when you come home from a hard day's work and need someone to whip up a carbonara, clean the bathroom and put the kids to bed, who knows what use he'd be?
Research shows that whether a relationship stands the test of time is more likely to be affected by factors such as who does the housework and common backgrounds rather than grand romantic gestures.
A survey carried out in the US favoured faithfulness, good sex and a nice home as the ingredients most likely to ensure wedded bliss.
Earlier this year, the London School of Economics revealed that couples who don't share the housework are twice as likely to divorce -- romantic gestures don't add up to happiness when compared to someone who's a dab hand with a duster.
According to Jane Ferguson, acting director of counselling for Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service, the giddy feelings of first love are always fleeting.
She says: "Romance is the first stage feeling of being in love but it doesn't last. It's the initial phase where you're flooded with hormones. It's like a high, but the brain can't sustain that state for a long period of time and for most people who have moved out of that romantic phrase, they find the relationship is hard work."
Celebrity Jennifer Lopez, who is married to singer Marc Anthony, agrees. She says: "It takes communication, honesty and hard work. We dedicate a lot of ourselves to our jobs and our professions, but I think you have to put at least as much, if not more, into your relationship and your marriage if you want it to be just as successful."
Sean Connery swears his 30-year marriage to wife Marcheline depends on them having different interests and him not understanding her native French.
And Ben Stiller says that he and wife of nine years, Christine Taylor, get by by making each other laugh. "We don't take things too seriously, which keeps us grounded."
For many it's the When Harry Met Sally model, of friendship as a basis for a relationship, that proves most successful.
Dublin couple Tony (60) and Maria Bacon (59) reckon this to be the case. Tony says: "It takes a bit of effort. Having shared interests and a sense of humour is handy, especially when the chips are down. But most important is having someone you can count on for support."
He adds: "Maria and I have been married for 36 years and a major factor in us staying the journey has been our children.
"Having children makes you less selfish and brings out a love that just grows and grows."
And Kevin Horan (60) from Dublin, married for 25 years, believes keeping separate interests is also important. He says: "We don't try to change each other. I like blues and rock, she likes classical. I like spuds, she prefers rice.
"I find things work out best if you give each other space."
Rather than an ability to sweep them off their feet, most women on the online dating service Parship want to meet someone with honesty (94pc), an ability to communicate (93pc) fidelity (89pc) and a sense of humour (87pc), rather than a Don Juan. Dr Victoria Lukats, a psychiatrist and dating expert for Parship, says: "Often it is characteristics, values and interests that will determine the dynamics of a relationship.
"When an individual is with someone who has the right balance of complementary characteristics, the outcome is more likely to result in a lasting relationship."
Jane from Accord agrees. She says: "Relationships are something you need to work at, build on and develop. Conflict is inevitable and the pressures of life have an effect. When that happens, it's the qualities of loyalty and honesty that are essential, as well as an ability to listen to each other, validate each other and being proactive in caring and considerate acts.
"It's only once the first phase of romance has gone that you get to see love underneath."