What We Can Learn from 100 Love Stories Across America

nate bagleyNate Bagley, a single man from Utah, noticed that the majority of our national discourse on love and relationships falls into two categories: negative news (i.e. divorces and scandals) and unrealistic fairytales (we're looking at you, The Bachelor). But what about the normal, everyday couples who were building happy marriages and families — why was no one telling their story?

Fed up, he decided to do something about it: Find ordinary couples doing extraordinary things in the name of true love, all across the country, and talk to them in the hopes of learning what makes them tick. Bagley funded the project by using his life savings and raising funds through a Kickstarter campaign.

"I've interviewed gay couples, straight couples, rich couples, poor couples, religious couples, atheist couples, couples who have been together for a short time, and couples who have been together for over 70 years," he writes on Reddit.

(Photo Credit: Nate Badgley / Facebook)

Badgley plans on compiling all of the interviews into a documentary; in the meantime, he took to Reddit to share what he's learned so far:

Photo by: Two Chics Photography on Heart Love Weddings via Lover.ly

"The happiest couples always consisted of two (sometimes more) emotionally healthy and independently happy individuals. These people practiced self-love. They treated themselves with the same type of care that they treated their partner...or at least they tried to. Emotionally healthy people know how to forgive, they are able to acknowledge their part in any disagreement or conflict and take responsibility for it. They are self-aware enough to be assertive, to pull their weight, and to give love when it's most difficult."

"The happiest couples knew that if @#$% got real, their significant other wasn't going to walk out on them. They knew that even if things got hard — no, especially if things got hard — they were better off together. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole."

"Happy couples trust each other...and they have earned each others' trust. They don't worry about the other person trying to undermine them or sabotage them, because they've proven over and over again that they are each other's biggest advocate. That trust is built through actions, not words. It's day after day after day of fidelity, service, emotional security, reliability. Establish that foundation, and you're in good shape."

"There's a difference between the couple who drives through the rainstorm and the couple who pulls their car to the side of the road to make out in the rain. (Yes, that's a true story.) There's a difference between the couple who kisses for 10 seconds or longer when they say goodbye to each other rather than just giving each other a peck...or nothing at all. The couples who try on a daily basis to experience some sort of meaningful connection, or create a fun memory are the couples who shattered my perception of what was possible in a loving relationship."

Don't fight to win:
"A huge number of couples talked about how they didn't fight against each other. I mean, if you're in love, you should be playing for the same team. Your goal should be to resolve the issue, not to emerge victorious over the love of your life...and let's be honest, you just feel guilty when you win anyway."

Seek to understand:
"If you're having a hard time playing on the same team, stop fighting and instead try to understand why your partner is upset...If she is complaining that you're spending too much time at work, maybe the real issue is that she misses you, and wants to feel connected with you. Rather than arguing about how you're providing for the family, and she needs to respect how hard you work, try to listen to what she's really saying. Then hold her. Come home early one day, and surprise her with a date, or some special one-on-one time. Reassure her that she, and your relationship, are a priority for you. If you don't want that same issue to arise again, keep investing in the solution."

Just be nice to each other:
"Seriously. Don't be a jerk. Don't call names. Don't take jabs. Don't try to hurt the other person. Argue naked if it helps...but just be kind and civil and respectful. It will prevent so many bad things from happening."

Values supercede interests:
"I think what was most important was not so much that people had the surface stuff in common, but that they had the same values and similar goals. (i.e. someone who is dedicated to personal growth was rarely found with someone who was happy to be complacent, someone who didn't want kids was never found with someone who did.)"

Money Isn't Everything:
"Most of the strongest couples had undergone times of extreme hardship, many of which included poverty. For example: Reed and Allene went bankrupt, and ended up selling spoons door-to-door to avoid losing absolutely everything. What separated couples like Reed and Allene from others is that when hardship hit them, they had each others' backs, and they went to work and did what needed to be done. Marriage (or any sort of long-term commitment) is about team work, fighting for each other, and using each other to lean on in the hard times."

Friendship is paramount:
"The partnerships with the most passion after years and years of togetherness are those who have a strong and undying friendship. It's not about the sex so much as it is about the way their level of undying commitment, their endless support of each other, the way they laugh at each other's jokes, and forgive each other's wrongdoings. The thing that makes an amazing best friend is what also makes an amazing partner...add in the romance and you take it to the next level. (We tend to do it backwards in our society, we start with the sex, then panic, and try to add in the friendship... which rarely works.)"

The takeaway:
"One woman in Georgia gave some pretty amazing advice. She and and her husband have been married for over 60 years, and after being asked what her best relationship advice would be, she paused and said, 'Don't be afraid to be the one who loves the most.'"

Tell us: What marriage tips would you add to his list?

— Stefania Sainato


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