The Call-In: Your Questions About Making Relationships Last

Jun 25, 2017
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(SOUNDBITE OF CORDUROI'S "MY DEAR")

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Time now for The Call-In. It's wedding season. And today we're talking about love. We asked you for your stories, advice and questions.

JENNIFER INGHAM: Hi, NPR listeners. This is Jennifer Ingham.

JENNY RANKIN: Hi. This is Jenny Rankin from Laguna Beach, Calif.

MARY ANGELIU: Buffalo Grove, Ill. - and I just celebrated my 40th wedding anniversary with my husband.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And my question is about relationships.

INGHAM: Thanks.

ANGELIU: Thanks.

RANKIN: Thank you so much. Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORDUROI'S "MY DEAR")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mandy Len Catron wrote the wildly popular Modern Love column "To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This," about a psychological experiment that used 36 questions to make two people fall in love. She joins us now in our studios to talk about how to make love last. Thanks for being here.

MANDY LEN CATRON: Yeah, my pleasure.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, let's start with some really common questions that we got from our listeners. Basically, how do you keep love alive? Let's listen.

LYDIA FUQUA: My name is Lydia Fuqua, and I'm from Kansas City, Mo. My fiance and I are getting married in about three months. We've been together for a while, but there are so many new and exciting things we've gotten to share together that every day feels new and fresh and exciting. My question is - 10, 15, 20 years from now, how do we work to combat the mundane?

CATRON: Yeah, so there's a lot of research that psychologists have done on what they call the misattribution of arousal. And basically, the idea is that when you do something really stimulating - that leaves you excited, sweaty palms, heart racing - or even just something novel and interesting, you tend to attribute those really intense feelings that you're having to who you're with not just to what you're doing. And so a lot of people recommend doing, like, date night and always trying to do new things or new experiences, even if it's just going to a new restaurant with your partner.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Keeping it fresh, essentially.

CATRON: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Keeping it fresh.

So there were a couple of questions about navigating cultural differences in relationships. This is Jennifer Ingham.

INGHAM: My question is - how do other couples who have grown up with different life experiences explore those memories together and find ways to bond over them, for example through meals, travel or sharing stories? Thanks.

CATRON: Yeah, you know, I think this is a great question. And I think the answer is maybe, like, build it into your relationship. So my partner and I have a relationship contract. And in the contract, we each have talked about things that are important to both of us that we want to practice in our relationship.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is written?

CATRON: This is written out, yeah (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK.

CATRON: So we come from slightly different cultural backgrounds. Like, I grew up in rural Appalachia, and he was actually born in Poland. And I grew up with my family eating breakfast together every morning. It was, like, the one meal we bothered to eat together every day. And so I actually said, let's put this in the contract. Like, I want us to try and eat breakfast together every day. And so we do.

But you could do your own thing. You could say, I want to eat, like, X cuisine from your background once a week, and you're in charge of making that dinner. And then I'll do mine once a week. And I think that we both have that novelty effect of doing cool new things and also let you each take turns feeling like you're contributing something to the relationship.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So because we like to be highly intrusive here...

CATRON: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...We actually went to our colleagues here at NPR. Here is former WEEKEND EDITION host and now Morning Edition host Rachel Martin. And maybe it's a WEEKEND EDITION host thing because I strongly relate to this particular question.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: This may seem trivial, but it's actually not trivial. And I'm going to out my husband here as someone who is not tidy - like, refuses to put things away, refuses to shut cupboards. So you think that this is not a big deal, but it grates on me to no end. And I don't know what to do about this thing. Do I just keep shutting the cupboards behind him because it's just my lot in life now? Or do I make it, like, a real issue and say, listen, I'm starting to resent you because you do this? I don't know what to do.

CATRON: I mean, this - so my partner and I have done - like, put housework into the relationship contract, so we each have a role that's our responsibility. So one way you might approach this is instead of feeling like, oh, I have to live with this bitterness - is that you negotiate. So you could say, I will close the cabinet doors behind you. Like, I will choose to live with this if you will then offer me something that is a challenge for me.

So maybe there's some space to feel like you're gaining something from closing the cabinets, like there's an exchange there. Like, I hate doing laundry. I hate it. And so my partner does all our laundry, and it's, like, the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. But I have to now take out the compost, which is the most disgusting job in our house because we live above a butcher shop, and our compost bins are repulsive. But it's like, that's a worthwhile sort of five minutes out of my week for him doing, like, hours of laundry. Like, it's glorious, and we're both happy.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Mandy Len Catron. Her new book is called "How To Fall In Love With Anyone." Her second Modern Love column, "To Stay In, Love Sign On The Dotted Line," is in today's New York Times.

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GARCIA-NAVARRO: And next week on The Call-In, the Senate has unveiled its version of the health care bill, and it is complicated. If you have questions about how your health care might change, call in at 202-216-9217. Be sure to include your full name, contact info and where you are from. And in order to answer your question more fully, please do include information about where you get your insurance, your age and who's on your policy. That number again, 202-216-9217. And we may use your question on the air.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORDUROI'S "MY DEAR")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And now for a moment, back to love - one more round of advice from my colleagues, hosts past and present Robert Siegel, Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, Susan Stamberg and Linda Wertheimer.

ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: Learn how to argue.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Communication, communication, communication.

AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: Knowing when to give each other space.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: Our rabbi, when we were married, which will be 55-plus years ago, 1962, said never let the sun set on a quarrel. And that was wonderful advice.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, BYLINE: Well, I have been married for 48 years. And I think that - you know, I think it just takes a lot of work to be married for a very long time. Not easy (laughter) but worth it, I think.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORDUROI'S "MY DEAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.