Nate Bagley says he was sick of hearing love stories that fell into one of two categories — scandal and divorce, and unrealistic fairytale.
So he started a Kickstarter and used his life savings to tour the country and interview couples in happy, long-term relationships.
He then took to Reddit’s /r/IAmA to share what he learned (just in time for Valentine’s Day), and to post podcasts of the couples’ journeys and advice.
“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 said in his Ask Me Anything. “I’ve even interviewed couples in arranged marriages and polygamous couples.”
He now hopes to make a documentary from the interviews, and has many of them already uploaded on his website, The Loveumentary. This is some of the best advice that he shared with Reddit:
On the key things that make a relationship successful:
“This was actually one of the most surprising things I learned on the journey.
Self Love: 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.
Commitment: After that emotional health came an unquestioning level of commitment. The happiest couples knew that if shit 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.
Trust: 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.
Intentionality: This is the icing on the cake. 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. There’s a difference between the couples who encourage each other to pursue their personal goals at the expense of their own discomfort or inconvenience… even if it means their partner has to stage kiss another woman.
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.”
On the best advice he was given:
“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.’”
On the best way to solve disagreements:
“Resolving disagreements was one of the topics that came up the most.
Here’s what I learned:
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. Typically what’s being talked about isn’t the real issue. People are inherently bad at being vulnerable, especially in threatening situations. Be willing to ask sincere questions. Let the answers sink in. 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 ad respectful. It will prevent so many bad things from happening.”