As one of the most famous bachelors gets ready to take his wedding vows, the question seems rather pertinent: Can perpetual bachelors like George Clooney change and become longstanding husbands—able to weather the rough seas that accompany the great times?
Baby Boomers, like me, may remember those snippets of advice our mothers offered on our love life back in the day. My mother’s wisdom was that you should never marry a longstanding bachelor, as they were set in their ways and unaccustomed to compromise.
But leopards can change their spots, as demonstrated by Warren Beatty who, after a string of relationships with beautiful women, married in his mid-50’s. More than 20 years and 4 children later, he and actress Annette Bening are still together—no small feat in Hollywood.
Apparently many a middle-aged bachelor finally decides to settle down as they realize time is running out to fit in a wife and family before the ‘Grim Reaper’ calls. So if my mother’s advice on perpetual bachelors is not universally applicable, what do they need for long-lasting love? In the end, they probably just need the same as the rest of us—although it may be harder to achieve when you have been single so long.
So, here are seven all-purpose ingredients perpetual bachelors can use in finding long-term romantic success:
- Similarity—Research shows that if we want our romantic relationships to last, we should search for ‘homogamy’ in a partner. That means someone similar to us, particularly in values. Several studies have shown, in fact, that similarities among characteristics such as age, background, intelligence, socioeconomic status, and values can predict greater relationship success.
- Realistic expectations—Realistic expectations of our partner and the relationship is another key ingredient for long-term success. It’s important we recognize that no one is perfect, it won’t always be smooth sailing, and it is quite normal to feel that we don’t like our partner from time to time. According to the so-called ‘Disappointment model,’ if individuals start out with extreme positive beliefs, disappointment frequently ensues. And such feelings of disappointment do not bode well for the longer term.
- Friendship—Hardly surprising this one ranks as important—after all, we will spend plenty of time with that ‘significant other.’ So, after the initial crushing period is over, we need to know we’ll be left with a true friend to weather day-to-day life. According to Franz Schubert, ‘Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.’
- Equality—We need to believe we bring as many desirable qualities to the relationship as our partner. Equality means we have balanced power in the relationship, we can act independently of our partner’s control, influence their actions, and participate equally in decision-making.
- Commitment—Commitment is the most powerful predictor of relationship stability. But it’s not about a marriage ceremony—it’s about making the relationship a priority and being willing to sacrifice for it, invest in it, link our personal goals to it, and seek the other person’s welfare, not just our own. It’s about having ties together, such as joint possessions and family, which help keep us glued together during rocky times.
- Understanding—As mentioned in the bestselling relationship book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, many of our relationship troubles start because men and women are more different than we may think. When women have problems, they want care and understanding, but male partners often offer solutions, which can lead to resentment if the woman doesn’t feel she’s been heard. To help solve male problems, women try to be supportive by offer comforting, unsolicited advice, but good intentions make him feel smothered and controlled. Then we have to contend with each other’s cycles. After getting close, men need to feel independent again and become distant for a time, whilst women go up and down emotionally like a Yo-Yo.
- Conflict resolution—According to researchers, ‘The mere presence of conflict may reveal less about the quality of a relationship than does the way in which the conflict is handled.’ Conflicts are normal and inevitable in any partnership, and it seems that mutually satisfactory resolution to disagreements is key to the continued harmony, satisfaction, and even survival of the relationship.
As for Mr. Clooney and Ms. Alamuddin? She certainly ticks more of the boxes for similarity than many who have come and gone before her. But he may need to work hard to ensure they are equal co-directors of their movie, given that anyone he chooses to be with will live at least somewhat in the shadow of his fame.
In the past, he didn’t seem to have a big appetite for commitment—as is apparent in this comment said of him on the subject: ‘In marriage you’re bound by what’s expected of you, he doesn’t want to be expected to do anything.’ But, he is older and perhaps more ready for the sacrifice and constraints that are key to commitment. Only time will tell whether George Clooney can change from long-standing bachelor to long-standing husband. One thing’s for sure: He’s the process of proving a lot of people wrong—leading the way for perpetual bachelors everywhere.
After her interest was piqued by encounters with a number of women who clearly found George Clooney fascinating but were so different to the women he has dated, D.H. Barkley settled down to write her first book, George Clooney: From Bachelor to Betrothed. She lives in Switzerland with her husband. To learn more about Barkley, visit www.clooneythebook.com.