• Humanity

30 Lessons For Loving

Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships and Marriage

By Karl Pillmer, PhD

Love, although mysterious, has been at the crux of human life for all recorded history. Marriage on the other hand, has not.

I read this book about five years ago when I was at the end of a divorce. The twenty years I had spent in a bad marriage made me reluctant about ever being in a committed relationship again. I had determined I would be single for the rest of my life and never be dependent on a man again.  Yet, I couldn’t seem to untangle myself from the strong feelings I had for my new love. 

I read everything I could find on warning signs for a bad relationship. I would not enter another one.

Why do we marry? My divorce process had been so lengthy, complex and unnecessarily painful. I divorced in Maryland where the requirement for couples with children was a twelve month separation. It was too long and too stressful for everyone involved, most of all the children. The wait for a court date added another six months. 

Had I gone through with a divorce in Texas, I could have done it in three months for eighty-eight dollars, according to the billboards.

If two consenting adults can enter this legally binding situation in a week for forty bucks, why does it take eighteen months and thousands of dollars to leave a relationship that is bad for both partners and the children?

The answer, property and ownership. We have an ownership complex in modern society.

The Native People of these lands had it right.

"Divorce was accomplished easily since the couple did not own property in common. Each partner simply picked up his or her personal property and left. Divorce was neither a civil nor a religious concern - this was a private matter among the people involved.”


Relationships should always be a free choice, without the screws of law and dogma, but I digress.

This heartwarming and brutally honest book provides vivid narratives of relationships. Intimate interviews with elderly couples reveal what worked for them, and what didn’t. Gay couples, multiple marriages, loving and losing, it is all covered here. Not from a cold, scientific or psychological perspective, but from that penetrating glow and kindship that comes with a cozy chat with an old friend over a warm cup of tea.

In the very first chapter, I encountered Kathy. The experience she described with her first marriage was so similar to mine. She had married young and now considered herself too immature to know better. She had a “this is wrong” kind of feeling, like I had on my wedding day and so many other days during those two decades in a mentally and emotionally abusive legally binding relationship. 

Her reflections on her own story transformed my perspective on my current latitude. The normalcy of the phrase “first marriage” as if I was not cursed for life, the acknowledgement of making a poor decision at a young age and then feeling foolish for sticking with it for so long, the validation of a “this is wrong” gut feeling. Following my gut had been the only thing that had led to any success in my life. I had considered it my new form of prayer. Kathy now had a new and wonderful marriage. She had learned from her past and had insights to apply now, even in her old age.

I had previously thought that the deep, satisfying, soulmate kind of love was a fairytale. I was comforted to know that kind of love does happen for some people, even if it takes dozens of failed relationships to get there.

It happened for me, eventually.

Every relationship is a chance to grow and learn.


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