Recent research on brain chemistry shows that our brains change as we age. The older that we get, the less we notice the negative things in our lives and in our spouse and so, older couples report a higher level of happiness in their marriage.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scanned brains of young people, middle-aged and old as they viewed both positive and negative scenes. The older brains showed less reaction to negative and stronger reaction to positive scenes. Younger brains showed more activity when viewing negative scenes and those in their middle ages responded in a more balanced way.
"As people get older, they seem to naturally look at the world through positivity and be willing to accept things that when we're young we would find disturbing and vexing," said Dr. John Gabrieli, a professor of cognitive neuroscience and one of the researchers in the study. This helps older couples see problems or bad habits in a more positive light or just let go of them rather than holding on and allowing them to color their feelings about each other.
We met John and Mary on a scuba trip off the island of Tortola. Both were in their middle 70’s and still diving. On every dive trip, they would hold hands throughout the dive, pointing out interesting things to each other so that the could share their stories when they returned to the boat. We asked them what made their 50+ year marriage seem so good to those of us observing. They acknowledged some tough times over the years but had made a decision to overlook the small things and only focus and celebrate the good in each other and in their relationship. They agreed that it got easier as they got older … and their memory of old hurts and troubles faded while their friendship deepened.