The words “Until death us do part” have quite a different meaning for us today than yesterday. In 1970, the average lifespan for a man was 67 years, for a woman 74 years. So, with a little societal pressure – perky voice – “I love to work on my marriage!” – and a little luck for an early demise, a person might well endure a 30-year marriage fraught with conflict.
Today, according to census.gov in 2015, the average lifespan for men is 77 years, and a woman 84 years. Personally, I think those averages are skewed by economic and educational advantages. Where I reside, for example, men and women are living well into their 90s.
So what’s happenin’ sisters?
People are dumping their long-term marriages.
A comment by a friend is meaningful here.
Me: “So how’s retirement treating you?”
Friend: “Oh, Steve and I sometimes go all day without speaking to each other.”
Friend. “Yeah. After 40 years, we each know what the other one is going to say, so why ask?”
I’m going to place BOREDOM on the top of my list for long-term marital failure, even before that old devil, infidelity. Boredom comes first, and then infidelity. Most of us have spent many years juggling a career, building a home, raising children and planning for that wonderful retirement! Suddenly……...
We find themselves with none of these buffers, spending a lot of time in the company of a person with whom we share nothing in common.
Well, come on. Nobody admits THAT right away!
Perky voice: “Let’s find something to talk about!”
Right. He spends hours watching TV and on the computer. She spends hours at the Bar & Tea with her girlfriends. He doesn’t care what they talk about. The person you fell into hot romance with and consequent commitment to at 25 may be impossible to forge an emotional or intellectual bond with now. Many of us stop growing, learning and evolving just when, through the time presented by retirement, we actually have the opportunity for growth! What about you? If you set up an entirely routinized life, complete with grocery shopping on Wednesday, Thursday night Blue-Plate Special and Friday night devoted to Love Boat re-runs…….really?! Sorry. Someone has become an Absolute Bore and it’s probably you.
So where do we go from here? Some couples lead parallel lives, and it seems to work very well. However, most people aren’t very satisfied with such an existence; after all, most of us marry for deep companionship. Sometimes the Parallel Lives People surprise themselves with deep companionship somewhere other than their marriage.
Which leads us logically to INFIDELITY. In fact, infidelity may be a bit more complex than the currently outraged social media response to ‘cheating’ in a marriage.
With consideration, we understand that having an affair is probably about ongoing problems in a marriage. Unless the cheater is a complete narcissist ( Forget it, they don’t have long-term marriages!) the affair did not begin on a whim for those in settled relationships. Instead, the affair began through something lacking in the marriage. As mentioned before, lack of intellectual stimulation is an instigating factor to boredom.
You can become a bore in bed, too. We all evolve physically, whether we want to or not. Specific sexual problems, like ED or menopausal lack of desire, can take their toll on a marriage. The interesting factor in these deficits is that very few partners experience such problems in tandem! While you are longing to crochet doilies instead of making love to your husband, he is trying to bear with you………for awhile.
While you are trying hard to be ‘understanding’ of ED, you may resent his avoidance of the subject… and sex, of course.
Sex is actually the hub of the marital wheel. If you have scuttled such activities, you may have forgotten about this fact. Men and women are incredibly different. Sex brings them together, and modifies those differences. If you are avoiding sex, make an appointment to see a doctor. Modern medicine is at your command.
ILLNESS Sheesh! What kind of a creep would dump me because I’m sick? I’m going to buffer this reason a bit with an explanation of why that could happen. So let’s discuss habits. Suppose your partner spends some time riding his bike, walking or visiting the gym. He makes an educated effort to eat healthy food. He does not make drinking regularly or smoking part of his daily routine. Meanwhile, your habits are different. You eat whatever is there, and regularly treat yourself to foods you know aren’t healthy. Everyone deserves a treat once in a while! You really are going to quit smoking on Monday! You have gained 50 pounds since your marriage, but you start your diet on Monday, too.
Suddenly, through a series of misfortunes, you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Your partner bows out. He doesn’t want to be your caregiver. What kind of a creep does that?
You may need to become INDEPENDENT at this juncture, which is why other long-term marriages fail. This is generally a woman’s call. A wife who has been dependent upon her husband for many years may become quite independent as the children leave the nest and she learns her work-place abilities are high. As she finds herself with economic reach, she may not be so inclined to continue in a rancorous marriage. It’s not ‘for the children’ any more, is it? Ask the children. Maybe it never was.
Contented older people stay together because they have a real life together. They have children, grandchildren and hobbies they enjoy. They are lovers.
Others don’t feel so fortunate. Today, a longer life span may mean the possibility of finding a new relationship or enjoying the “golden years” without the constant emotional turmoil of arguments, angry silences and distance. People are realizing they may have a lot of life left.