There is one thing that most couples take for granted on their wedding day. On my wedding day, under all the excitement, it never occurred to me that our marriage would not last. Oh, I heard others hint that it was the marriage not the wedding that I needed to work on. I heard the off-the-cuff comments that suggested things change once you live together. Of course that advice was for everyone else. We were different; we were in love. But what happens when after decades of marriage, you find out that love is not enough? What usually happens is divorce.
The phenomenon of divorce after decades of being together is called ‘grey divorce.’ It is the breaking up of the marriage of couples fifty and older who’ve been married for at least thirty years. Linda Melone, A Huffington Post reporter has written about this experience and says there are at least five reasons for it.
We’ve all heard that you have to work at a marriage to make it successful. That is sometimes impossible when you are working at raising children and making a living. The marriage itself is sometimes placed on the back burner so that more pressing issues can be addressed. That simple sacrificial act allows small emotional cracks to weaken the infrastructure of the union and ultimately pushes the bride and groom apart. Before you know it, something happens or is said that tests the strength of the couple’s love; when both the couple and marriage collapse under the weight of indifference all the emptiness between them seems insurmountable. Many are unable to resuscitate the frail creature their marriage has become.
“Age ain’t nothing but a number,” but many a grey divorce occurs because of an age related mid-life crisis. When the children are grown and we’re close to retiring, we reach an age of reflection. All of a sudden we grieve for what we think we’ve lost. We look at sacrifices made for others and decide we want to get it all back. Sometimes fear of what’s ahead motivates us to do things we feared doing when younger. Sometimes if there is a significant age difference changes in interest and physical abilities can lead to divorce. Age is more than a number; it is a state of mind, and if your mind convinces you that you ought catch up on things that you’ve missed, you just might leave your marriage to go after it.
One of the greatest things about a good marriage can also be the death of it. There is something about the familiar, the routine of a marriage that comforts us. But that same routine every day can become boring making you hungry for change. Doing the same thing takes the excitement out of the relationship. It takes away the creativity and curiosity that sparked our courtship. If you already know what your partner will say or do, why ask? Complacency leads to a failure to communicate which can lead to divorce.
The love of money is the root of all evil, but too much money or a lack of it can destroy a marriage. Not having enough money strains a marriage. The sense of failure often makes one or both partners give up. Having too much money often placates a bad situation. It allows you to cover up your pain with stuff, and if you’re not careful the stuff becomes more important than the marriage.
Can a decades old marriage be saved if it suffers from all or just a few of these problems? The answer is yes. First, you must decide if you want the marriage saved. Marriage takes a lot of hard work. After being tied down for decades, the idea of freedom is so appealing that you may not want to bind yourself again to hard work or one mate. Secondly, you must be willing to communicate. Many marriages die because what keeps relationships alive, interchanging, sharing, and respecting of one another’s ideas, is no longer practiced. Find common ground. For many couples this means finding and developing their faith. A strong spiritual foundation has often been able to fix a broken marriage. Finally, find and renew the passion. Whatever made you fall in love still exist. Find it, act on it, and enjoy it.