Forget the seven-year itch. The 30- to 40-year "window" is where most of Mona Loeser's clients are divorcing. An Alabama-based social worker that specializes in marital conflict, Loeser says marital longevity is no indicator that a marriage will, uh, last.
To wit: Al and Tipper Gore, who announced this past week that they are abandoning their marriage of 40 years.
For those of us married, say, half that long, such information doesn't offer much hope. It seems only fair that if you have weathered the early insecure which-way-does-the-toilet-paper-unroll years and the exhausting childbearing years and the taxing career-growing years, the rest would be a cinch.
What are the main motivations for ending long-term marriages? According to The Wall Street Journal, where Loeser's comments appear, women are less dependent on a husband's income, and men now have Viagra. The kids are raised. Couples want more happiness. "There's a feeling, 'If I don't go now, I'm never going to go,'" said Loeser. Individuals who have been in ho-hum relationships are pulling the plug in hopes of having a few happy years before old age sets in.
The article also quotes anthropologist Margaret Mead, who says that men and women were never meant to live together for decades and decades, but that modern advances in science and medicine are keeping us alive (and---sometimes---married) longer. She says this may be why we are getting bored with our long-term partners. Most of the readers of this column would adamantly disagree with Mead, and rightfully so, yet we'd be ignorant to deny that she may have a point.
For Christians, staying married for the long haul may have another obstacle. For example, years ago, some friends of ours were having marital trouble. The secular counselor the husband talked to said that one of the most difficult kind of cases he sees are Christians in unhappy marriages. Why? Because the person with the primary complaint "knew" their spouse morally had cause to stay with them. Subsequently, they did no work, did not feel the need to change, and rested on their laurels relationally because they felt confident their spouse's "Christian" obligation would prevent him or her from seeking divorce.
How do we, as Christians, prevent this from happening to our marriages? What is our obligation if our spouse refuses to help/change/grow/work on the relationship? Do longtime but bitter marriages promote an accurate view of Christ and the church, and if not, what are we to do about it?
Last, for those of you married three decades or more, what have you done to keep love alive?
It sounds like a lot of us need to know.