Post # 1
On the way to dinner last night, my SO and I were listening to talk radio, and this very subject came up. They began by talking about couples who, in their 40’s and 50’s and married for more than 20 years, decide to file for divorce and leave their adult children to cope with an unexpected separation. A woman called in to discuss her own recent divorce, and what she said was quite interesting (not saying I’m in agreement). She explained that when she married her husband, she loved him very much, and knew he would make a great father to their future children. However, once the last of their three children was out of the house, she felt that their mission together was fulfilled – their children were raised in a normal, functional household with two loving parents, and were all off to begin their own, adult lives. She still cared deeply for her ex-husband, but didn’t feel the need to put as much effort into the union anymore. She claimed they both had dreams of travel and new hobbies, and figured they could pursue them without the “burden” of an “expired” marriage.
The woman jokingly signed off by saying they should change the phrase ,”Until death do you part” to “Until your offspring are fully grown”. She claimed that the idea of staying with someone until your death is more of a fantasy – that it is impossible to remain attracted to and deeply infatuated with the same human being for forty odd years – that those who actually fulfill this promise are merely afraid of being alone, or too lazy to start fresh at an older age.
What are your thoughts on this radio broadcast? Do you think the woman who called into the station just had an unhealthy marriage, or do you see truth to her claims? How have you seen couples who *do* stay together after their children are grown keep their marriage alive and thriving?
Post # 3
I think it has more to do with when they got married. She saw him only as a father figure, not a life partner and all that it entails. Part of it is giving up, and part of it is the lack of seeing him more than a father. Atleast, that’s what I think.
Post # 4
My husband and I don’t want kids, so I’m pretty sure I won’t stay with him only until our kids grow up However, I can somewhat see the caller’s perspective. My sister and her husband aren’t exactly happy in their marriage, but their youngest daughter is still in high school. I suspect that once she’s out of the house, they will likely get divorced.
However, one of my bridesmaids and her husband are still together after many years and likely will be forever. They also don’t have children, but she recently donated a kidney to her husband, so the love is definitely still present in their marriage. I also know of several family members and parents of friends of mine who are still together and very much in love after decades together.
I think it’s a matter of why a couple got married in the first place. For that caller, it sounds like she viewed her husband as a potential father to her children, rather than a lifelong partner. For her, “until our kids grow up” ended up being a fairly accurate description of what she wanted her marriage to be.
Post # 5
I would also agree with PP’s who said it was more her mindset going into the marriage. For me, Fiance and I do want kids, but if we’re unable to, I still want to spend the rest of my life with him.
I do think it’s very realistic for a couple to stay together and be attracted to each other until they die. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen as often as it could or should, but I have seen couples stay together for 50+ years. My grandparents will celebrate 50 years in February and my grandpa still calls my grandma “babe”. It’s adorable. 🙂
Obviously not all marriages work out for a variety of reasons, but I hope to be in my rocker right next to Fiance when we’re 90 years old and still best friends.
Post # 6
Ayelet Waldman (author, and author Michael Chabon’s wife) once famously said that she “loved her husband more than her children.” It’s a convenient soundbite to get a reaction, but basically what she’s conveying is sort of what the article is talking about–that marriage is not the same thing as parenthood. She points out how women (and men) have fetishized their children (in a non-sexual way) and their roles as parents in that they take all the passion out of their marriage and sink it into their children. One of her examples is observing how much energy the mothers at her childrens’ school would put into Valentine’s Day for the kids. She argues that it’s like we’ve forgotten that Valentine’s Day is not a holiday for parents and their kids (not that kids can’t celebrate it)–it’s for lovers and partners. Then, if you have this kind of marriage, once the kids grow up and you dont’ have anything taking up all your focus and energy, you turn around and look at the other person and find they’re a stranger.
Let me be clear: I am NOT saying that one shouldn’t love their kids or be a devoted parent. But I do agree with her that a lot of couples tend to slide into the trap of putting a lot of work into their children (as all parents should but–) at the expense of putting work into their marriage. BOTH need attention. Plus, I also agree because I know from personal experience that it’s also MORE comforting and makes the child MORE secure to hear Mommy loves you but Daddy is her #1. One’s relationship with one’s children is really temporary–you’ll always be their parent, but at some point, they’re going to grow up and be their own people. A marriage (one hopes) is for life. I think it’s easy to lose sight of that.
Now if one goes into the marriage with the INTENT of just raising kids, as the caller appeared to do, then I guess it’s okay, but–also speaking for a lot of friends who’s parents divorced when they were adults–it can really eff up your kids.
Post # 7
I think that is reflective of the generation. A new survey (can’t find the link darnit) has shown that older generations defined the purpose of marriage as having and raising children. The newer generations have reportedly defined the purpose of marriage as pertaining to the spirtual/emotional fulfillment of those involved, leaving children as secondary. That is probably further evidenced by the number of married couples opting out of children nowadays. I think people have different reasons for getting married, and hopefully they make those reasons clear to their partner so that they don’t have the awkward talk later on like “Ok, so…the kids are grown now.” [Awkward pause] “So…yeah.” LOL
Post # 8
I think that her comment “that it is impossible to remain attracted to and deeply infatuated with the same human being for forty odd years – that those who actually fulfill this promise are merely afraid of being alone, or too lazy to start fresh at an older age.” is clearly her projecting her marriage experience onto everyone else. She is no long attracted to her husband and wants to move on, but to insist that everyone who doesn’t feel like her is merely afraid of being alone or lazy is really obnoxious.
My parents were married for 42 years and were very much still in love after the kids (8 of them!) were grown and out of the house. Even since my father’s death my mother has never seriously dated anyone cause she says she has never met anyone who was even a pale comparison to what she had with my father.
Not to say that you remain deeply attracted to someone everyday for forty years, passion cycles, but love remains. There are times when I am not madly attracted to Fiance, but I still love him.
I think she was looking for children and a father for them and that is what she got.
Post # 9
@JennyW1: I think this is an incredibly healthy attitude to have, and I sincerely hope that once my husband and I have children we can keep this in mind throughout our days.
Our parents and in-laws have discussed this with us, saying that they don’t think making children the focus of the rest of their lives is healthy and we agree.
The husband and wife are primary – children are secondary and fall into the lives of the parents, not the other way around.
Post # 10
@MightySapphire: The way I interpret those results is the following: Older generations felt that there was no point in getting married if you wre not going to have kids.
My Father-In-Law feels this way. If he found his soulmate tomorrow, marriage wouldn’t be on the table because children would be out of the question. They would just live Happily Ever After.
However, I think when those older couples were married and did have children, the attitude seemed to have been that children were not the primary focus of their lives.
Post # 11
@JennyW1:Like! I totally agree.
Post # 12
those who actually fulfill this promise are merely afraid of being alone, or too lazy to start fresh at an older age.
WOW. Bitter much?? As one PP said, she’s is definitely projecting her own issues on marriage in general.
My parents celebrated their 41st anniversary last week. My younger brother moved out of the house 12 years ago. I remember them having to go through a period of ‘redefining their relationship’ once they became empty nesters, and they won’t tell you it was easy. But I’ve never seen them happier or more fulfilled than they are now.
Like any marriage, with kids, without, whatever, who knows what the chances are.. but it always depends on the couple, not the circumstances, whether or not they will make it.
Post # 13
My dad told me two days before I got married that he wanted to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake because every day he looks at his wife (my step mother) and doesn’t even recognize her inside or out. He said that love is all sparkly and grand in the beginning and at some point people change, and the endorphins that come in the beginning are gone. Basically it scared the crap out of me. But, my dad is a very selfish person and as much as I love him I know that he doesn’t put the work into their relationship as he should. He basically ignores her.
So, all I can hope is that my husband and I remain very happy and in love forever. He’s my best friend… I can’t imagine living without him. I refuse to let my fathers negative and jaded attitude rub off on me. The reality of the situation is that my step mom got ovarian cancer at 30, had to get a full hysterectomy and her body changed and she put on a lot of weight; I’m talking 70 or 80 lbs. It’s not that he fell out of love with her, more that he isn’t attracted to her in the least. Sad… but true. I always tell her that no matter what, i love her enough for both my dad and I. It’s a very unhealthy marriage, and it makes me sad. But, I don’t think they will ever divorce no matter how many horrible and hurtful things my dad says and does. They’re just too “comfortable”. My dad did the same thing with my mom after she had me and put on weight… he met my step mom and divorced my mom before I was 3. Sounds bad, but I love my step mother as much as I love my mom because she has always been there. My mom and her are even really great friends… weird huh? lol
Anyways, as far as children are concerned, I give my daughter 100%. I give my husband 100%… but honestly if someone will suffer for attention, it’ll be my husband. When my daughter grows a little I’m sure I won’t have to spend every waking moment with her. My husband has stated many times that work in the marriage is #1 because kids grow up and move out… marriage is forever. It’s so true.
Just my two sense and rambling on the subject =)
Post # 14
@JennyW1: Your outlook is very similar to advice my grandpa gave me before he passed away. He would always tell us that a marriage needs to be your #1 even after you have kids because kids need parents who are happy together. He would talk about how people sometimes lose sight of each other between running their kids from place to place.
My grandparents had such a love for each other for almost 50 years (my grandpa passed away a couple of months before their 50th anniversary). I tell my husband this all the time.
Post # 15
Wow–Ayelet got raked across the coals for that argument so I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one for whom it made sense!
(LOL–I just yelled across the room to Darling Husband, “Hey honey–I promise to love you more than our kids!” Response: “Uh, thanks…I think?”)
Post # 16
@jamiemichelle:He said that love is all sparkly and grand in the beginning and at some point people change, and the endorphins that come in the beginning are gone.
Well yeah – this has been proven by science to be true. But isn’t necessarily something to be so scared of. I think it’s why a lot of people are judgmental of “fast” (less than a year) engagements; it isn’t necessarily an indication of the way the relationship will be once two people settle in and the endorphins wear off. But our brains are wired this way for a reason: we’re in love, things are sparkly and grand and the endorphins are kicking as a way to draw us together; meanwhile we are bonding and forming a deeper emotional attachment that will hopefully be strong enough to sustain us when the endorphins wear off and the other, long-term relationship “pair-bonding” hormones kick in (somewhere between 2-3 years in, I think). It’s fascinating! All relationships have that transition, we all just have to roll with it 🙂
Sorry to hear about your dad’s attitude though – I feel bad for your stepmom!