Closed relationship

Closed relationship

She wasn’t surprised when her parents, who had been married for 36 years, announced their divorce. (They’ve invented the phrase “gray divorce.”) They battled throughout most of her childhood. And, while it still stung, she had foreseen it. 

I, on the other hand, was at a loss for words. 

I was acquainted with her parents. Even wished for a marriage like theirs at times. Nonetheless, they were on their way to the big D (no, not Dallas). 

Despite knowing better, I’ve always believed that there is some marriage finish line that you must cross at some time. For example, if a couple reached the 25- or 30-year milestone, they were fine. Whew! There’s no need to be concerned about gray divorce anymore… 

But the longer I’ve been married (and getting closer to No. 20 every year), the more I understand that there is no such thing as a magic number when it comes to marriage. There is no haven from gray divorce, no “base” as in a childhood game of tag. 

The surprising increase of gray divorce 

However, according to a Forbes story published last year, gray divorce (couples parting after 50) is rising. (I’m not going to lie: even in my 30s, I find the phrase offensive.) 

While I disagree with all the author writes, one sentence, in particular, rings true: “Divorce may be painful and emotionally taxing, especially after a long-term marriage.” 

Re-enter the dating pool, arrange vacations, and everything else after 30, 40 years of marriage. However, the emotional toll on the entire family would be catastrophic. 

The grief of her parents’ divorce rocked the basis of my friend’s marriage for a while. She still mourns her loss at every school play, every child’s birthday party, and every other family event. 

We don’t go down the aisle believing that this is the end of our commitment. That we will have to divorce at some time in our marriage. We’re all hoping to give it our all. 

I sought advice on the subject from a few couples who had entered the empty-nest years. They all laughed at my finish-line fantasies (that’s okay, I earned it). However, they all had similar ideas about what you can do now to help safeguard your marriage against gray divorce. 

Don’t simply stick together for the sake of the kids. 

The justification, “We’re staying together for the kids,” is as ancient as the divorce itself. (I’ve even had this thinking myself at difficult times.) And, as my buddy pointed out, the children are just as damaged by a dysfunctional marriage as they are by a divorce. Nobody will give your parents brownie points for simply sticking it out. 

Instead, stick together for the sake of yourself. Give it everything you’ve got. Make a call to the counselor. Working on your marriage is worthwhile because a good marriage is worth fighting for. One day, your children will thank you.