Are Men and Women Living too Long for “Until Death Do Us Part”?

Reasons for Divorce

I read an interesting piece the other day on Why Long-Married Couples Split. The piece generally defines “long-married couples” as marriages that end after 20 or more years. A few excerpts from the article :

The AARP Sex, Romance and Relationships Survey on the sexuality of people 45 and older found that extramarital affairs happen for only a relatively small number of couples. So while infidelity is certainly the precipitating factor in some marriages failing, it’s not the reason in most cases.

….

In most cases, the reasons are far less dramatic. Some relationships have been in decline for decades and finally lose all their juice. A marriage doesn’t usually just blow up. It’s more like a balloon that has been seeping air for a long time. After a while, it’s totally deflated.

The answer is longevity. We live so much longer now. Half a century ago, an unhappy couple in their mid-60s might have stayed together because they thought it wasn’t worth divorcing if they had only a few years left to live. Now, 65-year-olds can easily envision at least 20 more active years — and they don’t want them to be loveless, or full of frustration or disappointment.

I’ve heard and read more and more stories and studies suggesting that a major contributor to the increase in divorce rates in the last couple decades is the fact that people are living longer. A semi-bitter divorced man wrote (paraphrasing), “When the rules of marriage and ‘until death do us part’ were created, we only lived to 30.”

Is it possible that our increasing awareness of relationship options not limited to the confines of a committed relationship due to social media, news, and the Internet as a whole has caused us to invest less and less of ourselves into our immediate, current, and conceivably limited traditional marriages? Although every generation has faced temptation, there has never been a generation of marriages that faced so much readily available temptation. Finding your ex-love or new-love is literally a click away. Even the casually curious may find themselves accidentally connecting with a lost love or new love interest. You can only imagine the success rate of those who actively seek extramarital affairs.

They say the only constant in life is change. Even if two people are legitimately in love in the beginning and agree to be together “forever” with the most noble of intentions, there is nothing guaranteeing they will remain the same. It’s very possible that the two “new” people—sculpted by joint and separate life experiences—may no longer love each other like the two people who met 10, 20, or 30+ years earlier. In his most recent stand-up, recently divorced comedian, Louis C.K. had the following to say about marriage and divorce:

I love being divorced. Every year has been better than the last. That is the only time I can say that [about my life]. By the way, I’m not saying don’t get married. If you meet someone, fall in love, and get married. THEN GET DIVORCED! BECAUSE THAT’S THE BEST PART! IT’S THE BEST PART! Marriage is just like a larvae stage for true happiness, which is divorced. Divorce is forever, it really actually is. Marriage is for how long you can hack it. But divorce just gets stronger, like a piece of oak. No one ever says, ‘Oh my divorce is falling apart. I just can’t take it.’

During the Tiger Woods adultery fiasco, one writer suggested that all marriages should have a 10-year “opt out” clause. Rather than a messy and potentially financially devastating divorce, the two partners could both opt to simply walk away from the marriage at any point after 10 years (for the record, his opinion on child support after this “opt out” point was not covered). Statistically, if a marriage is going to end, there are two periods where it is most likely to occur: the first three years or the 7-year mid-point. In other words, people are most likely to divorce when their marriage is new or when their marriage is (potentially) stale.

So…

Are relationships still meant to last “forever”? Are men and women living too long for “Until Death Do Us Part” to remain a reasonable marriage vow?

From Our Partners

  • langwichartz

    I believe biologically, that we aren't designed to be monogamous. I'm not an advocate for cheating on your mate, I just think we are wired to be attracted to different mates for our life span. That said it is our highly developed brains and sense of logic, morality, etc. that provide us with the boundaries that monogamy entails. Isn't it funny how couples who stay married grow apart over the myriad of years. You know the older couples that sleep in twin beds, that hurl those surly insults at one another, that love each other, but don't really like each other anymore. I guess that's what's supposed to happen when you reach a certain age and stage. Personally I would love to be one of those old couples who act like that, even though in today's romantic climate, it seems so far-fetched and unlikely.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

      people dont have the patience, people end relationships over unaswered texts, end marriages over facebook. Its so much easier to meet new ppl that men and women refuse to tolerate the smallest of inconvenience

      • Merica

        Tristan..Preach that is so true!!

      • langwichartz

        Exactly!!!

  • Larnelw

    I do believe "Till Death Do You Part" means till DEATH do you part. Its true that you can grow apart from your spouse but people tend to forgt that marriage is WORK. Do expect to just marryyour love and think everything will magically fall into place. It takes lots of work, patience, humility and understanding. It takes continual work to keep it fresh. Love may have got you there but love alone won't keep you. People need to step out of that "made for tv" movie. This aint fantasy. Thats why I suggest to anyone getting married to have pre-marital counseling as well as seek the advice of those who have been happily married for a long period of time AND are still married. Lastly, trust, "love" and "like" are 2 different things. There are going to be times you still love your spouse but you wont like them. But thats natural. Think about it. how many friends and/or family do you have that you love but some times, from time to time, you just can't stand? LOL

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

    Somewhat silly, a spouse like any other relative, the bond should be forever. The problem with marriage today is the mindset that we are a whats next society. People arent built for monogamy, they want to be desired, they want to be courted again. I’ve had enough married women throw me oops that marriage scares me. That 10-15 years from now, i will have to compete with a 20something as my sex drive fades and my hairline recedes.

  • https://www.facebook.com/aquariuanjourney Candace Fleming

    I believe marriage is still meant to last forever. Im not speaking from a worldly view more so a christian view. I think we have slowly molded marriage to what we expect it to be. Marriage to most (especially after a few years) is nothing more than an arrangement.

    Hopefully when I get married.. it will be for all the right reasons and lasts beyond a lifetime.
    My recent post Do Women Really Change After Marriage?

  • Smilez_920

    Are relationships still meant to last forever? Yes
    Are all relationships meant to last forever? No

    Some people will be with their husband/wife forever and be happy with them (no regrets) that’s fine, some will get married and later on down the line decided that their just no longer meant to be together (that’s fine), some people find their life partner later on down the line (that’s fine), some people will never know what they want and have a new beau every time the seasons change (that’s fine).

    As much as we talk about being individuals we love following this negative crowd mentality. Were so extreme when we talk about relationships sometimes. It’s either everyone’s cheating or everyone’s monogamous, every marriage is happy or every marriage is miserable or in shambles. We lack a medium.

    Until Death Do Us Part” to remain a reasonable marriage vow? YES

    Some couples could use it literally to “death do us party” like to the grave or figuratively like “the sprit” of this relationship is dead. Either way the vow isn’t wrong because you can’t do it.

  • Larry

    “When the rules of marriage and ‘until death do us part’ were created, we only lived to 30.”

    Although this quote was said partially in jest it’s worth noting that many traditions/rules were indeed created awhile ago when the social climate and other external factors were much different.

    This reminds me of the Chris Rock stand up when he talks about people who don’t eat red meat because it was written by man in the bible and back in the day his hypothesis was that because there was no reynolds wrap, no saran wrap, no refridgerators, no freezers that “A porkchop MIGHT kill you” so lets tell people that “God said dont eat red meat”. But now a days we have all of those things and now “A porkchop is your friend!”.

  • Bree

    Are relationships still meant to last “forever”? From a biblical standpoint Absolutely. That was Gods intention.
    Are men and women living too long for “Until Death Do Us Part” to remain a reasonable marriage vow?
    No I don't think the problem is that men & women live too long. The root of the problem is that people sometimes get together and get married for the wrong reasons, they marry the wrong person at the wrong time, they married young and were different people who wanted different things in life at that time and 20 something years later things changed, many people do not know how to get along with and live with another person for the rest of their lives. As wonderful as they are, their mentality is not conducive to sharing a life with another person. Doesn't matter who they marry, they are the common denominator.
    If more people were more mature, responsible and went into marriage with the right attitude, mentality, and willingness to make every compromise and sacrifice necessary to keep it together (within reason) then more people would stay married.

    • slimmycakez

      I totally agree with you, girl!

  • Bree

    What I've personally seen and heard from older women well over 40 is that once they hit menopause and get older they no longer have a strong desire and sometimes no desire at all for sex. Most men will desire sex until they day they take their last breath. Even in their 60's they crave and desire some form of physical pleasure and intimacy. So the gap has been with regards to men and womens sex drives after a certain age. Hence why men seek younger, more sensual and sexual women when they are older.
    Many of their wives are Not having sex with them. Also the reason why these older men divorce their wife once the kids are grown and they don't feel any obligations to stay in the relationship.
    Bottom line is all throughout our lives we all seek that which makes us happy and content. We all have a breaking point where after so long of living discontent and unhappy we feel like we'll die and/or we want to die if we don't do whatever we have to do to be happy. So thats what people do. This is also pt of what causes people to divorce after a decade or more of marriage.

  • Bree

    Are relationships still meant to last “forever”? Biblically speaking yes they are. According to "the word" that is how God intended it.
    Are men and women living too long for “Until Death Do Us Part” to remain a reasonable marriage vow?
    I wouldn't say that is the answer at all. There are a host of other things that are at the root of this.
    For instance, people marrying the wrong person, at the wrong time, people marrying for the wrong reasons, people marrying too young and too soon, people not having the maturity level and level of commitment to ensure that a marriage will withstand the test of time.
    Forever is a very long time. Being married until death do you part is absolutely possible, but not everyone is capable of making it to the end. It takes a certain type of person to be successful at marriage. Not everyone has what it takes, regardless of how great they are and how good they look on and off paper.
    There are certain people who simply cannot peacefully cohabitate with another person for life because of the type of person that they are.

  • Bree

    As for the "opt out" clause, don't think that would work well. For obvious moral, ethical and legal reasons the US and many other countries promote and encourage marriage. Divorce laws are set up to make it difficult for people to dissolve the marital union because the state wants people to stay together, and not divorce. It wouldn't benefit the country and community as a whole to have a decennial opt out option for all marriages. Even if this didn't happen, the state would assume that because so many people had the option available to them, that most people would opt out of the marriage and divorce at the 10 year mark when they could freely do so. The only thing it would do is benefit men in a major way regarding support issues and splitting of property and assets. 10 years worth of property and assets is less than 20. Many times, the amount of spousal support a wife receives is based on the # of years of marriage. So if more marriages ended at the 10 year mark it would mean less spousal support and assets gained for the wife.
    But then how would this affect women financially…….???

  • Bree

    When you look at the economy and how marriage relates to the ongoing growth of a country's economy, it would be detrimental to the economy in the long run for too many marriages to end. It would also breakdown the structure of too many nuclear families, and again that would affect the economy overall. Single parent households are not conducive to the strength of the US economy and way of life.

  • http://twitter.com/DamnPOPS @DamnPOPS

    I really dug this and the biological points are definitely something to ponder. But as was said earlier, marriage is work. And even as me still being green in this game and not married I know marriage is an effort daily. That effort has to be congruent. If so more than likely it will prosper. Once thinks aren't equal other stuff seeps in.

  • DeKeLa

    After reading all these comments from folks who have not experience marriage for 20+ years, I would love to see the opinion of those who have been married so long and what they think.

    • http://www.singleblackmale.org/author/wisdomismisery/ WisdomIsMisery

      +1

    • Bree

      My apologies for overposting…the posts were not showing up at first and I thought something was up with my server or "the man" was spying on me and knocking me out of SBM….lol.
      Did not mean to repeat post. Feel free to delete the repeat posts guys.
      DeKeLa I've never been married, however, most people in my family have been married for 30 plus years. They are literally married til death. I've also worked with people who have been married for 30 plus years. I've learned a lot from them, which is ironically part of the reason why I didn't get married when I was younger. I knew myself well enough to know I was not ready, nor willing to do all it takes to have a lifelong marriage. Therefore, I didn't even start seriously considered it until I felt I was ready and learned most of the lessons I knew I needed to learn before say "I Do" to any man.
      So though I don't speak from personal experience, I do speak from everything I've heard, seen and learned from watching my family very closely, and being privy to a lot of inside info on the ins and outs of marriages that are older than me.

  • Lovely

    "They say the only constant in life is change. Even if two people are legitimately in love in the beginning and agree to be together “forever” with the most noble of intentions, there is nothing guaranteeing they will remain the same."

    That is a very true statement.

    Speaking from someone was married for 10 years, now divorced. A sister and a brother who were married 20 yrs. and now divorced, a brother who was married 2 yrs. and divorced. Another brother who is still married after 25 yrs (and counting)… and my mother who has been married 40 years (and counting, 2nd husband). The reasons for the divorces is the same reasons for staying married…."putting in the work". No matter what changes life throw at you, or obstacles you have to overcome, you are suppose to work "through" them.

    I don't believe after 10, 20 and 30 years of marriage couples discover they married the wrong person! That makes no sense to me…and it's just an excuse or justification to end it. At the beginning you loved that man or woman, had your problems, and worked it out. Than you just got tired of it…I don't mean for it to sound that simple…but that's the short of the long of it.

    My real father married the woman he had an affair with, while married to my mother. Been married to her for over 20 years, been dating for about 25 years, at the age of 70 she decides to divorce him…..Why? After 45 years of getting what you ask for, Why? Because she just got tired of putting in the work. My father is the same egotistical, arrogant, self centered, controlling male chauvinist , she wanted 40 years ago….. the only thing that changed was her.

    We ALL had our reasons for leaving….but in the end, we just didn't want to put in the work.(any longer)

    People think finding the right person or "wife material" is the hard part…"hell, that's the honey moon!" The hard part is staying together, for better or for worst, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poor, till death do you part!

    That shit is hard!

    But do I still believe in the constitution of marriage? Absolutely….and what I have learned from my experience, is that if you want to "stay married" you have to work for it.

    • http://www.singleblackmale.org/author/wisdomismisery/ WisdomIsMisery

      Interesting insight. Thank you for this comment.

    • Bree

      I absolutely agree Lovely.

  • 12 Point Buck

    Nothing lasts forever. Either you die first, they die first, you both die at the same time. Death don't care about yo vows ninja!

    Otherwise, as long as 2 people are willing to stay together no matter what, then they'll at least make it to the Death date.

    Now me– I'm a crazy mofo, and it's just like me to sign up for a lifelong relationship forever just to prove that I can do it. Not because I'm so in love or any other lubby dubby stuff…. but because it's a challenge. Its like life has achievement points like xbox. I want to win the "no divorce" achievement, so for me, marriage is permanent (at least until the aforementioned natural expiry date).

    This is also why I'm hesitant about getting married– because some chick who doesn't have my awesome sense of patience and dedication/stubbornness would mess it up trying to get a divorce, and then i wont get my achievement points.

    You want to be together forever– find someone who's compatible with your sense of loyalty and dedication. Otherwise, you're gonna have a bad time.

  • Loneice

    I believe marriage is intended to be till death do us part. I think our society is lazy now & doesn't want to put in the work as Lovely stated. I also believe people have unrealistic expectations. People feel that the relationship is supposed to be exciting like a roller coaster ride every single day which they're eventually going to be used to the same rider & wanna switch to a new one. Every couple hits periods where there's a lull in excitement. Some get to this period & panic b/c they're bored & long for someone different vs realizing its just a phase.

    And as a veteran in the financial services industry, I find that long-term marriages are very profitable when resources are combined & sound investment/fiscal decisions are made. It's a known fact that the longer an amt of money is invested, the greater the interest/dividends will be. Couples that stay together for 30+ yr & began some sort of acct the 1st yr of marriage are compounding money for 30+ yrs. We're in a culture now that people don't even combine their resources b/c they're already entering the union w/the mindset that divorce is inevitable, and therefore never seeing the power of working together economically

  • krystllyght

    I don't know about this. Abraham lived to be 175 and Sarah lived to be 127 and that was eons ago so the argument that we live longer nowadays is not really valid.

    Other than that I'd have to agree with what Lovely said upthread. I've been married for a little over nine years and I can tell you that I think people's expectations and wants sometimes change. Whether you choose to work to stay together after that or not, I think it is largely a personality thing. Plus it is just too easy to replace your spouse if you want to. People are well aware that other options are out there these days.