“Getting divorced because you don’t love a man is almost as silly as getting married just because you do.”

— Zsa Zsa Gabor

Today I want to talk about love and marriage. I claim to be an expert in neither field. I had two marriages that I wanted very badly and two divorces that I didn’t. As an aside, I also claim to be far from an expert when it comes to people of the female persuasion.

I love women both in a literal sense and euphemistically, but after my life’s experience, am not sure men and women were ever meant to be monogamous for a lifetime. My mother and late father’s almost 60 years of devotion before he died probably disproves that hypothesis, but recent studies and facts about marriage are conflicting.

John and Ann Betar, who passed away at 103 and 107 years of age, made it as a married couple for 86 years. Britney Spears was once married for 55 hours.

A new study I was reading tells me that one of the fastest rising divorce rates is for longtime married couples over the age of 55. And the resultant relationships they are sharing are as non-traditional as are those of young couples who tend to shy away from marriage as an acceptable institutionalized lifestyle.

Older couples who stay together a long time are more commonly not merging households, incomes or assets, but maintain lengthy and loving relationships that are very satisfying. I read many accounts where couples spent as much time together as traditional married couples, but maintained their own privacy by keeping their own homes or apartments.

One study I read concluded that the ideal time to get married for young couples would be between the ages of 28 and 32, and if they don’t want to be divorced within five years, the marriage has a good chance of lasting a long time. However, long time doesn’t necessarily mean a lifetime any longer.

According to a study in 2017 by FACTANK, divorce is becoming less common statistically for younger couples, while it is on the rise for adults 50 and over — a phenomenon known as “gray divorce.” In fact, for couples in the over 50 age group, the divorce rate has nearly doubled in the last 25 years. In an ironic twist since the Census Bureau began keeping statistics on such things, the rate has remained relatively stable since 2008.

And for sake of relative comparisons, the divorce rate for those younger than 50 is still roughly twice that of the older 50 crowd. “Til death do us part” seems as antiquated in wedding vows as that “obey” thing.

Another study listed the most common factors that might be precursors for a “gray divorce,” kind of warning signs to look for when an older couple’s relationship is in trouble.

One’s marital past is a main factor in that once a person has been divorced one time, they are much more likely to divorce again. Relative wealth is a factor in many otherwise unhappy couples staying together, as they perceived they cannot afford to split and keep their present lifestyle. Unemployment and poverty with associated stresses involved are still key factors in marriages ending.

The study found that many long marriages which ended had seeds sewn for many years prior with resentment or discontent that had been growing and unacknowledged, festering for years or decades before the action was taken. By the time it was acknowledged, any possible repair was too late.

When long-term marriages end, it is hard for kids at any age whether they are children or grown adults. Even for spouses who wanted a “gray divorce,” a grieving process can last for many years. While they may never want to go back, there is often a regret for what was at one time or what might have still been.

Studies are ongoing about how American culture and life will be affected by such trends. While currently 55 percent of Americans over the age of 18 are married, only 42 percent of children between the ages of 14 and 18 live in a “first marriage” family.

One fact of the study I read stated that federal and state governments spend approximately $150 billion per year to subsidize and sustain single-parent families and by contrast spend only $150 million per year to strengthen marriage.

I personally cannot imagine getting married again almost as much as I can’t accept living alone for the rest of my life. As of now, I find myself in a relationship somewhere between the two. As I have often stated in this column, it’s impossible to define exactly what happiness is, but you sure know when you don’t have it.

Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com.

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