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June 04, 2010

The Work of 'til Death Do Us Part

Aargh... 008 In the news this week it was announced that after 40 years of marriage, Al and Tipper Gore were separating. After the round of snorty, churlish jokes about who will get custody of the Internet, people began to comment on the sadness of it all. After 40 years it would seem that a couple would have a lock on a successful marriage, a marriage that withstands the tests of time, a marriage that will last 'til death do us depart. But it seems that this is not the case. In the case of the Gores, it seems that it wasn't a sordid affair or other ilk like that. No, they simply, in their own words, 'grew apart after 40 years together".Over time they had carved out separate lives.

So with the end of what always seemed to be an enduring love story where do we all begin to understand this. It doesn't just make us sad but it makes us a little scared.

But then again, the Gores aren't aren't alone in choosing to end their 40-year-old union. The phenomenon of "The Gray Divorce" is growing. More and more 50-plus men and women are deciding to end their decades-old marriages. A May 2004 survey conducted by the AARP found that it is 66% of the women who initiate these gray divorces often blindsiding their husbands.The reasons are a multitude from economic freedom of women to Viagra. So it would seem that even the golden years of a marriage a couple is still vulnerable.

I get this. I really do. After twenty-seven years of marriage with my darling husband I get the possibility of a couple deeply in love growing apart. I get the possibility of a marriage withstanding major stresses and crises like depression or a child's health crisis or a job loss ending with nothing but a whimper. Marriage is work. It is hard work. Like laboring to bring our children into this world, it is the kind of hard work that is good, that yields a reward. Still it is hard work.

As individuals we stretch and grow and reinvent ourselves. Our thinking evolves and changes. We swap out passions and pursuits for new adventures. What makes us think that we as couples would not be doing the same thing in our relationships, in our marriages. The man I am married to now is nothing like the man I said "I do" to in May 1983 just as much as I am not that blushing bride he took by the hand when we said our vows together. Five children, a grandchild, careers that have grown and diverted, a mortgage we struggle to keep up with, not to mention gray hairs, a receding hair-line and about 20-30 extra pounds, we are very different people. Yet we remain true and committed to one another. Everyday we work at it. We pursue it. We cultivate it. Will our marriage stand the test of time. Will our marriage outlast the Gores' union? Only time will tell.

The take-away here should be that for a long-term marriage to survive decades the couple needs to invest time and energy into their coupledom -- not just their individual lives. The key is to discover new common goals for the future, whether they be traveling or new hobbies. In other words, it takes work, time and energy. Sorry, but even after we get the babies out of diapers and grown up off to live their own lives we still have to work on us, the couple. Is it worth it? Only we know for sure.

This is a 50-something Moms Blog original post. Laura Scarborough writes about her juggling adventures with darling husband of twenty-seven years and the rest of her circus act over at Adventures In Juggling.