Marriage Problems, Part 6: “Happily Ever After . . . We Hope”
As we enter the sunset of our marriage, lingering problems may arise. How can we avoid a “silver splitter” (yes, late-life divorce has a name)?
Ahh, the latter years of marriage . . .
It’s a time when couples have made it through things like money problems, an empty nest and retirement. They may even have some grandchildren. It feels like the end of a romantic movie in which the couple ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
But we must realize this: Marriage problems do not skip this stage of married life. In fact, divorce later in life (a “silver splitter”) is becoming much more common. For those of us who believe in happily ever after, this is a scary thought.
One of our surveyed pastors noted: “Sometimes couples that have been married for a longer time will wait out their time to pursue separation until the children are grown, rather than work on their marriage to make it better.”
Comparing younger married couples to older ones, another pastor warned: “The difference in the longer-time married couples’ challenges rests with the reality that these couples come to the pastor at a time when the frustration has reached such heights that they’re [already] considering separating when they finally reach out for help.”
Still another pastor stated: “For those who’ve been married for a long time, the midlife crisis (which is a known phenomenon) can affect the relationship (hence the ‘20-year ditch’). Those who stay together just for the children’s sake usually are unhappy and often end their marriage, unless they can come out of the discouragement. And that is what needs to be addressed at this stage of the marriage. How to cope with depression and discouragement. It can also be due to health issues, which can also bring a heavy burden to the relationship.”
What are we to do?
It is always encouraging to listen to those who have been married for the long haul and see what has worked and what has not worked for them. Respondents of our survey who had been married at least three decades had some comments when asked what advice they would give in order to have a lasting, godly marriage:
- 44 years: “Pray together as a couple and put God first!”
- 45 years: “My best advice would be to foster shared activities. It’s also important to have your own hobbies, but have something that you really enjoy doing together (cooking, sports, reading the same book and discussing, gardening). This draws couples together. If your only thing in common is raising your children, there will be severe empty-nest depression when the last child leaves home.”
- 37 years: “Have each other’s back.”
Challenges may arise before marriage, as newlyweds, after children, over the years and even in our gray-haired days. But they don’t have to define or doom our marriages.
- 50-plus years: “I think the number one thing is that your morality, core values and belief in God and family be first. Be willing to sacrifice your wants to make your spouse happy. And try not to allow things that hurt each other to go on and on. Find solutions together so that you don’t grow apart and bitter.”
- 48 years: “Prior to marriage: Be careful who you marry. Watch how that person interacts with children, their parents and other people under stress because that’s how they will act with you. After marriage: Talk about everything and value one another’s point of view, even when disagreeing. Never have conflict in front of your children or other people. Never put your spouse down verbally in private and especially not in public. Do nice little things for each other regularly. Pick up the slack for the other person when needed. Love your spouse when they (occasionally) are not lovable, and don’t hold grudges.”
- 33 years: “Marriage is not 50/50. It is 100/100. You both have to give 100 percent all the time.”
The long haul
Marriage is an amazing blessing and gift given by God. In the wedding ceremony used in the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, the minister states: “There is no greater human joy than to have a happy marriage.” That is entirely true. But it takes work, sacrifice and putting God and our spouse first in our minds and lives for us to experience that joy.
Challenges may arise before marriage, as newlyweds, after children, over the years and even in our gray-haired days. But they don’t have to define or doom our marriages. When problems come up, we should immediately address them, getting trained counselors involved if needed.
One pastor noted this regarding dealing with marriage problems, no matter when they appear:
“I tell every couple I counsel that they can read books galore on marriage, and there will always be good advice; but their marriage will be successful if each is joyful, peaceful, kind, good, humble, faithful, gentle and self-disciplined. It’s all very basic. Keep to the fundamentals and your marriage will work.”
We could think of no better way to end this series than with those words of wisdom.