John and I celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary in June.
After twenty-five years, one might assume we have this marriage thing in the bag.
Until a few weeks ago, that is what I thought. Then an email from a friend who leads Divorce Care at our church startled me into reality. Her email mentioned devastating statistics about something called gray divorce.
Gray Divorce is a term referring to the demographic trend of an increasing divorce rate for older couples in long-lasting relationships.
Before reading my friend’s email, I did not know anything about gray divorce. However, once I realized what it was, it made all the sense in the world to me.
I replied. What I said shocked me.
I just read your email and realize I understand the concept of gray divorce.
Two years ago, the idea that couples who have been married for twenty-five plus years divorce would have baffled me– much less that it is a trend with terminology to describe it.
It’s not that John and I hit the magical 25 years and now I understand. It is the life change most marriages experience in this season that I am starting to grasp.
Your kids. Poof!
Your kids getting married. Done!
Grandkids on the horizon. Soon. (Maybe.)
Hopes for career advancement. Shrinking.
Your waist. Not shrinking.
Your hairline (for men). Receding.
Your sex life. Changing.
Your body. Hurting.
I don’t know. You just wake up and realize, crap, I’m in the second half of my whole life. Top that off with debt, moving, aging parents, health issues, and you’ve got a recipe for struggle.
Without real nitty-gritty effort and intention it would be easy to walk away, to escape, to reinvent, to isolate, to divorce.
Truly, I never imagined marriage at this stage would need work.
You know each other. You can finish each other’s sentences. But that’s part of the rub. What if you want to say something new? Your sentences change.
Anyways. I get it. Our marriage is healthy, but every single day is a struggle in this new season of life. If we weren’t fighting for each other, we would be fighting each other.
So. Yes, I will pray. Also, I’ll take this as a word of caution not to rest on my laurels. I will constantly tend to my marriage. John is worth too much for me to do anything else.
Love and Gratitude for you and your ministry.
So, what is the most shocking thing I discovered after twenty-five years of marriage?
After all this time, marriage still takes work.
Marriage, like any other relationship, requires tending. It requires effort, time, and commitment. There is no magical moment we go on auto-pilot because we’ve got this thing down. The moment we do that, we set ourselves up for disaster:
For some other person to look more appealing.
For alone to look more appealing.
For new to look more appealing.
For old wounds to fester and say you deserve better.
For fresh wounds to convince you things will never change– most certainly not after all this time.
I can’t tell you how surprised I was by the emotional challenges of the empty nest season. And my nest isn’t completely empty. Blake is away at college and Katie is home for a season.
Empty nesting is unlike anything we have experienced.
I am grateful I tended my marriage in the first twenty-five years. I am grateful I didn’t roll over the morning after our twenty-fifth anniversary and stare into the face of a stranger. I am grateful I spent twenty-five years fighting for my marriage– even when I was fighting with John.
What I realize is that the fight is not over.
What about you? Are you surprised that people who have been married for a quarter of a century or more are calling it quits? What do you do to protect your marriage?
If you are married– be it one year or fifty– I urge you to tell your spouse you are in this.
Choose to fight together.