Social Question

tom_g's avatar

Why are some couples able to stay together for such a long time?

Asked by tom_g (16630points) July 30th, 2013

It seems I’m surrounded by divorce. The stats are apparently pretty ugly, and it seems that every few months another couple I know is splitting.

If you know any couples who have been able to stay together until one of them died, can you share any observations about them? What did they do? What didn’t they do?

My parents divorced when I was 12. My wife also comes from a broken family. It’s a bit unnerving to see couples tumble all around us.

Is this just the reality – are most humans incapable of living with the same person for a long time? Or do we just direct our natural dissatisfaction with life towards the closest person in our life? Is divorce just a way to say, “Life wasn’t what I thought it would be.”? Is it just running away?

NOTE: I’m not talking about abusive situations. I’m talking about people who get divorced after having 3 kids because they realize they don’t really like the person they are married to. Didn’t you think about that before you decided to have kids with this person? Did the person change so much, or did you change so much, that living with this person would be like living with a stranger?

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32 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

My brother’s in-laws just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary and appear happy and loving. Don’t ask me what their secret is. They raised three terrific kids and have eight terrific grand-children and three great-grandchildren.

From my view as an outsider, they simply seemed to be in synch most of the time and agreed on most of the big life decisions. They listen well and treat each other with kindness and respect.

zenvelo's avatar

As I have recently learned, healthiest relationships are not where both are subsumed into the relationship, but where each person is free to be his or her own self and be safe with the other person. relationships are not transactional, where on gets out of it what one puts in, but in that each person stands alone and is also part of a relationship, and also stands for the partner.

But that takes a lot of work and a lot of growth; most people are not to that point yet when they enter into relationships.

Aethelwine's avatar

My father’s parents were married for over 55 years until my grandfather passed away.
My parents will be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary this December.
My husband and I have been married for 21 years.

I think we all married our best friend. None of our marriages have been perfect, but we have all been willing to take the bad with the good because we know life isn’t perfect. A life with our best friend is worth fighting for.

marinelife's avatar

We will have been married 30 years at the end of August. Our secret is that we keep working at it. We also work to keep romance alive. We love each other and that underlies everything.

Cupcake's avatar

I was recently at my husband’s family reunion. None of them have been divorced (except me). It was incredible.

At that one gathering, we celebrated 2 50 year anniversaries, 1 40 year anniversary and 1 10 year anniversary.

They were all so kind. And committed. And great parents.

I had never been to a family gathering like that before. I am so grateful to be a part of that family now.

Marriage isn’t easy. I think our culture is shifting towards easy, now and me, none of which are conducive to a long, healthy marriage.

Aethelwine's avatar

I forget to mention, the ability to forgive is important for any long lasting relationship. If you can’t forgive the person you care about and if you can’t learn and grow from your mistakes, the relationship won’t work.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

jon and the blond are one of my favorite couples!

JLeslie's avatar

A pastor friend of mine asked many people in many countries this question and he concluded commitment is the biggest determining factor for couples staying together.

I think some of it is luck, especially if you get married young. It’s difficult as a teen or early 20 year old to know what your adult life will be like, the challanges the opportunities that will be laid out in front of you. You don’t know what you will want, how you will be as an older adult. So, it is hard to know what spouse is truly going to suit you.

I think one of the most important things as a couple is to check in with each other that each of you are achieving what you want in life. Having long term goals that your partner is supportive of helps keep you together working towards the goal. It can be anything from buying a special material thing, to having a baby, to saving enough to put your children through college, anything really. It doesn’t have to be a shared goal, just one that each of you help each other achieve. The goals change even when you are midway there, and knowing where each other is at, the sharing and communication of what you want from life is very bonding.

Also, enjoying the moment. Just moving through life without pausing to enjoy the moment can mean you are less appreciative of life in general. Enjoying moments with your spouse makes you want more of those moments.

But, anything can happen, I certainly don’t think I have some magic formula. I see that a lot of my girlfriends divorce because they feel their husband either makes their life more work, or they don’t feel their husband’s are attracted to them anymore. It isn’t directly a comment about sex life, more like their husbands look right past them.

It also should be said that I know people who stay married who are not very happy. Supposedly married women are the least happiest people statistically, then single men, then single women, with married men the happiest group. At least that was the result of a study 20 years ago, that might have changed. I think that demonstrates that women tend to be very loyal and have a harder time making bold moves. Also, back then women were more financially delendent on their spouses. I would bet now women ask for divorces more than men. That is a guess, I don’t know what the real stat is.

Cupcake's avatar

This is an interesting blog post I read today.

YARNLADY's avatar

Long marriages are a tradition in my family and that of my husband. Our parents, grandparents, and as far back as we know of stayed married to each other. We will be celebrating our 38th anniversary this year. Speaking for myself, I have never had occasion to even think about not being married to him, and I believe he feels the same way.

Divorce is very rare, even among our siblings and cousins, although both my brother and my sister have been divorced, more than once. They both have severe personality disorders, so that might be a factor.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY Do you think that is the same as committment? That you just stay together, it’s that simple. My extended family has very few divorces also.

janbb's avatar

Wish I knew.

YARNLADY's avatar

@JLeslie It’s not quite the same. Commitment might imply staying even when the relationship is over and has turned toxic.

What we have is more like an ongoing friendship. We have great respect for each other. We have a lot of things in common, like not knowing or caring what other people think. We don’t hold grudges, and when we get angry we never say mean things, or even think them. We know the other person loves us, and that anger gets in the way of resolving things.

Part of it might be our ability to do our own thing. He went to Europe one month and I stayed in a condo on the beach in San Diego with my grandkids. Our family was shocked that we would choose to have different vacations.

Just last month, I went with him on a business trip to Los Angeles. I spent my days enjoying myself while he worked. I went to Knotts Berry Farm Amusement park one day, all by myself. I really enjoyed it.

ucme's avatar

Compatability, respect, trust & the ability to adapt enabling the relationship to continue to feel vibrant/fresh.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Emotional maturity and self-contentment are key factors, IMO, in making a relationship last and pull through the rough patches.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY That sounds similar to my husband and me. I wasn’t sure about the word committment either. I would not have used that word myself, but thought maybe it was what my friend meant by committment. Sometimes Christians use words that I don’t understand. They define them differently. I try not to assume what the definition might be, and am interested in how others interpret things.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Long term marriage is still a common thing here in my area, but of course, it’s the Bible Belt. Basically, the couples I’ve talked to said that the committment to stay together no matter what, respect, and not letting negative emotions fester helped them.

My hubs is not perfect, nor am I, but I have no intention of divorcing and neither does he. It was a primary discussion prior to marriage for both of us since we both came from broken homes.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL So, is that being committed and staying even if you are very unhappy in the relationship? I am not saying you are unhappy, just asking in general.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie I’ve been happy and unhappy, but instead of chucking it all, we keep working through it and often end up closer than ever. But to answer you directly, I would stay even if I was unhappy because that is how my husband and I both define marriage, as a permanent state.

I always tell my friends to ask themselves if they love their spouse enough to change their diapers if there was an accident, and if the answer is no they should think again. Marriage is not all fun and games, as most of us old married folks know…lol

Jeruba's avatar

I wouldn’t underestimate the power of inertia.

livelaughlove21's avatar

It does seem like people just don’t stay together anymore, doesn’t it? Thinking about it now, I don’t know anyone that has celebrated more than 20 years together. My mom and step-father have been together for about that long, but they’re miserable with each other.

I hope my husband and I will be one of those forever couples, but who knows what life will bring? Only six years down. I think people jump to divorce without even trying to fix their problems first. Bolting at the first sign of trouble isn’t what marriage is about. It takes a lot of effort. People would rather give up than try, and that’s a shame.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I interviewed a couple celebrating their 80th anniversary for my school paper. I asked them the same question.

They both gave essentially the same answers, which boiled down to
1. respect each other
2. work hard at it
3. be too stubborn or dumb to quit

They also admitted they didn’t always like each other, but they always loved each other.

JLeslie's avatar

@livelaughlove21 I know many couples happy together over 20 years.

@Jeruba Inertia definitely applies in many instances.

Sunny2's avatar

Don’t marry too early. People change a lot between the age of 16 and 30. Sometimes those changes interfere with your relationship.

Marry with your brain more than your heart. Talk about your basic philosophy, goals, and things important to you and see how you agree or don’t. Do your senses of humor compliment one another? Physical attraction should NOT be the main reason for tying the knot.

Don’t think you can change your mate. It’s unlikely that major changes will occur.

Be polite, kind, respectful, diplomatic.

Agree on strategies for spending money, raising children, accommodating each other’s families, handling day to day living.

If you’re lucky your marriage will last a lifetime.

hearkat's avatar

My fiancĂ©‘s parents just celebrated their 51st anniversary. My bff’s parents have been married over 60 years. Several of my patients have been married for more than 50 or 60 years.

In those couples I see admiration, respect and appreciation. I also see great friendship. Their togetherness seems to come naturally to them. The ones that seem happiest don’t show signs of having control issues or neediness; they show that they accept themselves and each other as they are.

snowberry's avatar

I have only married once, and we just celebrated our 36th anniversary.

How did we do it? When we married, we did it for life. We did not leave room for a divorce. We established boundaries at the very beginning. We forgive each other, we actively practice altruism, and we know that love is far more than an emotion- it’s a commitment. And lots of stuff like that.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The participants satisfy their spouses needs as well as their own.

Look around at the couples you know who divorced after 20 years. Ask yourself, why did they split?
Let me guess:
1) Their sex life was nonexistent.for the previous 2 years. But she thought it was ok with him.
2) He thought she did not mind when he made fun of her weight gain.
3) They stopped having fun together and noticed that most of their conversations ended in arguments.
Hind sight is 20–20. Looking back you can see the writing was on the wall.

Long term couples are fortunate to have their needs match what the other spouse can deliver.
Also laziness.

tinyfaery's avatar

A bad memory. Seriously.

JLeslie's avatar

Recently, I saw on a show that men especially like newness. They mentioned having a date night and that date night is not enough, it has to be also doing something new and different on date night.

@Sunny2 I would have agreed with you previously, but a close friend had all you mentioned and just asked for a divorce. She said she never really was extremely sexually attracted to her husband and really wants to have some passion in her relationship. They have been married about 18 years.

Sunny2's avatar

^^^Everybody’s different. Know yourself first and then know your spouse. She should have known it if he had less of a sexual drive than he and decided if she could live with that or not.

Sunny2's avatar

Arggh. She should have known if he had less of a sexual drive than SHE. . . .

mattbrowne's avatar

They fight the illusion of perfection every day.

At the very beginning they organize a wedding that isn’t perfect and that isn’t the most important day in one’s life. While weddings certainly are important, other days are far more important, for example when one partner made a huge mistake and feels really miserable, and the other partner is there for him or her.

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