The news of the divorce between Bill and Melinda Gates has many couples concerned. If multi-billionaires can have a marriage of 25 years, raise 3 children, and manage world-wide philanthropy projects as well as run a massive technology company, why can’t they save their marriage? What could be so wrong between them that they can only say, "We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple?"
As a relationship psychotherapist, their explanation makes sense to me. Couples forget that raising children, making money, and having a nice home is not enough to sustain a marriage past 50 years of age. The most likely time for divorce between couples is the first two years of marriage, and after that, the divorce rate remains stable at roughly 50%. However, marriage experts are seeing an increase of divorce after the age of 50 years. The gray divorce is more devastating emotionally and financially to couples. After a shared life of raising children, planning your future of travel and retirement, and relying on the financial plan you’ve built together, divorce later in life rocks your foundation.
Marriage experts encourage couples to take a hard, long look at their marriage before 50. Are you living in a marriage you enjoy? If not, what can you do now that will help you gray divorce proof your marriage so that you won’t be a statistic after 50? I have suggestions you can begin now that will help you create and restore a marriage you love being a part of.
1. Friendship matters. Being friends is more than being a team. It’s liking each other and wanting to spend time together. Take time for each other and put each other’s needs before the kids. Never let yourself be too busy for a night out with your partner.
2. Watch your tone and be nice to each other. The longer you live with someone, the more likely you are to take them for granted. Many couples I see are kinder to others than they are to their partner. A harsh tone hurts feelings and builds resentment.
3. Seek adventures together. Couples need shared novelty. If your marriage is in a rut now, imagine how it will be after 50. Stay curious, try new things, and get out of your comfort zone.
4. Talk with them and not to them. Many couples stop talking with each other. Research indicates that happily married couples talk about how they’re feeling or new things they are interested in with each other every day. Implement a plan to talk with your partner at least 10 minutes twice a day to keep you emotionally connected.
5. Share tough times together. Death of a loved one, loss of a job, or a struggling child are opportunities for couples to draw closer and support each other. During a rough patch for your partner, step closer to them and ask them how you can help. Couples who rely on each other for emotional support feel less stressed and more appreciative of their partner.
Every marriage, no matter how many years it has lasted, needs attention. Your fame, wealth, or other commitments cannot hold your partner when they need your touch. Support your partner when they need your presence or listen to your partner when they need to be heard. Take time and prioritize the one who shares your name every day, and you’ll create a marriage you love being part of to age 50 and beyond.