“Was marriage what you expected it would be?” Mia asked, not quite directed to anyone in particular as we sat at Sam’s, enjoying the post-rain sun.
“No way! I had no idea how mind-numbingly boring it could be,” Sara said. “Like ‘Groundhog Day.’”
“Mine wasn’t boring, well it had its boring moments. We just stopped being nice to each other I think,” Mia said. “What about you, Kat?”
“I didn’t have many expectations. I don’t think I knew what I wanted it to be; I just knew what I didn’t want it to be — my parents’ marriage.”
“I hear that!” Mia exclaimed. “But, did ours turn out any better?”
Who’s happier? Our parents didn’t shake it up but we sure did at midlife. After divorce, we threw ourselves into our careers, our friends, our passions. Still, we all wanted love, too. And we’ve found our way, sorta kinda. Mia was happy with Rex, until that ended horribly and she’s been floundering since, including dating a man who’s newly separated. Sara has been floundering, too, striking out with Yoga Man, who was just too emo for her, but then she met Todd — a nice guy who wants a threesome (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and who has a pretty cool ex. I’ve been incredibly happy with Sean, a great guy whom I adore — and not just because he thinks my small breasts are perfect. But we don’t and probably won’t ever live together (which may actually be why we’ve lasted this long).
Our parents? As kids, then sharp-eyed teens and eventually cynical adults, we’ve seen a bit (or more) of their marital dysfunction — and who knows the secrets they’ve kept from us? But they toughed it out, for better or worse, probably without any of the expectations we had when we married. Of course, our moms didn’t have the same choices we women have today. Neither did our dads — a stay-at-home dad in the ’50s? I don’t think so!
I honestly don’t know who’s had it better or easier. Do we want too much from a marriage? Did our parents expect too little?
Experts are blaming our 50 percent divorce rate and the increasingly loud chorus of those who think marriage is obsolete on our unrealistic expectations of marriages.
I didn’t have those expectations, but I guess I had a picture in my head of what a happy marriage looked like. You know, a little Norman Rockwellish because I’m a sentimental romantic at heart. But my observations of my own marriage is pretty much like my observation of life — there’s a lot of mundane stuff interrupted by some really nice stuff. I embrace the nice stuff, accept the mundane stuff and try to make the mundane parts a little less boring and get more of the nice stuff. And, I can’t really count on someone else doing that for me.
I’m not sure if that’s a sustainable model for a marriage — you obviously have to pick the right person from the beginning and some of us really don’t. Plus, you really do have to want to be married — some of us are just not cut out to be in a long-term, monogamous relationships. And, that’s OK.
Maybe we need to go into a marriage with no expectations — then we’d be constantly surprised!
- What expectations did you have in your marriage?
- Were they “unrealistic”?
© Volker Gerstenberg – Fotolia.com
“I feel so bad for Demi,” Sara said as we made our way up Old Railroad Grade.
“Sara, you really need to stop obsessing about Demi and Kim and Leann. When did you become such a celeb follower?”
“It’s not that! I couldn’t care less about them. I care about the broader issues.”
“Like can we older gals live just as happily-ever-after with boy toys as old guys with hot babes do?”
“Other younger babes.”
“Of course — did you expect he’d cheat with someone older than Demi? She’s 48!”
“It’s not that.”
“You’re right. It’s that he’s a cheater, and that probably doesn’t have anything to do with Demi’s age.”
Or does it?
Guys go for youth. This is not rocket science. But older women get their share of interest from younger men because we bring quite a few things to the table — experience, comfort in our own skin, and a savvy sexual appetite.
Say what you will about cougars, but it makes sense that older women should hook up with younger men. Maybe not guys 15 years younger, like Demi and Ashton, but maybe a few years — 5 or so. Why? Because men die younger than women do, and that means there are so many more widows than widowers. It means women often spend a decade or more alone when they’re old and more likely to need companionship more than ever; that’s sad!
Marrying someone younger would lessen the chance of that.
Plus, 15 years is an awfully big gap; your interests and experiences are bound to be pretty different. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean a marriage wouldn’t work — lots of people the same age with similar interests and experiences get divorced! But being just 5 years or so apart in age puts you in the same generation, anyway. And, you’d also have similar aging issues.
Maybe that’s the biggest turn off of all. The body starts to wrinkle, sag and shift, the mind starts to wander and then what? I know that stuff shouldn’t matter —after all, we don’t know what illnessnes and accidents await us at any age. But maybe starting off with a “disadvantage,” it will — eventually.
So, maybe cougars and boy toys should plan on five blissfully happy years together, and then move on. There are always more young men out there, ladies …
Does a big gap in a relationship matter in the long run?
So last week, I was feeling kind of cynical about marriage, well, at least Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries’. OK, maybe marriage in general. But, maybe we’re going about marriage all wrong; maybe we can tweak marriage so that we’re happier in them so there won’t be as much divorce. Seems easy enough.
Like a lot of people, I was floored when uber-Christian Pat Robertson (he of the Christian Broadcasting network) announced that it’s OK to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer’s because the disease is “a kind of death.”
Robertson advised a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s:
“I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”
Really? Well so much for agreeing to stay together “for better or worse.” “in sickness and in health” and “till death do us part.” Why even vow to do that if we can ignore it when it’s convenient? But, of course, we do ignore our vows in ways just as surprising as what Robertson is proposing:
We cheat because our spouse has a life-threatening illness and we can’t deal.
We cheat because we’re in a sexless marriage.
And, we cheat because we don’t even agree on what cheating is!
But, maybe we’re not allowing for what Robertson addresses; when the marital rules are changed by forces beyond what we can control. Yes, the “for better or worse” part; better or worse for whom? And does that have to be cheating?
Remember a few years ago when retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced that her now-deceased husband, John, who was living with Alzheimer’s, had found a new love at the nursing home where he lived? She was happy about it because he was happy; the essence of a good marriage. As we baby boomers age, a lot more of us will be facing something like that.
She was accepting of her husband’s choice — he had Alzeimer’s and therefore “didn’t know better,” and many thought how sweet and kind that was of her. So, should we be so hard on someone who does “know better” even if his partner doesn’t know?
Isn’t loving someone “for better or worse” supporting each other’s happiness? What if your spouse didn’t have the mental capacity to decide what was “for better or worse”?
We promise to care for each other “for better or worse” and “in sickness and in health” and “till death do us part,” but not many of us mean it. That doesn’t mean the vows are flawed — we are.
Maybe we need to change those vows to something that we’ll actually follow — that we’ll love and care for each other as long our partner is an equal participant in the marriage.
Does having a spouse with Alzheimer’s or dementia — versus something like cancer or multiple sclerosis any other illness in which the mind is still willing but the body is not — change the marital vows?
- Is Robertson wrong or right?
- What about O’Connor?