Lessons from the Boomers

In an article Love lessons from the Boomers in the Chicago Tribune, October 3, 2012, Heidi Stevens cites some interesting statistics about changes in the divorce rate in the last two decades.  The overall divorce rate is down, the divorce rate among couples over age 50 is way up.  The article discusses reasons why and has suggestions for couples to make the senior years of marriage joyful and fulfilling. While you will likely want to read the whole article, the following are some of the items we found most interesting.

“It would be insane for any of us to think we’re the same person at 55 that we were at 25,” says New York-based relationship counselor Rachel Sussman. “The criteria we used to make decisions in our 20s are no longer the criteria we feel are important in our 50s and 60s.”

“Baby boomer marriages have been on cruise control,” says Justin Buzzard, author of the newly released book “Date Your Wife” (Crossway). “There are many wonderful exceptions, but by and large boomer marriages have been in maintenance mode for decades. The man has been focused on his career. They haven’t been keeping the marriage strong and fit and healthy. The kids leave home, and the husband and wife look at each other and say, ‘I’m not in love with you. I barely know you.'”

 “Couples entering this next phase of their lives have such a great opportunity to get out there and see the world together,” Sussman says. “My husband and I had an ongoing dialogue throughout our daughter’s senior year of high school about what we wanted the next chapter of our lives to be about; what we wanted to do individually and what we wanted to do together.” But getting your relationship to a point where you’re eager to embrace the next phase (or the current one, for that matter) can take some doing.”

 John Gottman, author of 40 books, including the just-released “What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal” (Simon and Schuster). “I see people who’ve left one another in pain for 10, 15 years, and by then you don’t feel loved or safe. The critical variable is making sure your partner feels cherished.”

The “master” couples, Gottman says, aren’t necessarily aligned on every count. But they hear each other out and treat one another gently. “Disaster” couples, he says, tend to believe the worst about their partners and feel burdened by relationship talk.

“Masters say, ‘Talk to me. You don’t look very happy,'” he says. “Disasters say, or give a look that says, ‘I don’t want to deal with this. I don’t want to talk. You’re too needy.’ That’s a big mistake.

“Masters scan their social environment for what’s going well and say thank you and build a culture of appreciation and respect,” Gottman says. “Disasters look for their partner’s mistakes and tend to miss the positive things their partner is doing, and read in negativity when it’s not there. We’ve determined in our research that the negative habit of mind is actually a distortion of reality, and the positive habit of mind is much more accurate.”

These quotes say a great deal about our experience of growing into our post-raising-children and retirement years.  We have often written about the importance of having an “attitude of gratitude” in our lives. The suggestions in this article will help you to get to a place where you can’t imagine life without your spouse being better than life with her/him.  Then you can make plans together that account for differences as well as agreements, separate activities and shared activities, sensitivity to the other that keeps you aware of the other’s ups and downs and able to deal with them.  We have found that it also helps us to plan, share and enjoy adventures together.  Recent adventures for us include remodeling the master bathroom, trying a new restaurant, travel in Italy and teaching in Haiti.  We look forward to continuing good times together far into the future.

Whatever your age, you are not too young or too old to build a marriage described by John Gottman as a “master couple”.

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An Invitation

This week we would like to invite you to nfluence future posts.  Is there a marriage topic that you would like us to address?  Do you have a question that has been nagging at you, but you haven’t explored the answer?  Have you read an article about marriage that you think would interest others?  Add a comment below with your questions, suggestions and links to interesting material.  We look forward to hearing from you.  Bob & Rita

If you can gather a few couples together for an evening or a luncheon, we have a presentation we call “Aging Joyfully Together”.  For more information, email us at bobandrita@thewonderofmarriage.com or call 847-836-9597.

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About Rita & Bob Boeke

Rita Boeke has experience teaching scripture and with her husband Bob has experience in enriching marriages through workshops and retreats. They post a weekly blog at thewonderofmarriage.com and co-authored Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime.
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