WHAT’S GOT TO DO WITH IT?
The median age for divorce in Australia has been rising steadily for two decades and is now 41.3 years for women and 44.2 for men. In 2006, a third of divorces occurred in marriages of 20 years or more at a stage in life when many would feel the real hard work of raising kids, establishing careers and paying off mortgages could be behind them.
So why are these long relationships busting open just when they can see the light of good times ahead? The Relationship Institute at UCLA in the US says it boils down to the level of commitment to the relationship that couples take into the marriage at the start. Researchers followed 172 newlyweds for 11 years and found that the marriages that went the distance – 78.5 per cent – were made up of couples who were willing to “make sacrifices” for the sake of the marriage.
The researchers said the couples with successful relationships were committed not only to each other shiny feeling of being in love. So what are two of the main ingredients in the recipe for everlasting togetherness?
The answer is commitment and space, according to two studies. These attributes may not be romantic or earth-moving, but experts say that mixed with generous dollops of respect, caring and affection, they can help your relationship shuffle happily into the twilight years. but to the overarching relationship, and were determined to protect it.
Relationship educator and counsellor Denise Reichenbach, of Relationships Australia, uses an analogy in which the relationship is the roof of a building and the couple are individual pillars working as a team to keep the roof from caving in.
She agrees that while love is important – and being in love is likely what got the whole thing started in the first place – a successful relationship that lasts for decades requires a commonsense approach and an initial deep and real commitment to making it work in good times and bad.
“The relationship is the higher shared goal,” Reichenbach says. “With couples making a commitment to doing what they have to do to keep it strong. It’s about putting the relationship first and facing the unavoidable reality that it can’t always be smooth sailing and good times.”