Canadians continue to see a steady increase in life expectancy; between 1921 and 2017, men’s went from 58.8 to 79 years of age, women’s from 60.6 to 83 years. Concurrently, grey divorce is also on the rise. The longer we live, the more time we will spend with our life partners. Some couples don’t relish the prospect. With fewer years in front of us than behind, we think about maximizing our happiness. In unsatisfying marriages, such reflection may lead to a split.
To avoid divorcing in later years, we can take a lesson from Hollywood’s golden couple, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. Although the famous couple admitted to a turbulent union at times, they were married for 50 years until his death in 2008. Newman credited the long-lasting marriage to “some combination of lust and respect and patience. And determination.” Once we commit to staying in our marriage, we owe it to our partners — and ourselves — to take the measures necessary to ensure mutual contentment.
In an earlier post, I identified four ways to enjoy togetherness. In addition, Glen and I have instituted the following rituals not only to maintain our grey union but also to continue having fun in it.
RITUALS FOR COUPLES
- Date nights: About twice a month we go on a date. Just the two of us. We dress and act the part. Typically our date begins with a movie, an art exhibition, a concert or some other event that provides initial conversation at a restaurant later on. The understanding is we’re both obliged to turn on the charm at the dinner table, to behave as we did decades ago in the early stages of our romance.
- Games: At the end of every year during the holidays, The Globe and Mail offers a giant crossword, a two-page spread that takes countless hours to complete. Glen reads aloud the clues while I prep for dinner and together we come up with the answers. Well, most of them. Eventually we turn to crossword loving family and friends to help fill in the final blanks; for instance, “Paul Revere, by profession (11) S _ L _E _ S _ I _ _”. Two brothers jumped on that one, providing the correct answer of silversmith. We used to play Scrabble, until my iPad replaced Glen as my constant opponent. Instead we will take up cribbage, a card game traditionally for two players. We play tennis together, though always in doubles matches. I never did give Glen a challenging singles game.
- Walks: We don’t stroll hand-in-hand, many couples do, but we set off to a particular destination and then enjoy the journey. Glen likes the terminus to feature a treat of some variety, usually a decaf latte and a scone.
- TV: I wrote about watching TV together, an activity reserved for the evening that generates plenty of discussion if we happen upon a good series. Stay tuned for my post on January 1 inviting you to name your top five shows of 2018, as well as mentioning ours.
- If something bothers us, we must be willing to discuss it. Discussing it builds trust and trust builds intimacy.
- Sometimes we have to fight, fight fair that is. I know a woman who, to the astonishment of her husband, walked out of their marriage after 30+ years. “I don’t understand,” he moaned. “We never fought.” And therein lies his answer!
- From an earlier post: an appropriate division of duties also contributes to a successful union.
Given that marriages require work, it’s a good idea to subject them, like many jobs, to an “annual review.” On this occasion we discuss everything going on in our household, what we like and don’t, and what we can do in the coming year to improve, if necessary, our grey union.
In the comments below, please add your suggestions to maintain a satisfying relationship. •