6 Obvious Ways To Prevent You Becoming Another Middle-Aged Divorce Statistic

polar-bear-196317_1280One of the problems the old man and I have faced over the past few months since he started working from home, is that because we see each other physically all the fucking time, we think that’s enough input into our relationship, and our effort levels have dwindled.

 

I admit it…we take each other for granted. Which is okay…sometimes… in a long-term relationship, because let’s face it, there have to be some benefits…

 

But it can also be dangerous.

 

How quickly that tingling of excitement you used to feel at the mere sight of each other dissipates when you become little more than parents, ships in the night, friends with benefits, flat mates…

 

I’ll stop there. I’m sure you get the picture.

 

Added to which, the stresses of everyday life never seem to go away and without dragging my wonderful son’s name back through the mud again, I know for a fact that the old man has needed a period of adjustment to being with Kurt all day long.

 

And meanwhile, I’m permanently tetchy because I’ve lost my space, menopause, I’m too busy with work…

 

Blah de-fucking blah.

 

But what I do know, is that your relationship is important and it requires servicing now and again.

 

So I’ve done some research, so I don’t keep on ignoring the warning signs and become another middle-aged divorce statistic by ignoring the old man because I’m engrossed in War and Peace when he comes in for an inopportune hug; or when I forget to tell him how nice his dried-out curry and rice (rice again, hun?) was, because I’m too busy checking out the new Bachelor on Facebook…

 

And here’s what I’ve come up with:

 

  • Kissing – Forget about all the excuses for why you don’t kiss anymore, like you have no time, bad breath, it’s awkward because its been so long, or you’ve just eaten garlic… and just do it. Force it, if you have to. Remember those days when you couldn’t get through an advert without a snog? According to relationship psychologists, you need to make sure you kiss hello and kiss good-bye, EVERY TIME, like I imagine perfect, nice couples do… the sort that live in vicarages, drink tea, eat cake together and call each other ‘love.’

 

  • Touching – I have to stop swatting the old man away like a fly because I’m too busy for affection. We both need to stop wasting our depleted levels of affection (because we expend them all on the dog) and use them on each other. I know I still like to be touched because only this morning I got turned on when I had my eyebrows waxed, just because my beautician stroked my forehead.

 

  • Thanking Each Other – We’ve stopped appreciating each other and thanking each other for the things we (very occasionally) still do for each other without feeling resentful. There is a danger that we are developing into two overly-independent, selfish individuals who live under the same roof yet whose only common ground is the children, the dog and getting outrageously pissed together. What happens when the children leave?

 

  • Not Criticising Each Other – Or at least think about it before you do. We do this because we know each other so well, to the point that we have heard each other’s anecdotes a million times, can predict what the other is about to say and how we will present it. Good communicators are good listeners too, and when you love someone you respect them and if you have if you have to listen to the story of how your husband threw up on the table in an Indian restaurant another time, so be it.

 

  • Respecting – Seems obvious, but when you’re feeling snarky with your partner, it’s amazing the levels you can sink to. ‘Respect’ is more than not being rude to each other or embarrassing them, it’s about extolling their talents and contribution to other people at every opportunity, even when you’re not really feeling it; it’s about letting them go first even if you want to, and showing them and the world that you value them, even when they make mistakes.

 

  • Communicating – this one seems the most obvious to me because I find it hard to keep my gob shut, but we’re not all natural ‘talkers’ and sometimes the talkers need to learn to only to say what needs to be said and the bottlers need to tell you when they’re in pain. Communicating also gives you a chance to evaluate your relationship together and make constructive comments about how to improve it before you kill each other or walk away.

What Holds Marriage Together In Middle-Age?

 

Cropped screenshot of Richard Burton and Eliza...
Cropped screenshot of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor from the trailer for the film Cleopatra. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know couples that we assumed would be together forever but who ended up in the divorce courts. And we’ve all watched those couples we decided had absolutely nothing in common, remain together.

So what are the secret ingredients that bind marriages together, even through middle-age, when the interest and lust of those early days has become tarnished by the pressures of real life?

It’s hardly surprising that the divorce rate increases annually, and it’s not a ‘modern’ problem necessarily. Couples had less choices in the past. Many women didn’t work and so were forced into dependence upon their spouses. Which is why men and women stuck their marriages out, no matter how stale the relationship might have become.

These days, we hear a lot more about the marriages that don’t work out than the marriages that do stand the test of time. Because some couples do manage to stay in love, in spite of the pressures of our modern-day existence.

My parents divorced when I was very young and so I approached my marriage with what I believed was a realistic attitude. I knew I would fight for my marriage but if it struggled and I couldn’t mend it, I was certain that I would walk away.

And as with most marriages, ours has experienced its ups and downs. Marriage is hard. As people, we continue to grow and evolve over time. We change in so many ways and the glue that once bound us together can become unstuck as our situations change over time. Those external pressures mould us, but not necessarily in tandem with our partners.

‘We just wanted different things,’ is a comment I hear a lot.

Humour is the glue in my marriage.

A week or so ago, the stars suddenly aligned and I found myself unexpectedly in a really happy place with my lot. And I felt the need to go forth and spread the word, to share my ‘happiness’ with my husband to see if he felt the same way.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: ‘Things are going pretty well at the moment. Kurt seems finally happy at school and for the time-being his depression seems under control, NC has found someone to discuss ‘rocks’ with, we all seem to have settled into Gotham City, and now that you’re able to exercise, even you seem to have a better approach to life.

(Gushing now) Isn’t it amazing how the pieces of a puzzle can finally come together? I’m enjoying my new job and I love the connections I have made from my writing – I’m even writing my book again. The move to the city has given us so much more in terms of things to do as a family.

LIFE FEELS REALLY GOOD!’

Husband: (deadpan): ‘I’m leaving you.’

‘Humour’ has always been the key to our relationship. What’s yours?

Middle-Aged Divorce Race: Who’s With Me?

I’m slightly peeved about the timing of the recent research into divorce rates in Australia.

Apparently, the number of divorces among empty-nesters and (what my father describes as) ‘lifers’ has increased. The release of the stats from the Australian Institute of Family Studies is already creating tension on my domestic front, and I hadn’t even finished packing my bag or bought my Around The World ticket yet.

The old man fell upon the research at his office and promptly emailed me the link to the article with one of those big red exclamation marks, (the ones he gets really cross about when I ignore them).

Divorce Cakes a_009
Divorce Cakes a_009 (Photo credit: DrJohnBullas)

At the time, I was still restoring my sanity after Kurt’s late departure to school (provoked by a mother/son physical sparring over a box of cereal) and calming myself down with some therapy on Social Media. So I remained unaware of the old man’s concerns.

But when he still hadn’t received my detailed emailed response by 10.30am, he decided to Skype me instead.

This is what he does these days to check on what I’m doing at home – to see if I really am working or (as he suspects) sipping lattes with friends around North Sydney pool. He Skypes me from his office with absolutely nothing to say and then spends the next few minutes pulling funny faces at me on the screen.

He thinks I’m entertained by this behaviour.

It was rather unfortunate that I was still in my dressing gown at 10.30am on that particular morning. Other bloggers will know that when inspiration strikes, everything else has to be parked, in order to prioritise those rare moments when the seeds of  wisdom align.

‘So when are you leaving me then?’ he fired at me as I begrudgingly accepted his call request, frantically running my fingers through my hair in an attempt to get rid of the ‘bedhead’ look and trying to focus on his face on the screen at the same time.

I always look guilty, even when I’m not.

‘What……what are you talking about now?’ I asked him, still lost in the complex characterization of the book I am trying to write.

‘Apparently more and more women are leaving their marriages as soon as the kids leave home,’ he hissed accusingly.

I took a deep breath and feigned surprise.

‘Really?’ I said. ‘But our kids are never going to leave home, so what are you worrying about? And we’re so happy(!)’

The dreams of the empty-nester. Have I mentioned our retirement plans before? Ours are in the process of being adapted due to Kurt’s recent downfall into the underworld of criminality and the fact that Nerd Child only ever leaves her bedroom to learn more about scientific moles. But we still live in hope.

The thing is, people do tend to talk a lot about retirement and what they’re going to do ‘after kids’ (ak) when they’ve been married for too f*cking long over twenty years and are stuck in the murkiness of teenage hell.

What else is there look forward to?

You see, we now have to factor in prison-visiting times into our retirement schedule to see Kurt, as well as trips to NASA to see NC. And the Spoodle Princess is, frankly, looking a little too healthy for our liking – the smoked salmon lunches are obviously improving her health (her intelligence not so much, as we discovered during a fantastic game of ‘The Invisible Ball’ yesterday) – so apartment-living and white sofas may have to be postponed for a while longer.

The Skype conversation quickly turned to the usual rankling over our assets and the D word. I begrudgingly assured him (again) that I would take Kurt and that he would get the big TV and all the remotes.

We take so much pleasure out of planning our divorce, it has almost become a joint midlife hobby for us; like moaning about the kids. In fact, I think that one of the best things about being married for twenty years, sometimes, is the predictability.

Let’s face it, the old man and I have been ‘itching’ for years when it comes to our marriage. Histrionics have always been a big part of our mating ritual – I’ve always been the drama queen and he is the strong silent type – it is a recipe made in hell.

Personally, I haven’t had time to work out if I’m dissatisfied with my marriage or not. I imagine that we could improve our relationship in certain areas, but it’s not half as much fun analysing what we have now, as it is analysing what we can do with our lives once our marriage is dead. Humour is what keeps our marriage alive. One thing I am certain of, though, is that we don’t stay together for the sake of the kids. I have always believed that kids are much happier with a single parent than a couple who hate each others guts.

No doubt the old man will prove the statistics right and remarry someone with large, pert breasts and a huge salary, just to really piss me off; someone unlike me, who would rather choke on my own vomit than tell him how wonderful he is. And I’ll do something equally childish, like shag loads of young surfer types with long hair, who may not be rocket scientists, but who might make me feel appreciated once in a while.

Who knows what the future holds.

But I still quite like the idea of our beach house in Byron Bay, with our two computers facing the ocean – me tapping words on mine, him tapping numbers on his.

Why Gardening Can Lead To Divorce

Is it considered normal marital behaviour to find yourself on the cusp of divorce after a domestic spat at the garden centre?

Surely there’s nothing particularly incendiary about a trip to Flower Power on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Safer than going to a strip club together, or hot-air ballooning, say? I’d thought that striving towards safer, retirement-oriented projects at the weekend,  was a positive thing; I was quite looking forward to buying my first set of floral gardening gloves, checking out the lawn killer and comparing composts.

Admittedly, garden centres have held little appeal for either of us in the past, so in hindsight the potential for tension amongst plant life was always a possibility.Spot of Colour  And being that teensy bit hungover probably didn’t help either. Yes, the writing probably was on the proberbial wall, but it’s still no excuse for the outpouring of bile that was released amongst those innocent capucchino-coloured pots.

Was it that unreasonable of me to expect the old man to come with me to the garden centre to help me carry four heavy plant pots? I was buying the pots to save him money after all, since our green-fingered neighbor had generously donated four budding Agave from her bountiful and healthy tropical fest next door. And as ‘Agave’ are usually $80 a pop, (even from the Scout robbers volunteers), and all we had to do was provide them with water and a suitable container, it was a bargain.

The eye-rolling started before we left the house. So sensing trouble and being prepared (once a Brownie, always a Brownie), I decided to market our little trip as more of ‘a mini adventure’ (because treating him like a three year old usually works), and incorporated prostituted myself by an offer to accompany him to the tip on the way.

What man doesn’t go weak at the knees at the tip? Especially our local tip which has become an iconic musee de debris. Statues sculpted out of old metal, a labyrinth of vintage furniture and a collection of tropical plants to rival Hyde Park. The bureaucracy for entry into the tip is almost as convoluted as entering Australia for refugees. You need serious credentials. You need to know your way around recycling and there is a minimum requirement of a degree in waste management.

Yet when the old man inhales its odorous ambiance in all its decaying glory, his whole body expands with pride. It’s the only time he can pretend to be a real man, excitably donning his (superficially) dirty gardening gloves and his oldest encrusted shorts, and communicating with the Nazi ‘tip’ management team in some colloquial tradie/tip accent that he has finely tuned for safe entry through each of the hazardous checkpoints.

I only go there when I need something, obviously.

So I naively assumed that after his fill of filth, his mood had improved by the time we circumnavigated Terrey Hills and entered the hallowed doors of Flower Power. But as he located the closest outdoor setting to sit down at and set his stopwatch to ten minutes, I knew he wasn’t in the mood to play at plant shopping.

My mission: to purchase four plant pots within the limitations of an accountant’s Victorian budget, in the allocated time slot. I managed to identify the usual budget restraints pretty quickly by the grunt of  ‘f*ck me’, as I casually picked up the first pot to catch my eye, (before I’d even had the chance to visualize the Agave plant potted in it).

Shopping under pressure for the ‘ultimate’ set of plant pots is difficult. After eight minutes, I had reached a nervous state of panic, so overwhelmed was I by the choice of just SO MANY similar capucchino-coloured pots, each as shockingly over-budget (and as, well, ceramic), as the next. At the ten minute mark, I crashed and burned as I heard the screech of intolerance emanate as he pushed his chair back and prepared to drag me out of the garden centre. In mortified shame and anger, (because this was the second time I’d come to the centre to complete this onerously dull task which had now sat on my to-do list for even longer than writing my book), I did the grown up thing and stormed off to the car in silence.

He should have started the car and said nothing of course. You’d think he’d have learned something over twenty years.

‘Well THAT was successful!’

(Red rag)

I erupted with more than a smattering of the F word. He erupted with some additional variations on the F word. I accused him of being a miserable F*ck. He told me I’d spoiled his weekend. (Rich).

‘GREAT!’ I screamed thought, (because I really am that childish).

And then we started laughing at how ridiculous HE is……or I am, (maybe).

He generously proffered me an olive branch, allowing me another ten minutes of his precious weekend to choose those f*cking plant pots even though, frankly, I no longer cared if those Agave had hung themselves in the courtyard.

It was definitely an apology.

And we went back into that garden centre, heads held high, and bought four of the most beautiful capucchino-coloured plant pots I have ever laid eyes on. It is an unwritten agreement that I will get them as part of my settlement in the divorce.

Spot of Colour courtesy of Canongirl2009 at www.flickr.com

http://blogs.homelife.com.au/gardening/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2012/jul/30/designing-small-gardens-tools

Divorce Monopoly

This post could turn out to be that ‘kiss of death’ post, regarding the equilibrium of my marriage, spookily akin to when celebrities stupidly naively decide to elaborately celebrate their whole three months of togetherness, (in which time they’ve become engaged, pushed out two children and given them ridiculous names), by posing on the front cover of glitzy celeb magazines like ‘Hello’ or ‘OK’.

Usually leading to divorce.

No, the old man and I are not about to ‘spill’ to the gutter press about the awesomeness of our ‘very long’ marriage, firstly, because it’s simply not our style to air our dirty laundry to anyone bar our very extensive group of friends and the internet, secondly, we’re not famous, and thirdly, it’s simply not British.

This could in fact be the ‘last post’ (very punny!) regarding my marriage, because I’m going to elaborate on a topic that should probably never be discussed by ‘happily’ married couples.

Divorce Monopoly.

I’m hoping for a nod of acquiescence here, when I pose the question of whether or not other ‘on-the-surface’, happily married couples, spend a huge chunk of their married life negotiating with each other over their (possibly) impending divorce? Like we do.

You see, like our retirement, the old man and I have planned our divorce with the fine attention to detail that we applied to our wedding planning, all those decades ago. Actually, that’s a blatant lie. For while he is happy to help plan every minor aspect of our divorce, he was in fact completely reticent regarding ribbon detail and the superiority of Gerberas over Lilies at our wedding.

But we’ve had nearly twenty years to prepare for our marriage finale. We just need to iron out some of the more rudimentary issues, like who wants gets the kids.

I realise it would be tempting to lecture me about ‘being careful what I wish for’, and maybe I am playing with fire, but I avidly believe that our marriage methodology contributes to us staying together; it keeps us on our toes. Being prepared for our divorce is hardly a Kim Kardashian move, we’ve done our time, and it’s an infinitely cheaper option than marriage counselling (and much less awkies). There are other ways we could proactively prevent our marriage from stalling, but our method is to challenge each other mentally to maintain the competition interest. Therapy and sex toys are short-term remedies, and they probably involve having sex again, and I’m not sure we’ve quite reached crisis point yet.

So we mind f*ck.

Adding that whole ‘will we/won’t we have a future together’ angle keeps our relationship exciting. We have what you might call, an ‘extreme’ marriage.

We call each other juvenile names that you wouldn’t call your worst enemy and we often let the sun go down on an argument, because ‘stewing’ breeds bitterness and resentment.

Mind f*cking helps us avoid the abyss of marital monotony, like ‘taking each other for granted’, which I’m sure we’d be Olympians at. When he seriously pisses me off, I no longer try to ‘communicate my disappointment’, because I know how ineffective that is to someone with selective hearing. I go straight for the jugular; his pocket.

I’ll bait him with sentences like, ‘when we get divorced….’, or ‘when I have my apartment in Mosman…’,which is his cue to retaliate with something equally clever and vile.

You have to understand that we have tolerated each other for nearly 30 years. We’re what my father calls ‘lifers’, in comparison to his two shorter ‘terms’ brought abruptly to an end by his seven year itch.

So when the pressure in the house really begins to escalate, the point at which the old man wears his ‘invisibility cloak’ every day, (causes ranging from hormones per se, end of financial year, or simply having kids), our all-time favourite game is Divorce Monopoly; the game of domestic ‘settlement’, where we ‘virtually’ negotiate our meagre collection of personal assets. These include the kids and the dog obviously. It’s a kind of in-house training for when we do actually find that aspired-to ‘window’ to divorce, and in the long-term, should save us the value of half the house in solicitor’s fees.

Peculiarly, the dog seems to be our biggest asset, (unlike the kids, whose worth ranks somewhere around that of Enron shares).

It’s definitely a game of ‘take’ and ‘the winner takes it all’ so it’s not for amateurs. I have laid out the rules in the following example scenario. The players true identities have obviously been concealed for legal reasons.

The Kitchen

The ‘old man’ saunters up to his wife mid-screech, in what appears to be a conciliatory move. The wife is peering hopelessly into an empty fridge, disappointment etched on her face. The old man bends down, seemingly to speak to her, changes his mind, and dry-humps her with an exultant look on his face. He then leans down to speak in her ear.

The old man: “Ok, I’ll be generous; 60/40, but you take the kids”, he whispers provocatively.

(This is Divorce Monopoly slang for a ‘dog of a deal’, I’m getting ‘nada’ here for the blood, sweat and tears of babysitting this Alpha-Knob for a quarter of a century!)

Wife: “70/30 my way, AND I’ll take the kids, no questions asked”, she hisses through clenched teeth, turning towards him.

(The wife then grabs ‘the old man’s’ testicles between her fingers, twists them 180 degrees and moves away from the fridge.

The ‘old man’ scuttles retires off-stage to his ‘cave’. The wife remains on stage, slumped at the kitchen table.

We like to think we’re keeping it real.

How do you keep your marriage alive?

Monopoly photo courtesy of D0bb0 at www.flickr.com

Divorced Bench courtesy of Wiresman at www.flickr.com