Too Short

Some of the phrases that seem to be bandied around more and more when you get into your forties have to do with time. How there isn’t enough of it. How it passes so quickly. How its improper use highlights the truism that life is indeed, too short.

Many people I know seem to now regard time as a commodity, which, in essence, I guess it is, but it can be hard to quantify it as a commodity it in any direct sense.

I currently know five couples in their forties who are getting divorced. This, in itself, isn’t such an extraordinary thing; I mean, people get divorced all the time, except for the fact that it made me recall a conversation I had with my Aunt Jo a while back. She was talking about the number of friends she had who divorced when they got to their 40s. She seemed to think it was a common thing and said something at the time that really struck me – they got tired of waiting.

I was looking at the stats on divorce in the forties and an interesting thing stood out. That is, that the majority of divorces in people over 40 are initiated by the women and that there seems to be a slight incremental rise in the incidence in divorce after 40 as compared to other age groups.

So why is this happening? Has my Aunt Jo actually hit on something with her observations? Do people who have been married for 20 years or more, who have put up with negative characteristics in their spouse because they are coping with child-rearing and careers suddenly wake up one morning and realise they are tired of waiting?

I think it is probably fair to say that our needs change in our forties. Physically, we are different. There are often emotional issues to deal with, particularly surrounding home and family. We have changing expectations of what defines happiness and fulfilment. Often, these are not in line with those of our partner.

People grow apart.

Needs are no longer fulfilled.

Differences become irreconcilable.

One friend told me she was tired of her husband’s obsession with work. Of never attending school functions, of buying the kids the latest gadgets instead of sitting down and spending time with them, of going out to dinner and spending the whole time watching him fuss about on his iPhone. She questioned him constantly about his priorities and his apparent desire to change, but everything was always scheduled tomorrow. I’ll play with the kids tomorrow, became his mantra. Sadly, tomorrow never came.

On the other side of the coin, another couple are divorcing because he doesn’t earn enough money as a part-time musician and is irresponsible. His wife is tired of waiting for him to grow up. She is weary of bearing the burden for the family’s financial security.

None of the people who are divorcing are doing so because of infidelity or abuse. There is merely an increasing propensity to sit at opposite sides of the room.

It saddens me when people I have known for a long time part. All those years together. All that time.

Some of my more judgemental friends think it’s preposterous that such a growing apart can happen. That to leave a marriage of 20 years because your ex won’t cut down his work hours is not, in fact, a real reason for parting.

But I’ve seen the subtext of that kind of intractability. How it affects so many other things. How you let that go and then another thing and then another until all you are doing is peeling away endless layers of yourself.

That’s the destructive part of it.

Last year a good friend of mine was very ill and her husband wouldn’t take even a few days off work to help her with getting the kids to school. It wasn’t that he couldn’t. He wouldn’t.

When that type of thing happens you feel like you are going it alone. A little door inside you closes and it becomes hard to open it again.

The pending divorces of all these people I know have taught me a very important thing.

If you have someone in your life who considers your needs as well as their own, that is a very precious thing.

Love isn’t always upright and level.

It bends and it flexes and it reaches around corners.

It is complex but it is true when both sides of it are considered.

And when it is a good thing it helps you cope – truly cope – with how short time really is.

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11 thoughts on “Too Short

  1. Oh. I can so relate to this post. At the moment we’re going through an okay patch, but there have been many periods where I feel like I’m doing this alone. And then periods where I find I have to suddenly defend my parenting choices even though I’m the one doing the parenting 22 hours a day. Sigh. And I’ve already had those thoughts of I’ll wait… 10 years, 20 years. I don’t know that we can recover from this and I don’t know that I’ll be happy to continue putting up with this when I’m 50.

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  2. Hi DAOINE:
    Please take comfort in the fact that most people go through this, particularly with young children. When I think of the obstacles I had to traverse way back then I don’t know how I did it.

    Having said that, sharing the parenting workload is an issue that can cause so much conflict and I’m not sure we have the strategies in place as a society to cope with the challenges. Let’s face it, Australia has one of the worst family friendly workplaces in the world which causes immeasurable difficulties for couples trying to juggle everything.

    I hope you can talk about things as they arise, hon, because that’ alone’ feeling is not a good one. If it’s any consolation I have been there and I know it can get better. Don’t give up ♥

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  3. Hi SUE:
    It has really got me thinking. It does a seem a shame to say goodbye to someone after so many years. But one really never does know what goes on behind closed doors…

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  4. A dear and very wise friend of mine once made the observation that most relationships (all kinds) usually run their course in 20 years or less. People just run out of things to say, new things to share, the boredom sets in. He thought a marriage contract should have a specific time with it, if a marriage contract was needed at all. Interesting…I think your aunt is on to something here. We all have our days/weeks of being disillusioned, don’t we? I guess what we do about it is the big question. Should we just ride it out or take a new direction? Great post, food for thought.

    Hugs, G

    PS: Anytime you want a Hawaiian shirt/blouse just let me know. 😉 I’ve made coats, curtains you name it….I can sew pretty much anything.

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  5. Being flexible to the needs of the other is the dance you both have to be willing to play. If one sits out the dance, it’s over. Also, there is such a thing as a shared spark that got you together in the first place. That waxes and wanes and gets you through the tough parts, but when it’s gone, it’s gone.

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  6. Hi GERALDINE:
    There is a great deal of truth in what you say. Definitely food for thought. I would LOVE a Hawaiian shirt. Do you have any idea how much I love them? I had an original one from Hawaii with girls in grass skirts on it that I wore everywhere but I ripped it on a fence post and it couldn’t be repaired. It was so cool. I’ll email you about it. Thanks so much, G.

    Hi SQUIRREL:
    Oh yeah. You’ve both got to dance. There’s no other way to do it. And I know what you mean about the spark. There is just so much to consider when it comes to relationships. So complex. I can see why people choose to remain single.

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  7. Very wise post Selma – thanks. Yu have such a wonderful way with words – this is so true:

    ‘Love isn’t always upright and level.

    It bends and it flexes and it reaches around corners.’

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  8. Hi GABRIELLE:
    I have come to that conclusion after 19 years of marriage. Love is extraordinarily complex. And it is a process, a progress and many other things. It is sad that it disappoints so many people. But when it works, it works!

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  9. You’re right – it takes both ends – constant work from both parties. I can see your Aunt’s point too- if you’re always waiting and not working together, for sure it’s not gonna have staying power.

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  10. Hi TEX:
    You do need to have both parties working on it or it just won’t work. All the couples I know whose marriages have lasted work together and are on the same page. It’s the only way to go!

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