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.