Good Question: Why Are More Long Marriages Ending?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When news broke that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver were splitting, it came as a shock. Married for 25 years, why split up now? It’s the same reaction many had with Al and Tipper Gore. So why are more couples getting divorced after spending so much time together?

“I was surprised when mine broke up. It’s not something you’re ever prepared for,” said St. Paul resident Pat McLaughlin, who’s been married and divorced twice.

He said the first happened after 16 years of marriage and the second time after 20 years.

“I used to joke with people and say …  it sure takes these women a long time to find out what a jerk I am,” he laughed.

Divorce attorney Jim Vedder said he’s seeing more older couples with decades of marriage filing for divorce.

“That’s something that always surprises me. I’ve seen people married 20, 30, 40, 50 years that get divorced,” he said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, if you got married in the 1960s, 70 percent made it to the 20th anniversary. In the 1970s, 58 percent made it. In the 1980s, just 54 percent.

“You’re seeing more of it because people have changed. This generation has changed,” said Pepper Schwartz, the relationship expert for American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). “Older people want love and romance, and they’re unwilling to put up with things if they’re not happy.”

According to Vedder, the major factors that break-up long-time marriages are infidelity, money disputes, and the fact they’ve immersed their lives in their children.

“Once children are no longer in the home, the couples don’t know what to do anymore,” Vedder said, “after a life of taking those kids to soccer, hockey and practice.”

Plus, as we live longer, some people find that they need to transition to something else.

“You could have a whole other life before you become frail. That’s a lot to think about,” Schwartz said.

With so many people living longer and living healthier, you could be married for 25 years and only in your late 40’s or early 50’s.

“If you’re gonna live a long time, you want to be happy, and you may not realize until you’re 50, 60 years of age. I’d like to have the next 20 to 25 years of happiness,” Vedder said.

“I think that people have a sense now of having a desire to live their own life and they feel like they can do it in this day and age,” McLaughlin said.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • jon

    I suppose it is better that it happens later than when the kids are 5 years old like the stupid people now days seem to do.

  • Sue

    I thought marriage was a lifetime commitment, we are living longer so we want to transition into something else? Our parents and grandparents also married much earlier then we did and most stayed married for 50 or 60 years (like when the marriage vows say “Till death do us part). If marriage is so “sacred” why are there excuses like this? Gay people shouldn’t be able to marry because why? Because marriage is so sacred? We heterosexuals can marry and then get a divorce when it suits us? Because we are bored? That’s a new take on marriage, maybe the vows should read: “For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, or when you are just too bored and need to transition to something else.”

    • Dee

      Nice to know the 50s are still alive and well in some minds.Get real, I will agree that many go into a marriage for the wrong reasons, and should be taken seriously, but keep in mind the definition for commitment does not include abuse, neglect and in the old days marriage was a method of getting rid of the female burden in the family. Since women were not allowed to work, attend college or encouraged to have a career outside the home, were dependant on the man for financial support. Even earlier in history marriage was a business contract; women didn’t even have a choice of who to marry so the idea of sacred is only for political and religious control of the masses. Why shouldn’t a person or a marriage be happy? Just because many grandparents were married a long time doesn’t mean they were happy. When my grandmother was on her deathbed, she was angry because she felt she wasted her life on someone who didn’t love her and she gave so much! I believed wished herself to die. My other grandmother was a bitter woman most of her life because she never was happy in her marriage and when her husband died he stated he was ready to go and leave her behind.. Is that anyway to live? NO WAY.I give credit to those people who have the courage to make major changes in order to be happy and not use “commitment” as an excuse to be a martyr. Life is far too short to be sad, unhappy, depressed, frustrated, and just plan bitter!

  • The truth be told

    Arnold and Maria’s kids still live at home. There goes your story. Al left Tipper for his page when he turned 18. Let’s tell the truth here people.

  • ZagYee

    Pretty sad when you think about it. Its supposed to be for LIFE, good times and bad times.

  • JKB

    The fact is, MANY men/women dont care if there is a wedding ring or not on one’s finger! Marriage is sacred to most of us, but youll always have those that dont honor their vows, or dont care if one is off limits, or not. Then too many couples get very tired of being taken for granted, the lack of romance, and affection. Mrriage takes work by both partners on a daily basis.

  • JB

    interestingly enough, all the marriages that are being pointed out in this story, all those people grew up in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Often those folks are referred to the “ME” generation. So, if you want to blame this on a philosophy, then the idea “if it feels good, do it” is more to blame for this than anything else.

    • Sue

      I grew up in that generation – I have been married for 32 years along with 2 of my siblings, (3 of us were married in 1979) I come from a large family 8 children and we have all been married from 22 – 32 years. No divorces on the horizon. So I guess it’s not the “if it feels good do it”. I do think people don’t care to work on their marriages; as mentioned above by JKB. Have all 32 years been a party – no. You work through things: money, boredom, whatever and in the best case scenario you end up to be best friends. I know divorce happens and there are good reason for some; but to just do it because you are worried about how happy you are, or because you are bored, I don’t know it just doesn’t seem right. What about your partner – what if they still love you? You have gone through all the things for those 25 – 30 years with that person – who else can share in your history like they can?

      • K.

        I grew up in that generation too and my parents were married until death parted them. But, there is something that hasn’t been a part of this dialogue: You can’t control the other person. I got married intending it to be for life too. But, 14 years down the road, my husband had a different idea. No matter how hard I tried to make it work, he didn’t want it to. Finally the time came that I had to look at the situation realistically and make a decision whether to try and hang onto to something that wasn’t working or let it go. Hanging on was no longer an option by that time since he made the decision to leave and start another relationship. You can’t control the other person……….it really does take two.

  • CandyLee

    Please explain to me how the gay agenda is threating marriage. I truly would like to understand you point of view.

    • CandyLee

      sorry YOUR point of view

  • Bryan

    I believe if people put there priorites in the proper order, this would not be such a epidemic. It seems like people are getting bombarded from all sides, stating that the individual comes first before others. Do the Wedding vows state this? Or to Love, Honor and Cherish, pretty tough to do this if “I” comes before “Us”.

  • brian

    MORE of Jason’s stupid answers to stupid questions. People get divorced because they are selfish, there is no other possible answer. Jesus didn’t say pick up your happy stick and come party with Me, He said pick up your CROSS and follow me. It may just be that your spouse is your cross, but when you said “I DO” that means till death, not when I get bored,or when I get sick and tired of you. Hey Jason, work on this question. Why does Jason get to have a high paying job trying to answer stupid questions on T.V.?

  • GK

    Luckily women can make it on their own these days and it is acceptable to do so. I believe a lot of marriages of yesteryear lasted so long because the wife didn’t have a choice. If she left, she and the kids were impoverished. Only a few brave women left their husbands back then. Plus, being ‘divorced’ was like wearing a scarlet letter. Nobody goes to the alter thinking it is not going to last – everyone is hopeful it will.

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