En español | Regardless of current statistics on the increasing numbers of failed long-term marriages, I want to believe that for every couple who says “I do,” there is still such a thing as “until death do us part.”
But I should know better.
Two decades ago, my own 25-year marriage ended. At the time, I considered it one of the worst tragedies of my life. I couldn’t figure out how my husband and I got to the point where divorce was the only alternative. How does a marriage that’s lasted so long end up failing? Over the years, I’ve been able to get some perspective on how to answer that question — at least for me. Here’s what I’ve realized.
See also: How Could They Break Up Now?
1. Marriages don’t end overnight, they die little by little. Vince and I met in Los Angeles while we were attending college. After our first date we could barely stand to be apart. After three months we eloped. I was 19 and he was 25. I was giddy with happiness. Ten years and three children later, we had settled into the comfortable routine of being a couple. The passion didn’t burn as bright, but it still burned. We made a good team as we handled all the ups and downs of our lives. By our 15th anniversary, we were more like business partners running a family. As I look back now, I can see that our lives had gotten more and more separated. Vince was starting a new business; I was concentrating on my journalism career. We weren’t running our lives in concert; we were running them on parallel paths. This was the beginning of the end of our marriage. If we had known, we might have been able to do something about it.
2. Marrying young isn’t always the best decision, but who knew? Vince and I had so much in common when we first met. We were both studying journalism. He was going to school on the GI Bill after serving as a Marine for four years. I was a freshman going to school at night and working during the day. We wanted the same things: careers, a home of our own and children. We loved art and purchased our first original painting on layaway shortly before we were married in 1966. We both instantly fell in love with the first house that we bought. We seemed to agree on everything. A year after we were married, I got a job as women’s editor at a small local newspaper, The Montebello News; he started working for the big daily, The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. Even my mother, who had been opposed to us marrying from the start, had to agree that things were going well.
But the years brought on subtle changes. As we grew older (or should I say up?), our relationship hit some snags. Vince always made the major decisions for our family, and I was happy, at least in the beginning, with this arrangement. But then I started questioning him. We’d argue about the most mundane things. I didn’t like some of his friends; he didn’t like some of mine. So we saw them separately. I wanted to travel; he didn’t. So I started taking vacations without him. He was always working; I wanted him to spend more time with the kids. He said he was too busy. Brick upon brick we were building a wall between us. And we slowly grew apart. I now understand how it happens. It wasn’t the fault of either one of us, but we both suffered the consequences of letting it happen.