Wait… They’re Getting Divorced??!!
By now you have probably heard that Bill and Melinda Gates are calling it quits after 27 years of marriage. Many studies on why marriages fail attribute a big factor to the strain of financial difficulties. Something tells me this is not the case here.
You might be wondering, “If they – who have all the money in the world and are both quite intelligent and have everything at their disposal – cannot have a successful marriage, what chance do I have?” Fear not, my child because money and intelligence and opportunity have nothing to do with this simple piece of wisdom that I am about to share with you.
Their joint Twitter post said, “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.” Ah, now I get it, the old “We grew apart” issue.
I’m aware that most of us are not in the same place as the Gates and the complexities of their lives are probably somewhat different than yours or mine. But “grew apart” is as predictable as gravity. Yes, I am sure there were many things I am unaware of that went on in the privacy of this union and every other failed marriage. And while I understand that each relationship is unique, there are nevertheless certain rules of relationships that breed success, or lack thereof, as the case may be.
I think I can probably guess how couples “grow apart”. What makes this phenomenon so sad and difficult is that it is a slow and insidious process that many couples aren’t even aware that it is happening to them until it’s too late.
It kinda goes like this:
When a couple first meet they are very excited about one another. There is energy and discovery in the relationship and they spend tons of time together getting to know one another. Remember those early dates until 2 am? The courtship process continues this way until the big day, the wedding, and then some. The first years are hopeful, energetic, dynamic and bursting with excitement.
But as the years go by and the young couple settles into a certain routine, new events enter and creep into their lives. There’s making a living, a child or two or three show up. They have their respective interests – some shared, many not. The jobs have their demands and so do the kids. When the kids are small there are many sleepless nights. But when they get older, there’s carpool, homework and after-school activities. The couple look to buy a home and that too takes much time, energy and effort. Not only is there the mortgage, but new furnishings, fixing old ones, a sprinkler system that always seems to be on the blink, redoing the bathroom, getting rid of the old smelly carpet and “shall we choose laminated wood, engineered wood or solid wood; how about bamboo – I hear it is ecological?”
And so the older the couple gets, the more stuff happens in their lives to involve their time and attention. And while all of these issues are certainly important, the couple finds that they no longer have time and energy for each other. And so their relationship gets relegated to the back-burner because there are so many other imminent and important things to take care of right now.
And, lo and behold, before they know it, not only is that spark from their dating days long dead, there is very little sharing happening between these two people as they become strangers to each other like two ships passing in the night.
You see, if this couple who are now in their, let’s say 10th, 20th or 35th year of marriage would travel back in time and revisit those days of early courtship, they would find something very fascinating. They would see that when they excitingly told their friends that they had “just met the greatest guy/girl in the world!”, they didn’t describe him or her like this: “Hey, he is so terrific, he is going to make every mortgage payment on time and not only that but every car payment too! … and for two cars! … and both cars will be luxury vehicles!!” He certainly didn’t tell his friends, “She’s the best – she is going to be so good at car-pooling and making sure the house is clean and orderly and I just know that she is going to find the best pediatrician for our kids once we have some!”
And while it’s true that making mortgage and car payments on time are important, and finding a good pediatrician and caring for the kids is as well – this is not why you married each other! You married him/her because of who they are as a person, because you enjoyed spending time and sharing yourself with them. You married them for their soul, for their spirit, for who they are and not for what they would do or accomplish.
But couples forget this and they lose sight of it because when they first dated, it came naturally and effortlessly. But once real life happened and there was more on the table, they forget that now they have to make much more of an effort to be with one another. They didn’t shift gears and realize they have to fight for their time to be intimate – and I don’t just mean physically, although that too! They never told their kids, “No, it’s Daddy and Mommy’s time” and didn’t do the same to their jobs, to their phones, to their computers and to every other obligation that seemed more pressing and important. More pressing and important than each other. More pressing and important than their very relationship.
Because if you don’t fight for your relationship, if you don’t nurture it, if you fail to constantly monitor it to ensure that it is healthy and vibrant, then like every other thing that is neglected, it wilts and it dies. Maybe not the first day or week or month or year, but eventually it will … ever so slowly, ever so sadly.
A couple “grows apart” because they failed to put in the care and time to ensure that they grow together and toward each other. And while every couple is guilty of this on some level, those who have an awareness of its danger have a fighting chance that it doesn’t harm their relationship beyond repair.
So put down your iphone, stop your binging on Netflix, tell your kids to get lost (in a nice way), forget your errand to Home Depot and go and grab your spouse, get a bottle of wine, have a glass or two, look her in the eye and capture what was when you first dated her so very long ago. Don’t delay. Do this now. Otherwise you’ll end up like Bill and Melinda Gates.
Won’t you reach out, love and touch me
Let me hold you for awhile
I’ve been all around the world
Oh how I long to see you smile
Let it go,
Let it happen like it happened once before