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The Secret of Staying Married

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A recent conversation about two friends who were enjoying a super second marriage with a bevy of nice kids and grands led to a bit of speculation about later marriage, divorce and why long marriages are going the way of dinosaurs.

The first point made was that second marriages often fail for the same reason that the first one failed, meaning the spouse (and this, of course, works both ways) marries again more or less the same person he/she married the first time. And although hope trumps experience in affairs of the heart, it's hardly surprising that these "do-over" marriages (and "double do-overs!") beget the same problems that doomed the original.

Then the conversation turned to what had enabled the two people talking to have between them 122 years of marriage. It was noted that in some cultures it had been acceptable and customary to actually have three marriages for the three basic stages in married life.

Stage one is romantic -- perhaps mainly driven by sex.

Stage two is purposeful -- focused on creating and raising promising human beings.

Stage three is practical -- focused on common interests and simple friendship.

Of course, not all male/female married couples have children. And, there also obviously is a quite wide spectrum of intensity and lasting importance of the sex element. And, many marriages have survived despite a near dearth of common interests and pure friendship but most marriages need that to get through the first two stages.

We agreed that if a marriage begins in shared interests and friendship, as well as those other desirable elements, it has a much better chance of lasting through all three stages. Aside from well-known marriages of convenience and necessity, little information is available to indicate what factors drive the decision to marry in the first place.

In today's world many more marriages begin a lot later than in the era of the two in the conversation. That suggests that more marriages may be prompted by the priorities of the second stage, when children enter the picture (and hopefully after the two people have discovered both common interests and pure friendship). People of a certain age would cite the "looser mores" of contemporary society as diminishing the importance of the first stage, which in any event may be going away, almost entirely.

What was common to the two long single marriages was the belief that both had moved seamlessly through all three stages, coupled with a belief that the temptations inevitable during a long-term relationship were not attractive enough to warrant change.

So what, if any value, is there in these observations?

One, more research on the subject might shed more light on what is really going on out there and why.

Two, whatever research may reveal, and whatever value that might add to modern society, it certainly cannot hurt to share this kind of common sense with ones' grandchildren and great grandchildren!

For better or for worse!