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Is it actually unrealistic to expect a relationship to last 50 years?

(88 Posts)
sealmane Sat 06-Aug-16 13:11:12

I was discussing this with a friend the other day.

I believe it was Christianity (and I am a Christian) that brought the idea of one man one wife, which supposedly benefited women. Before that it was entirely possible to have more than one wife in many cultures as I understand it, and this remains to this day. One advantage of men being able to have more than one wife, from my limited knowledge, is that the first wife remains the senior wife and benefits from that status (rather than being left high and dry so to speak here).

OTOH there are long and happy marriages that do last many many years, even people's whole lives. I don't know many myself it must be said, but I know they exist.

What do others think on this? Is it realistic to get married at 20 and expect to stay so? Marriage forever for two people is promoted, but from this board and our own lives the results are often not that at all. Though of course this board is not a fair sample as people who post are a self-selective group of people often struggling in relationships ...

I would say it's not unrealistic at all, but I have a fantastic model marriage to inspire me. My parents met aged 11, got together at 16, married at 25 and are still totally happy and in love at 59. I can't see anything taking that from them for the rest of their lives.
They're best friends and one of the happiest couples I know.
That's not I say they haven't had heir ups and downs, but they both really love and appreciate each other and thats what shows through.

MatildaTheCat Sat 06-Aug-16 13:20:00

It very much depends on the cultural norms of the society in which you live. Within the context of my own culture, British, urban upbringing, there is an absolute expectation of a marriage lasting and all the commitment and work that involves for both partners.

I also think there seem to be familial patterns. Within my own family and close extended family ( aunts, uncles, cousins etc) there has been just one failed marriage out of perhaps 20 couples. Same story on my DH's side. It would be interesting to understand more about this as some families, ie the Royal family, seem to have strong patterns of breaking up ( not a very good example, I know).

I regard 50 years as very achievable. Done 30 already. smile That is not to say I don't have strong boundaries. I do.

sealmane Sat 06-Aug-16 13:22:10

Sounds wonderful and lovely inspiration NiceCuppa.

I have to ask, do you feel you followed in their footsteps?

(I also see entitled, louche men on MatchmakerMillionaire quoting their parents wonderful long and happy marriage, though of course I am not saying you are like that!)

therootoftheroot Sat 06-Aug-16 13:25:09

my parents were married for 53 years until my dad died. My inlaws ahve been married 48 years. Mt dh's grandparents were married for 70 years!!! 70!!

i have been married 19 years and can't see that changing-dh is my best friend and my favourite peron in the world in general.

i do think we have seen what is invovled in a long marriage and that has helped-so we know it's not always going to be perfect hearts and flowers iyswim

Katedotness1963 Sat 06-Aug-16 13:28:17

I got married at 21 and still am at 53. Will we make it to 50? I think we probably will. My parents stayed married till my mum died, but I think that was a mistake, but people didn't just get divorced so easily then. Until I was about 19 I only knew of one couple in our town who were divorced. Since then I think I know more people who split than "stuck it out/are happy".

Whathaveilost Sat 06-Aug-16 13:32:24

I don't see why it shouldn't be realistic.

Mum and dad married 56 years
Nan and grandad were 74 years before grandads death
Pil 68 years before film death.
My son's gf, her parents together 48 years.
DH and I are half way there!

OhNoNotMyBaby Sat 06-Aug-16 13:33:20

Yes. I believe it is totally unrealistic. Lovely if it happens but almost impossible to achieve.

I also believe that the awful stigma over divorce that still prevails today is incredibly harmful and unfair. No-one divorces for the fun of it. It is a hellish procedure - and we need a 'no fault' methodology.

In our ever-more connected and mobile world, people change and grow. Woman are independent and are increasingly financially self-sufficient. People don't always learn and grow at the same pace. They decide they want different things. This shouldn't be the sin or fault that it is perceived to be.

I also believe that the words 'my marriage has FAILED after 30 years...' should be forbidden! Just because a marriage has ended it doesn't mean it was a failure.

SandyY2K Sat 06-Aug-16 13:38:03

It's not unrealistic at all. My parents have been married for over 50 years. My PIL before MIL passed away had been married for 55 years.

My DM got married at 17, very young.

I'm not a fan of polygamy, as it really benefits men the most.

Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g Sat 06-Aug-16 13:52:24

I believe it is totally unrealistic. Lovely if it happens but almost impossible to achieve.

Maybe in your circles, OhNoNotMyBaby, but I'm like MatildaTheCat - in my family there have been lots of marriages and very few divorces. One set of grandparents were married for nearly 50 years (till my granny died). The other did divorce, at a time when there was a huge stigma about it, so things must have been very bad.

In my parents' generation, my mum and dad are motoring towards their Diamond Wedding (60 years). One aunt was widowed in her 30s, remarried and was still married to her second husband when she died. I think they would have gone the distance if she'd not got cancer in her 50s. The other aunt was widowed after well over 40 years of marriage.

In my generation, I've been married for nearly 35 years, my brother and two cousins over 25, another cousin must be coming up to 20 years (after a short-lived first marriage with no children - ended in divorce) and sadly another cousin is getting divorced at the moment after well over 20 years of marriage.

Similar story in my husband's family. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the next generation, as there is a lot less pressure to marry now before having children.

I do think there's a lot in the idea that if you grew up with a really good model in your own parents or some other couple you were very close to, you know (or should do, if you are at all reflective) that it takes hard work and a lot of give and take to make a good relationship. It must be a lot more difficult to make it work if you are trying to work it all out from first principles or if your early influences were not the best ones to copy.

Anonymouses Sat 06-Aug-16 13:54:09

I think it's definitely achievable but requires in my experience:
Strong deep and genuine Love, masses of mutual respect, a desire to fight for your marriage, willingness to ride out the bumpy bits, being supportive of each other in all circumstances, being very well matched and both people having the same outlook on the big things.

This isn't always possible for a lot of people as its bloody big list. My family is strewn with examples of divorce and abuse but my DHs has not a single divorce I can recall (parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and wider family all married, long term partners or widowed)

I believe a strong example of how to make a healthy marriage work can really help but isn't essential.

Pagwatch Sat 06-Aug-16 13:59:13

It's not unachievable but it's not a template that everyone aspires to - nor should it be.
My parents and in laws have been married their whole adult lives - all in the late 60s and 80s. I've been married 27, my sister married 35, brothers married 30 and 25.
We are not unusual in any way and we are all very happy.

Mum4Fergus Sat 06-Aug-16 14:03:24

My parents recently celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary...but I think it's a generational thing. Relationships appear as throw away as toasters these has made it easy for people.

attsca Sat 06-Aug-16 14:14:30

Anyone who met there partner 50 years ago had plenty of time to settle into a stable relationship before the arrival of the internet and mobile phones. A few hours on the Relationship topic will tell you exactly how these two things alone have been a total game changer for so many of today's younger generation.

sealmane Sat 06-Aug-16 14:20:34

Interesting thoughts.

I was reading in a book recently (I think a biography on Tony Blair by Leo Abse "The Man Behind the Smile") that in previous generations there was a strong drive and enthusiasm for a man to meet a woman and set up a home, family, with her. Whereas now it seems it more in the other direction i.e. to get away from her ...

I'll try and get the book out and quote it maybe tomorrow ...

OurBlanche Sat 06-Aug-16 14:23:47

I believe it is totally unrealistic. Lovely if it happens but almost impossible to achieve

Well, my family is full of people who did, even those who got divorced from spouse#1 are clocking up the decades.

I do wonder if attsca has something... but am a little insulted at the possible insinuation that we all just 'settled' for lack of choice/excitement smile

But there is something more fragile about relationships of all sorts these days... more fleeting, needing to be more exciting. Another of The X Factor Effects, perhaps!

ravenmum Sat 06-Aug-16 14:37:40

People have been claiming that technology makes us lazy for about the last couple of hundred years, if not longer. I don't think we can blame technology for making us lazy. I'd say it's our natural laziness that makes us keep coming up with new technology to save time and effort...

In the old days people "had to" get married in order to have sex, which meant they spent far less time engaged: they married younger and faster. But that doesn't mean they were unserious about relationships and entered into them with less thought. They were just living according to the accepted rules of the time.

Equally, today there's less pressure on people to stay in a dreadful marriage, so the divorce rate is higher. But that doesn't mean that young people now just divorce offhandedly. How many people come on this site wanting to stay with awful partners just because they don't want to give up on their marriage?

And of course there are still people who stay married for ages, because not all marriages are dreadful.

On the maternal side, my great-grandmother and her husband separated (he vanished so no divorce) after about 15 years. My nanna and grandad divorced after 20 years. My mum divorced after 7 years, back in 1973. I was with my husband for 23 years so did rather well. I think it can run in families, but would personally put it down, if anything, to the fact that you have a precedent, rather than that you are naturally shit at marriage.

PeppasNanna Sat 06-Aug-16 14:55:55

I wonder though if the reality of a 50 year marriage is what women in 2016 aspire too?

I doubt it!

charliethebear Sat 06-Aug-16 14:56:34

I think its definitely acheivable, I know plenty of happy marriages that have lasted that long (grandparents, their friends etc.) my parents have been together nearly 40 years and are very happy together.
Its not for everyone and thats okay, but its definitely acheivable.
I also don't think that phones and internet have changed dating and marriage that much, and I don't think they've really made it harder to stay in a long term relationship. I think they perhaps make it easier for cheating to be discovered, and perhaps a bit easier to meet people but I'm not sure they change whether your happy with someone or not.
Most people of my generation still do things fairly the same as my parents generation, even though we've grown up with mobiles, internet etc. Most of my friends have met their partners at parties, uni, work etc. in the same way that my parents did. And most still go through the same process. Although obviously there hasn't been enough time to test if relationships will last 50 years or not I dont really feel like the internet comes into relationships that much.

AcrossthePond55 Sat 06-Aug-16 14:56:48

Sure it's possible. But you have to pick your partner carefully and be willing to work at your marriage (both of you).

My parents were married 52 years, grandparents 67 years. DH and I have been married almost 30. But there have been times where it's been a bit of hard work. You both have to be committed to your marriage and willing to do whatever it takes to keep it working.

If you're asking is it possible to be 100% 'happily ever after' married, the answer is no. But if you're asking is it possible to be married 50 years and be happy, the answer is yes.

OurBlanche Sat 06-Aug-16 15:00:54

I wonder though if the reality of a 50 year marriage is what women in 2016 aspire too?

I doubt it

1. Why not? There's nothing wrong with a fulfilling, lifelong partnership, is there?

2. What do you think today's Thoroughly Modern Millie wants instead?

charliethebear Sat 06-Aug-16 15:02:29

PeppasNana It is what a lot of my friends aspire to (20s) and whilst many have career aspirations, for lots of them being married for life is the ultimate goal. I'm not sure if thats a good thing, it makes me quite sad.

OurBlanche Sat 06-Aug-16 15:05:34

I'm not sure if thats a good thing, it makes me quite sad.


I have 3 decades with DH. We have supported each other through all sorts of shit times, university, career changes, periods of unemployment, good times and some bad.

Why is that sad?

trackrBird Sat 06-Aug-16 15:17:44

Unrealistic, not at all!

But you do need some luck, and it takes effort, as does any other relationship.

PaintedDrivesAndPolishedGrass Sat 06-Aug-16 15:35:40

In the Old Testament women were chattels and polygamy was allowed so I don't think you can make that claim Op. Pagans were doing it for thousands of years before anyone even thought of the Christian god.

My parents were married for 57 years until the death of one of them. They had to get married ( as did many at that time...oh the shame of pregnancy, the shame that led to many being disowned, turned out into the street, sent away). They were 18 & 19.

I think you should only stay in any relationship for as long as you are happy.

I think that hand fasting for the traditional year and a day is a great way but also think marriage is not necessary. ( I was married, for a long, long time. I wasn't happy so now I'm not grin

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