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Sunday, May 31, 2020
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How to Avoid Gray Divorce


     According to an article published in the Baptist Press last year, there is a dramatic rise in divorce among adults over 50.  Between 1990 and 2010, the divorce rate for Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 increased from 6.0 to 13.1 per thousand.  In 1990, fewer than one in ten divorced people were over the age of 50.  Today, more than one in four divorces are in that age group.
     The Boomer generation has blazed many trails, but this is one most of us don't want to travel.  The causes of this change in demographics are varied and cover social issues from the general break-up of the nuclear family in society, changed attitudes toward divorce and divorced people, a reduced influence of the church, the advent of sexual performance enhancing drugs and the more active lifestyles and better general health of those of us over 50. 
     It used to be assumed that any marriage that had survived more than 20 or 30 years would continue "until death do us part."  That's just not true anymore.  Any marriage, no matter how long the duration, can end up on the rocks if the husband and/or wife stop being intentional about keeping the relationship healthy.
     We live in our marriages just like we live in our homes.  If we stop working on our homes, the roof will leak, the cold air will creep in and the front steps will crumble.  Then when a big storm comes along, the house is in danger of falling down around us.  The same is true of long-term marriages.  Ignore the every day maintenance and when a crisis comes along, whether a health issue, a financial crisis or temptation...and the marriage can fall down around us.
     And let there be no doubt, that maintenance is often hard.  There comes a time in every marriage when the routine becomes unbearable.  After all, you've had the same conversations  a hundred times, you've had the same arguments a thousand times, you've looked at the same face over the breakfast table a million times...or at least that's how it seems.  Your spouse feels like part of the furniture...or worse, like a buzzing fly in the room that is driving you crazy. 
     So, what's the solution?
     First, accept the fact that a long term marriage can end.  Taking your spouse and your marriage for granted is risky. 
     Second, really talk to each other.  Put down the newspaper, the I-pad, the smart phone, turn off the TV, sit face to face and talk about your marriage.  If face to face is too challenging, take a walk together and talk about your relationship.  It's the only way to know if you and your spouse are on the same page.
     Third, mix it up a little.  Routine is comfortable, yes, but it can also be dangerous.  Variety is not only the spice of life, it may very well be the mortar that keeps the building blocks of our relationships strong.  You've got to get out of your routine and your comfort zone to stay interested in each other. 
     For those of us who have been married 30 or 40  years or longer, having fun together like we did when we were newlyweds may be impossible, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying.  We may have "been there, done that", but that doesn't mean we can't have fun together for the rest of our married lives. 
     To that end, here's an idea to get the party started...mystery dates.
     Date nights are always a good idea.  Not only do they give us something to look forward to, they give us a reason to see each other all dressed up and at our best.  Most important, they give us a chance to connect away from our daily routine.  But, if you want to kick it up a notch, plan a mystery date.
     Choose a day when you're both free of family, work or other obligations.  Mark it on the calendar and make it a "red letter day."  Let your hubby or wife know that that day is booked, and nothing else should be scheduled then.
     Keep your plans secret.  Don't ask your spouse what he or she wants to do.  The whole date is to be a surprise, from beginning to end.
     Try to think of an activity you'll both enjoy, but don't be afraid of new experiences.  Sharing new experiences tends to trigger fresh conversations and new connections...and can be a great source of mutual fun and laughter.
     Make all the arrangements including dinner and/or motel reservations, tickets, transportation and any special arrangements.
     Focus on your spouse's favorite activities.  Book a table at his or her favorite restaurant or a see a movie you know he or she would really enjoy.
     Lay out your spouse's clothes.  If the date includes a night away from home, pack for him or her.  Don't forget the meds.
     Think of ways to make the date memorable.  Flowers, champagne or a small gift will make the date extra special.
     If you're on the receiving end of the mystery date, keep an open mind.  Be adventurous.  The whole idea is to do something new and fun together.  Don't be judgmental.  Remember that your spouse has gone to a lot of trouble to make the night special just for you.
     Don't forget to say, "Thank you!"
     Take turns planning mystery dates for one another.  Plan for a mystery date at least once a month.  Be creative and inventive.
     Here are some ideas:
  • Book a night at a bed and breakfast.
  • Get tickets to a game.
  • See a movie you know your spouse would love.
  • Try a new restaurant together.
  • Take a ballroom dancing class together.
  • Wander around a museum you know your spouse would enjoy.
  • Visit a state park and hike a trail, then roast marshmallows in the fireplace in your cabin.
  • Rent a convertible and go for a drive or go to a drive-in theater. (There's still one in Harrodsburg.)
  • Go to the zoo then out to dinner together.
  • Get tickets to an oldies rock concert.
  • Book a couples' spa treatment.
  • Book a motel room and pretend you're newlyweds.
  • Go camping.
  • Plan a renewal of your vows.
  • Take a hot air balloon ride at sunset.

         There are so many possibilities for having fun together.  The point is to relax and enjoy the adventure.