Later this week, actor Kirk Douglas will celebrate his 100th birthday at a big Hollywood bash. Along with him will be his wife of 63 years.
This unique milestone in our celebrity-obsessed culture inspires us to consider how their marriage beat the odds. What factors into the Douglas’ marriage longevity while most divorces happen at the eight year mark, just after passing the so-called “seven year itch”?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a divorce occurs in the U.S. every 36 seconds. The average age of couples when they divorce is 30 years old, but a 2015 study by the University of Utah states that after the age of 32 the likelihood of divorce goes up 5 percent per year.
Today, in an apparent reaction to high divorce rates, Americans are getting married later than ever, with only 28 percent of Millennials age 28-33 strolling down the aisle.
But is waiting to marry the key to happily ever after?
Douglas said in a recent interview with Closer magazine that the key to his 63-year marriage is the couple’s commitment to talking to each other every night. And I’m guessing eating dinner and scrolling through their iphones, checking Instagram and Snapchat is probably not the kind of chat he’s referring to.
With so many couples falling short of their ten-year anniversary, it helps to be aware of the stumbling blocks before trouble sets in. Most people think infidelity is the No. 1 cause of divorce, and it is listed as a significant contributor one third of the time. But often a less dramatic, daily erosion causes couples to grow apart.
“Not having my needs met” is described as a major reason for a split with 33 percent of women and 29 percent of men reporting this as a reason for their separation.
Increasing awareness of your spouse’s needs requires exactly what Douglas was talking about: communication.
Here’s a few easy steps toward enhancing communication and the overall knowing of the person you love:
Avoid TV in the bedroom.
A non-stop consumption of media is a key contributor to intimacy erosion. Even if you are just sharing what you’re reading once you crawl into bed, this open line of communication and brings your attention to the other person. “Wow, listen to this” is something we often say before falling asleep.
One of us resonates with a line of poetry by W.H. Auden, an idea from Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile, a Psalm or a Calvin and Hobbes comic that we can’t help but share. This allows our discussion to evolve beyond the text and into further getting to know one another’s mind.
Take turns paying the bills.
When one person manages the finances entirely and the other doesn’t participate, resentment can build up and communication breaks down. Early in our marriage, we alternated every six months who paid the bills.
Sharing this mundane take ensures that both parties know where the money’s going and equipped to task responsibility for money management. Finances can grow more complicated with years so scheduling a bi-weekly financial meeting can be a unique Saturday morning breakfast date. Just make sure you’re caffeinated.
Kiss, hug and say ‘I love you’ daily.
This sounds overly simplistic but once the focus goes to getting kids out the door and off to school these important small hallmarks of intimacy can end up being directed only at the kids. Leave little notes on the pillow or the mirror randomly or on evenings when you’re going to be out of town. Close out phone calls with “I love you,” even when you don’t feel like saying it. Affirm intimacy every opportunity you have.
Celebrate what belongs to you alone.
Anniversaries are hard to keep track of unless you have a special book or journal to record the details. How many of us can remember where we ate dinner on our anniversary five years ago? Every year take your picture on a special anniversary and record the memorable moments and what gifts you exchanged.
We don’t all have a foundation, but we all have something to give. Praying together and asking God about who He is calling you to share your resources with is an eye-opening way to look into the heart of your beloved. What are you both passionate about to contribute hard earned cash toward? Before the end of the year make a charitable contribution to your church or preferred cause and experience the blessing of likeminded, prayerfully considered giving.
Margaret Philbrick is a contributing editor of the collection, Everbloom - Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives. You can follow her writing at www.margaretphilbrick.com