As Jill Brooke points out, the words “Till Death Do Us Part” have defined how we look at marriage for generations. But in fact, they are five of the most polarizing words. “Why?” you may ask. Because if you look at the stats, almost 50 percent of you may not stay married to the person you are lovingly gazing at. Instead, there is a possibility you may get tangled in a divorce.
Don’t you think it is unrealistic to have the expectation that love will flourish for a lifetime that now runs into our 80’s and 90’s? We’re living longer than generations before us did, and “till death do us part” could mean 60 or even 70 years together instead of 20 or 30 years. It is very hard to fulfill that promise, till death to us part, for such a long time.
When a marriage lasts decades, it’s a gift, but no longer the norm. However, when people break up because they have had the expectation of forever, deep inside they feel like they failed. Why do we focus on failure rather than acknowledging and celebrating the decades of success?
As Jill Brooke points out, it’s time to say what a success these marriages were for lasting as long as they did and accumulating memories and milestones.
Just because you’re divorced doesn’t mean that you and your ex don’t have a relationship. It just means that it’s changed. You won’t stay married, but you will always be parents to your children. You will always carry your histories.
Stephanie Coontz, one of the great sages and scholars of relationships and the author of Marriage, A History, points out that “by having high expectations that marriage should last, we may work harder,” she said. “But studies have also shown that those people who have the strongest sense that marriage is sanctified and should last forever are most likely to see it as a failure and betrayal and have more anger and disappointment.”
For Jill Brooke, second marriage has now lasted 15 years. “Till Death Do Us Part” were not in the vows. Why has this marriage worked? “Luck, compatibility, a commitment to family and each other,”she writes, “One big reason is that I don’t feel entitled, I feel grateful. That has helped me manage expectations and not take anything for granted, which I believe is essential for long term marriages to stay alive and thrive.”
So may be, as proposed by Vicki Larson, instead of wringing our hands about so-called gray divorces and seeing those long-term marriages as failures, perhaps we should consider marriage as more “till the kids part” than “till death do us part.” The partner we need in our 20s and 30s, when many of us are looking to settle down and raise kids, may not be the partner we need in our 50s, 60s and beyond, when we’re free to explore new passions or reinvigorate the ones we gave up when the kids came along.
Can’t we just be honest about that and move on?
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
I heard your voice today, it brought a smile to my face
I heard you laugh and talk so sweet, my heart began to race
I had so much to say to you, but the words would not come out
I had so many questions, but still my heart was full of doubt
I heard your voice today, it brought me joy and so much pain
And afterwards I thought of you, while just admiring the rain
I wondered how you were doing, if things were going well
I wondered if you were happy, or living like in hell.
I heard your voice today, it was like music to my ears
It brought back many happy memories, and also several tears
I wonder if you heard my voice, heard all I was trying to say
I wonder if my pain you felt, if perhaps you felt the same way…
In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.
The benefits of touch start from the moment we’re born. A review of research, conducted by Tiffany Field, a leader in the field of touch, found that preterm newborns who received just three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for 5-10 days gained 47 percent more weight than premature infants who’d received standard medical treatment.
As Kelly Bartlett points out, being regularly physically affectionate with kids of all ages helps maintain the emotional connection they share with their parents. When that bond remains strong, challenging behavioral situations decrease and discipline becomes less intense overall.
Games involving person-to-person contact (e.g. horsey rides, piggy back rides, wrestling, tag etc.) promote the release of positive brain chemicals and bring families closer together in a fun, physical way.
As children grow and become more independent and social, opportunities for cuddling naturally diminish, and it becomes important for parents to take extra effort to find ways to physically connect with them. Reading to a child or even watching a movie on the couch is a wonderful way to get close, as it invites leaning into, lying on, snuggling, touching, and arm-wrapping.
And educators, take note: A study by French psychologist Nicolas Gueguen has found that when teachers pat students in a friendly way, those students are three times as likely to speak up in class.
Touch is very important for adults too. According to scientists, touch reduces both physiological and perceived stress; touch causes one’s stress hormones, such as cortisol, to decrease while causing other hormones, like oxytocin, to increase which promote social bonding and wellness.
According to Dacher Keltner, touch is our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion. In fact, in his research he has found that people can not only identify love, gratitude, and compassion from touches but can differentiate between those kinds of touch, something people haven’t done as well in studies of facial and vocal communication.
Interestingly enough, two gender differences have been identified in Dacher Keltner’s research:
It might seem surprising, but touch may mean more to men than they let on: A 2011 study by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction polled more than 1,000 men and their female partners in five countries about the power of touch and found that for men between the ages of 40 and 70, regular cuddling was more important than sex. The more men hugged and kissed, the happier they considered their relationships.
There are times—during intense grief or fear, but also in ecstatic moments of joy or love—when only the language of touch can fully express what we feel. This video is an invitation for people to relearn the power of touch. There’s much to be gained from embracing our tactile sense—in particular, more positive interactions and a deeper sense of connection with others.
Did you touch someone today?
Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better,
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?
Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.
Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come ’round again.
Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not always kind.
And when you go and go you must,
You, yourself, will make more dust.
From Inspiration Peak
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I grew up under the despotic rule of cleanies. Everything was supposed to be pristine, tidy and clean 24 hours a day 7 days a week just in case a neighbour or a friend would come for a visit unexpectedly. There was no time or space left for life, smiles or laughter. Everything was completely cleaned out. Expected unexpected neighbours and visitors never came either…
The family I got married into turned out to be completely opposite. It was full of characters, as clearly reflected in their houses.
It did not take long for me to realise that the only way of keeping the house clean was by banning from entering the house anybody genetically related to that side of the family (including my own children). Hm, that was not a good solution, was it?
After a while we worked out the threshold of messiness that our family can tolerate with the whole family sharing efforts in keeping the house somewhere above that threshold. Our house is clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy, with lots of games, giggles and fun. 🙂
If you have some super neat freaks in your family, give them a hug and point out to them that:
But look at tidy people in history and who do you see? Dictators, secret policemen and oppressors. Hitler was known for his love of neatness and order; Mussolini kept an immaculately tidy desk. Saddam Hussein’s guards have told of the former Iraqi dictator’s obsession with cleanliness – he washed his hands after every handshake.
Besides, what if burglars break into your house? Surely, you would not want to make it too easy for them. 😉
A good obstacle course might also help your family to stay fit 😉
Last but not least, if your super-freaky-neat-in-laws come for a visit, reassure them that your house was super-freaky-neatly clean… last week. It is such a pity that they missed it 😉
If you are a neat freak living in a messy household, don’t despair. Ignoring the problem won’t work. You’ll need to face it honestly, but respectfully.
Instead of constantly nagging about everything that needs to be done, identify the chores that are most important to you. For example, if you are most concerned with the living room looking presentable, ask for your spouse’s help in keeping the room clear of shoes, clothes, junk mail, etc. Don’t forget to explain why 😉
Go easy on yourself and your family. Take an objective step back and ask if your average guest would really notice that the baseboards haven’t been dusted recently.
Don’t forget to enjoy life. Allow yourself to relax with your spouse or get out and do something fun. Looking back on their younger years, few people will say, “If only I had spent more time cleaning.” 😉
And don’t worry if you never have that amazing feeling when you got to bed knowing your entire house is super-clean. Neither do I 😉