Tommy, age 6 says it best, “Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.”
Our recent marriage interviews in Southern California brought our attention again to the two undeniable truths of life – growing old is a blessing (consider the alternative!) and spending your old age by yourself is the loneliest place to be on Earth. You can take both truths of life to the bank! Our thirty-plus years of research across the globe substantiates for us the wisdom of our words.
First, we digress. We have been married for 47 years. We not only know about how to make our own marriage work, we know how others make theirs work. Thirty-plus years of research and our own marriage have taught us much.
We have studied marriage in all 50 states of the Union, in 48 countries, and on all 7 continents of the world. We hear many consistent responses to the “Marriage Interview” and our “How to Marry the Right Guy Quiz” that we have conducted around the world. We have reported our findings in our many books, most notably Building a Love that Lasts, and in our many articles on the Internet in a variety of venues.
Our research findings tell us that there are seven pervasive characteristics present in all successful marriages, irrespective of culture, ethnicity, continent, or economic station in life. You’ll have to read our book to find out what they are.
In this essay, we are focused only on the notion of growing old and on the enormous benefits of having someone to share your old age with.
In our interview protocol we asked many telling questions. There are three that tell us the most.
First and foremost is this – “Can you imagine life without your spouse?” The answer we get from successfully married couples is always the same – “NO!”
The second incredibly important question is this – “If you had to choose, who on Earth would you rather spend your exclusive time with?” Again, the answer is always the same – “My spouse.”
The third and final question is, perhaps, the most telling of all – “Who is your best friend?” Over the past 30+ years, the overwhelming response has been, “My spouse.”
So, we ask you this – are you ready to spend your life without your best friend, without the one person you’d rather be with more than anyone else, and without someone who cannot imagine life without you? Think about it!
Here’s the deal – we are getting sick and tired of women who tell us they don’t need someone to spend their life with. We are growing very weary of men who tell us they will just grow old by themselves, content with hanging out with their beer-drinking buddies. And the list of our irritations grows!
The simple and unadulterated truth is this – when you are young, you don’t think about getting old. You don’t think about being alone. Shoot, you don’t think about much of anything beyond your life TODAY! And honestly, we are sorry to be so direct, but the truth is the truth. Seeing the future is not something most young people do. To them, eternal “youngness” is their frame of reference.
But here is the reality – if you get old, you’re lucky; if you have a best friend, you possess one of life’s blessings; and if you have someone in your life you cannot imagine being without – whom you would rather spend your time with more than anyone else on Earth – then you have achieved the nirvana of your life! You have found your positive place in life.
Now we come full circle. Is living your life alone what you want or desire? Do you really want to grow old by yourself? The negative trends are ominous, but hope springs eternal for those who are married or who get married.
Marriage is in decline in America. By 2008, marriage among adults had dropped to 52% according to the Pew Charitable Trust. In 1960 this number stood at 72%. And African-Americans (32%) are much less likely to be married than Whites (56%). And worse yet, the decline of marriage among African-Americans is more than twice that of Whites over the past several decades.
In the final analysis, married couples in the USA are on the verge of no longer being a majority according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In our estimation, that is a sad situation for a whole variety of reasons. Primary among them is this – this downward trend in marriage is the terrible precursor of loneliness in America for senior citizens – for those lucky enough to grow old.
Loneliness among seniors is of epidemic proportions. Yet, loneliness is so utterly and completely avoidable. Living alone in old age is not a pretty state of being – it is not a desirable place to be.
Unfortunately, there are many amongst us who think that they don’t need to be married to be happy. They think they don’t need an “intimate other” in their life. Too many people are under the illusion that they don’t need somebody in their life to lean on, to share life’s burdens with, and to hold on to during the “end of time.”
Too many people think getting old is an illusion. Too many people cannot come to grips with the fact that “everybody needs somebody sometime.”
The many, many happily married couples we have interviewed tell us how blessed they are to have someone to share life with, particularly in old age. Those of you who think you can weather life’s storms by yourself in the latter stages of life are only deluding yourselves. Those who think marriage is passé are fools. Those who think they can weather the storms of old age by themselves are delusional. Everybody needs somebody.
Living life alone is not a good option for most. Think about it. Loneliness at the end of day’s, sucks!
**Today, you can see how you stack up to the best marriages around the world. Take the Marriage Quiz to assess your chances of achieving a successful marriage of your own.
By Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz
America's #1 Love and Marriage Experts