Remember that Skyhooks song, “All my friends are getting married” …
Well all my friends are getting married
Yes they’re all growin’ old
They’re all staying home on weekends
They’re all doin’ what they’re told
It feels like the reverse is happening in my life: all my friends are getting divorced.
Nah, that’s an exaggeration: quite a few of my friends are getting divorced.
Still, what’s that all about? We’ve made it through the tough early years with kids, the mortgage is under control … it should be time to stop and smell the roses. But no, we decide we don’t like the way our roses smell anymore. We might even prefer to smell other people’s roses instead.
The median age of divorce for men in Australia is at the highest its been since 1970, at 44.5 in 2011. Women are similarly high at 41.7.
Cue the mid-life crisis?
According to a report in The Age:
Australian women and men are likely to suffer a midlife crisis or experience the most unhappy time in their life between the ages of 40 and 42, according to the Melbourne researchers who led a multi-country study tracking happiness levels over five decades.
The study used research from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, a national longitudinal survey of Australian doctors and surveys from the UK and Germany that all tracked happiness from the ages of 18 to 70. Social economists from the three countries discovered that for most men and women, the probability of unhappiness peaks at around 40 and lasts around two years. Satisfaction with life started dropping as early as tracking began in the study, at 18 years of age.
Lead researcher Dr Terence Cheng, from the University of Melbourne’s Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, said it hit bottom at ages 40 to 42. ”According to our results, things then start to pick up,”he said.
Dr Cheng said the strength of this study, which also involved researchers from the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics, was its ability to track shifts in the emotions of the same people throughout their lives.
He said the study did not examine reasons for the pronounced dip in happiness levels at age 40, but sadness at the time is often entangled with work and family expectations. ”It’s a bit of an unknown, something researchers are still trying to explain.”
It’s the ones who dutifully soldier through the unhappiness peak and make it out the other side whose marriages survive.
I’m not entirely sure humans are built to stay with the same person forever. It’s something that needs to be worked at … hard.
There are some blissfully lucky people who keep the love alive through the decades. My friends Katherine and David, for example, fill me with hope every week with their happy marriage and genuine affection for each other.
But most of us are just too scared or stonkered by inertia to do anything about the niggling sense of unease buried deep inside that whispers Is that all there is?
I’ve discovered IT’S NOT. There’s an exciting new world out there. I’m crushed that my old world was taken away from me. But it’s done. There’s no going back.
So I’m moving forward.
And I sound like some sort of crazed evangelist when I tell my heartbroken friends that things will get so much better. But I also understand how hard it is to imagine brightness in those first terrible weeks.
You can’t rush the mending. Everyone moves at a different pace.
One day you’ll wake up and feel blissed by life.
Song of the day: Skyhooks “All my friends are getting married”
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