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Secrets of 50-Year Marriages

| July 23, 2009

Recently, Homemakers.com published an article on The Secrets of 50-Year Marriages. The author, 38 year-old Amy Pulsifer, has had “three failed attempts at wedded bliss.” So she admits having a vested interest in finding out whether fulfilling, long-term marriages are even possible for our generation.  Pulsifer interviewed six couples,  “Real experts, who have been there and done it. Who have track records and glints in their eyes after four or more decades together.” She hoped that they could shed some light on the secrets of sustaining a long-term marriage.

Pulsifer confesses that she felt disheartened after her interviews, for she discovered that the major factor that contributed to the success of these marriages was well-defined, traditional gender roles: The husband was responsible for providing financial support; and the wife looked after their home and children. One couple she interviewed even suggested that the increased financial independence of women contributed to a higher love-him-and-leave-him rate. Pulisifer  notes,

Products of their times, these wonderful couples had married and started out with roles and expectations that seemed arcane, unreachable and even undesirable to me now….They each had their jobs, and they did them. But when I pointed this out to my single friends, it only seemed to reconfirm the obvious: Marital fulfillment in today’s world is a lost cause. My friends own homes or businesses and either work for themselves or have well-established, successful careers — and nary a husband in sight. A first glance at these couples’ examples, and it seems marriage would work only if we gave all that up.

According to Pulisifer, traditional gender roles in marriage are “arcane, unreachable, and even undesirable.” But she concedes that having a well-defined role in marriage might actually be an ingredient to a fulfilling, successful and long-lasting union.  So she suggests that couples negotiate and clearly define roles for themselves. They needn’t follow the traditional pattern, but they ought to negotiate and clarify what the pattern will be.

Hmm. So am I to conclude that if Pulisifer and her next Mr. McDreamy take out a piece of paper and negotiate what their roles in marriage will be, that they will have a better chance at marital bliss? Will him agreeing to stay home with the kids while she goes out to work prevent her burning through husband number four or husband number five? Pardon my skepticism, but I think not.

Pulisifer observed that traditional gender roles contribute to long-term marriage success. It makes sense. If God indeed created male and female to have different roles, and if couples choose to pattern their marriages according to His design, then it stands to reason that they will have a better chance at a successful marriage than if they go against His design.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that gender roles are the only ingredient for a successful marriage. Nor am I suggesting that we return to a 1950’s “Leave it to Beaver” model for how biblical gender roles are enacted. I just think that our lives work better the more we do things God’s way.  And that’s the secret I take away from all those 50-year marriages.

© Mary A. Kassian


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