There are some advantages on becoming an empty nester: you have more time for yourself, you can dedicate yourself to causes and new hobbies, you have less dishes to do, less garbage, less mess in your house and you can travel during the off-season, with cheaper fares and hotel deals. Sure, you miss your children, but when they come home it’s always a joy. On the kids’ side, they get to become much more independant, responsible and less spoiled.
So what’s the downside?
The downside is the loss of the sense of family very early in the short time you have with them, before they become full adults with spouses, jobs and kids of their own. Additionally, in America, kids sometimes go to Colleges away from home, in another State and sometimes on a different coast. Many after graduating do not come to their original area, and end up marrying locals or finding jobs near where they went to school.
The consequences are deep and affect the bonding and cohesion of a family, and what will become an extended family. Brazilians often criticize Americans for seeing little of their children and how kids seldom visit or call their parents (“only at Thanksgiving and during the holidays”). The truth is that when kids leave their parents’ home at 17, the bond does get less strong over time, and they get used to being on their own, which is good and bad.
With the high divorce rates, many parents do not have the original family structure and lifestyle to accomodate grown kids and a new boyfriend/girlfriend, and seeing the kids go away to College provides them with the necessary freedom and privacy to start their new lives. Children in that situation lose their primary family which probably pushes them even more to become independant.
Young women and men in Brazil only leave their parents’s home when they get married. It is odd for me now to see 30-somethings living with their parents. One of the main reasons is how expensive apartments are for someone who is starting their professional life. The advantage is that adult kids can care for their parents when there is a need.
My adult kids are in College and Grad school. They often visit, which is wonderful, but I know they might never live with me again. I have told them that I would prefer them to live within driving distance from me. No California please, no matter how nice it out there!
I left my parent’s house at 23 and went far, far away. I spent my whole life missing being with my family during holidays, birthdays and celebrations. I’d call my parents and hear the happy chatter in the background while I was alone with my husband during those occasions and feel some sadness. My children grew up without having grandparents around, and of course the bond between them is not as strong. I also grew up far away from my own grandparents, and when they died, I did not feel an intense sadness. They were people I saw every now and then.
When we hear that someone we know is getting a divorce, specially if they are celebrities, our first reaction is to ask: “what happened”? Well, marriages have many enemies. A lot of factors can break a marriage.
I am compiling a list of these factors. If you can think of others, please comment:
1) One becomes a lot more successful than the other, especially when there is competition between the couple. In happy couples, one’s victory is the other’s, but in unhealthy couples, there is no sense of communion.
2) The woman after several years of marriage loses a lot of weight, becomes “hot” again and wants male attention (I have heard this story a few times).
3) The couple has little in common and starts having separate vacations, hobbies, etc. Eventually one meets someone else.
4) Too little money (puts pressure on both).
5) Too much money (the man usually will look for a younger and better looking model), greed, excess, vices and a frivolous lifestyle can ensue.
6) Different sex drives (the ones with more mojo may eventually look for sex elsewhere).
7) Resentment that grows and grows and creates distance and kills intimacy.
8) Online contacts making people cheat more.
9) Affairs in the workplace.
9) Illness (some husbands leave their wives when they get very sick).
10) Mental illness, which can develop later in life and make it very hard for the sane spouse.
11) Substance abuse.
12) Death of a child, where one blames the other and neither turns to the other to help with the pain.
13) Unemployment for long periods.
14) Depression, for obvious reasons.
15) Merged families. There is a lot of stress in dealing with children that are not yours.
16) Loss of attraction for your spouse. Yes, some couples are not able to keep the attraction due to too much familiarity (and sweatpants :)). When the sex ends, many marriages just break. Some people also have the need to feel the rush of new love. They are “endorphin junkies”. Once the passion is over with their current spouse, they need a new love to start over again.
There are many couples, however, who survive some or many of these challenges and remain committed. What makes them different?
1) A sense of loyalty.
2) A strong sense of family (having extended family around helps).
3) A strong attraction, either intellectual, emotional or physical.
4) Strong bonds formed through similar goals and life purpose. These bonds can be participating in a certain church/religion, politics as a “power couple” (think the Clintons), charities, groups or sports actitivities together. These bonds can be also be as simple as similar political views or religious (or lack thereafter) views. Belonging to a big group of friends and the possibility of losing this social circle may also affect any divorce decision.
5) Fear of being alone. Fear of never being able to fall in love again or find an adequate partner.
6) Financial dependency on each other, more common in women who historically have made less money than men.
7) For couples with younger children, making a choice to not disrupt their lives.
8) For many women raised in traditional/non-feminist households, a sense of loyalty to their husbands no matter how badly they behave.
9) I could mention love. But I think love is something very abstract. It is a combination of friendship, a sense of loyalty and family and an emotional and pyhsical attachment to someone.
No matter what, divorce has many evils and hazards. A lot people pay the price (the couple, the kids and the whole family). Society pays the price (latchkey kids, single moms, etc). And it should be avoided whenever possible.
One type of divorce that does not cause a lot of harm is between younger and childless couples. They each go their own way and it is not different from breaking up with someone you date. Still, it is one of the major problems in our contemporary societies. Fortunately, there are many cases of people who are able to get divorced amicably without major repercussions for all.
Yes, there are many success divorce stories out there, and we would like to hear more about them. What we normally hear is constant conflict between ex and current spouses, ex-in laws, parents who rarely see their children, custody battles, child support battles, jealous or rebellious step-children, evil step-parents, unhappy kids, kids juggling two households, guilt, money battles and other potential conflicts.
Too bad churches and conservative groups make us believe they have a monopoly in trying to keep marriages intact. I do admire the work they do towards strenghtening marriages, but in reality, non-believers have a lower divorce rate than religious folks do. Non-believers have usually a higher education level which supposedly is more conducive in negotiating marital conflicts. Divorce has a higher rate in the southern bible belt states. See here:
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