Marriages don’t survive on autopilot

| October 17, 2014 | 0 Comments
Van Ness

Van Ness

Chaplain (Maj.) Jeffrey T. Van Ness
Chaplaincy Resource Manager
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii


I recently read an article about Poldi and Bibi, an elderly couple from Klagenfurt, Austria, who, after one of the longest relationships ever, had a serious falling out.

Their breakup began in 2012 when Bibi attacked her lifelong companion.

Friends and counselors intervened, but later decided that this couple had reached an impasse and could not be reconciled. They were simply too hostile to each other.

How sad that a couple who had been together for 116 years now found it impossible to get along with each other.

Yes, I said 116 years!

This elderly couple is a pair of giant tortoises who had been together since birth in 1898. All seemed to be fine and dandy until Bibi, the female, took a bite out of Poldi’s shell. They’ve been fighting ever since, and their handlers, citing reasons of irreconcilable differences, have had to separate them permanently for their own safety.

As odd as it might sound, many human beings, who have been married 25 years and longer, are calling it quits on their relationships.

In an article on the subject, Dr. Pepper Schwartz, AARP, cites the following reasons why even elderly couples break up: The relationship’s fracture may have been slowly growing over many years. The wife increasingly focused on the children, adult children and grandchildren, while the husband focused more and more on his work. The couple simply drifted apart and found they had very little in common any more.

Another contributing factor is that couples are living longer and healthier.

“Half a century ago, an unhappy couple in their mid-60s might have stayed together because they thought it wasn’t worth divorcing if they had only a few years left to live,” said Schwartz. “Now, 65-year-olds can easily envision at least 20 more active years — and they don’t want them to be loveless, or full of frustration or disappointment.”

Changing values are also a big factor, especially with the aging Baby Boomer generation.

The reality is, no matter where we are in our marriages, there is always a need to nurture and fortify our relationships. We cannot place our marriages on autopilot indefinitely. There’s no such thing as a maintenance-free marriage. Every relationship requires focused attention and love.

Being married 30 or 40 years is no indication that we’re clear of the minefield or that a seasoned couple will not face “unexplored territory.” Tragedy, illness and loss can all send waves over the heads of even the strongest couples.

But God has the power to soften hardened hearts, break down walls of resentment and rekindle a love that has grown cold.


“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (Ezekiel 36:26)


God is able to resurrect relationships. The key is to invite him into your marriage and family from the start, and keep him at the forefront of your life throughout the long journey.

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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Standing Columns

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