It seems the battered and bruised institution of marriage has received the kiss of life -- from the Baby Boomer brigade.
At a recent girls lunch, one of my friends mentioned that, in the last month, four of her friends, all in their fifties, announced that they were getting married. Each one of these people had been married before and, after a hiatus of about seven years, had decided to take the plunge into matrimony again.
At 45 years of age, the thought of getting married again is about as appealing to me as eating a plate of glass. I left my marriage five years ago and whilst I have no regrets -- I have two beautiful daughters -- I have never missed being married. The idea of a man living in my home, sleeping in my bed or peeing in my toilet is not something that appeals to me. I love my space and the feminine energy that fills my home with my daughters and me. But, according to my older friends, that may all change one day.
One in three marriages in Australia end in divorce. The average age for divorce is 42.9 for women and 47 for men.
The stereotypical scenario for men is that, coming out of a marriage, they are drawn to dating younger women and, in some cases, much younger women. A controversial and debatable topic, it can't be denied that men love for their egos to be stroked and, after a decade or so in marriage, most women no longer have the time, the tolerance or the desire to do this. So out of a marriage these men come and straight into the arms of a younger, more energetic and enthusiastic version of the woman they were once married to.
The majority of women, on the other hand, take time out from relationships once their marriages have ended. Some, like myself, still have the ongoing responsibility of raising children and are more focused on ensuring that the kids don't become collateral damage from the breakdown of the family unit. In my case, I relished in the notion that I was no longer just someone's wife or someone's mother -- I was now my own person free to explore a new identity. I could be the kind of woman I wanted to be and the kind of mother I wanted to be without any constraints or restrictions from a husband.
Entering your fifties, however, seems to mark a shift in mindset for both men and women when it comes to love and relationships. This can be attributed to a number of factors, but, predominantly, changes in hormones for both men and women results in sex taking a back seat to companionship.
Somewhere between ages 45 and 55, men begin to question their values, accomplishments and the direction their life is heading and the gestalt of these changes has led to the notion of the male andropause. Amongst other changes, testosterone decreases and, consequently, so does sex drive. This is key because without the dynamic sexual desire, men are left looking for compatibility; women who share the same goals, interests and attitudes as they do.
Similarly, when a woman hits her late forties or early fifties, she experiences menopause. One of the side-effects associated with this is a reduction of sex hormones, resulting in a reduction of sexual desire. Again, with sex no longer the driving force, women look for partners that are like-minded and good company. They don't want to be the cook, the cleaner or the baby maker. Instead they seek to be an independent woman with their own stories to tell and dreams to chase.
Victor Hugo once said: "40 is the old age of youth, whereas 50 is the youth of old age". If turning 50 marks the beginning of a new era, it looks like those of us who have not yet reached it have something wonderful to look forward to.